O U R H I S T O R Y 60 Years in Service to God and his people
THE STORY OF ST. THOMAS MORE PARISH
St. Thomas More Parish had its beginnings on December 3, 1962, when Rev. Patrick F. Joyce, pastor of St. Aloysius Parish in Caldwell, N. J., was assigned the task of initiating a parish for the Catholic families of Fairfield. There were two major reasons for forming a new parish at this time – the increasing number of Catholic families in the Fairfield area, and the great distances between the homes of Fairfield and the nearest Catholic churches. The parish itself developed slowly, with an initial schedule including only two Sunday Masses - at 8:30 and 10:30. The Masses, held at the Fairfield Elementary School, were generally celebrated by the parish assistants at St. Aloysius. The three priests who celebrated Mass for St. Thomas More's parishioners were Fathers Joseph A. Beggans, John H. Wightman, and John C. Bouton.
FATHER HRESKO ASSIGNED This temporary arrangement was continued until Wednesday, June 29, 1963, when Rev. George P. Hresko, was appointed as the first permanent pastor of St. Thomas More. At this time the Catholic families in Fairfield numbered about 575, and although the Catholic growth in the area had been gradual, archdiocesan authorities felt that the potential growth was enough to warrant a full-time pastor.
Our first pastor, Rev. George P. Hresko, was born in Newark, N. J., where he attended St. Benedict's Parochial & Prep Schools. Father Hresko also attended Seton Hall University in South Orange and undertook his studies for the priesthood at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Darlington. He was ordained on June 11, 1938 by Archbishop Thomas J. Walsh. When Father Hresko was first assigned to our parish he had no available living quarters, and Father Joyce graciously provided him with a temporary residence at St. Aloysius. About two weeks after his arrival, Father Hresko presided at a meeting of approximately 75 parishioners. The meeting, at St. Aloysius, was held to discuss the objectives, purposes, and plans of St. Thomas More Parish.
Within three months after Father Hresko's appointment, the number of people attending Mass at St. Thomas More parish had increased to the point where a third Sunday Mass was added to the schedule. Six months after his assignment a fourth Mass was added, so that our schedule of Masses was as follows: 8:30, 9:30, 10:30 and 12:00. The increased number of Masses made it necessary for the parish to obtain help on Sundays, and two priests from Seton Hall Prep graciously stepped in to assist - they are Fathers James A. Pindar and Robert F. Grady. In addition to Masses, perhaps the most important activity conducted by the parish during its formative period was the series of weekly instruction classes held each Saturday morning. The instruction program began with a schedule that included First Communion instructions, elementary school classes, and high school classes. The classes were conducted by our pastor, Father Hresko, with the assistance of a dedicated group of lay volunteers.
The development of three vital parish societies has certainly played a major role in the growth and activities of St. Thomas More. These organizations - the Holy Name Society, the Altar Rosary Society, and Catholic Family Action - have provided our parish with willing workers for all the varied spiritual and social activities that are such an integral part of parish life.
A certain sign of the growth of St. Thomas More was the appointment of our first curate, Rev. John R. Doherty, who came to our parish in June, 1964, just one year after the appointment of our pastor.
Just prior to Father Doherty's assignment to the parish, during the month of May, some 150 volunteer workers attended the initial fund-raising meeting of our new church and school. Under the skillful direction of chairmen Daniel Mattie, Franklin Specht, and James Birbiglia, the committee soon raised approximately $170,000 in pledges. The Newark Archdiocese had purchased 131 acres at the corner of Horseneck Road and Hollywood Avenue, prior to Father Hresko's appointment as a logical future location for a parish plant. With this important acquisition already taken care of, St. Thomas More selected Peter F. Terrafranca of River Edge, N. J., as the architect for our church and school. Among Father Hresko's planning activities was his securing of the services of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell to staff our new parish school. The school begun with only three grades, with one grade being added each year. Permission had been obtained for the construction of a parish rectory at the site of the church-school-hall complex.
The progress of our parish during its brief existence is encouraging for the future development of St. Thomas More. Our initial parish population of 575 families has been growing steadily, and the prospects of future growth - both statistical and spiritual - are excellent. Reliable estimates place the number of new families entering the parish as being 65 % Catholic.