I am Rev. Michael Burns and I serve as the current pastor of St. Mary Church, I want to welcome you to our parish. We have a rich history.
St. Mary Parish owes its origin to a group of Irish immigrants who had come to the Bordentown-White Hill (now Fieldsboro) area in 1831. They had been recruited to provide the labor needed to build the Camden and Amboy Railroad and the Delaware and Raritan Canal. These immigrants brought their strong Catholic faith with them from the Emerald Isle and for the first few years had to depend on occasional Masses said in one of their homes by priests travelling on horseback through the sparsely settled region of South Jersey.
Until about 1837, the worshippers were so poor and their congregation so small that their Divine worship was conducted in private homes. In that year a meeting of Catholic residents was held in John Flynn’s house, “near the railroad wharf,” for the purpose of having regularly conducted services in town. At that meeting, which was attended by John Flynn, James Coil, Daniel Graham, Frank McGinnery, Thomas Cain, Joseph Mulligan, Nicholas Durkin, Maurice Brcsnahan, Peter McGee, John Garrigan, Frank Finner and James Cogan, a petition was prepared and sent to the Bishop of Philadelphia to have Divine Worship in Bordentown at least once a month. The first monthly Mass was conducted at the home of James Coil on Park Street. Other places in which early Masses were celebrated included Mrs. Beckett’s residence (the Hopkinson House) and the present Methodist parsonage, at that time the home of Captain Richard Shippen, treasurer of the Camden and Amboy Railroad. In October of that same year, Father Daniel McGorien, the pastor of St. John’s Church (now St. Francis), in Trenton, was appointed pastor of St. Mary’s, Bordentown, which was designated a mission of St. John’s Church.
In 1842 a lot was purchased on Hill-Top, and a modest frame structure, 16 by 16 feet, was built on the southeast corner of Second and Bank Streets. In 1845 the church was enlarged by an additional 12 by 32 feet. Subsequently, the church was again enlarged this time by a building 32 by 100 feet. The first resident pastor was Father Bowles, who was closely followed by Father Biggio. In 1849 Father Mackin, of Philadelphia, who had previously conducted Mass in town, became resident pastor.
Father Patrick Leonard decided the congregation had outgrown its building and purchased the site of our present church and the cornerstone was laid on October 30, 1870. Despite their limited income, the parishioners were generous and the new church was dedicated in October 1872. The total cost of the building was $73,000, a tremendous amount for people whose wages were $1.00 a day.
The church remained unchanged until a new pastor, the Rev. John J. Sweeney, was appointed in 1915. He immediately started plans to redecorate it. Changes were made in the decorative scheme, with warmer colors of paint, dark woodwork in the sanctuary area being painted white, murals painted on the walls and new stained glass pictorial windows replacing the original plain colored glass windows. Minor changes have been made in the ensuing years, including new pews, but basically the way the church looks now is the way it was redecorated in 1918.
We have a long and proud tradition of Catholicism here in Bordentown and we at St. Mary’s are happy to be a part of it. For more info please call our parish office at 609 298-0261 during normal office hours.
Once again . .