A BRIEF HISTORY
of St. Aedan's
St. Aedan’s parish was born in the early 1900’s out of the Irish-American, Catholic community just south of Journal Square. Much of Jersey City’s growth from the 1850 to 1910 was driven by Irish immigrants, and many of them were drawn to Journal Square to work as conductors and operators of the trolleys that originated from there. Each week, around 300 of these Irish-Americans would gather in a small, rented room in a building on Montgomery St. to celebrate Mass. Recognizing this, the Bishop of Newark established St. Aedan’s Parish on June 23, 1912, and named it for St. Aedan (550-632) of County Wexford, Ireland, in honor of the Irish-American workers and their families.
Reverend Roger A. McGinley was named the first pastor of St. Aedan’s, a role he served in for 24 years. His first project was to build a parochial school, which opened in 1913, the first floor of which was used for Masses. In the 1920s, with the parish rapidly growing, a temporary 600-seat chapel adjoining the school was built. In 1929 ground was broken for a new, permanent church building — the one still in use today. St. Aedan’s Catholic Church was completed two years later, finally being dedicated on October 4, 1931 with 4,000 people in attendance.
The building of St. Aedan’s Catholic Church was designed by Edward A. Lehman, a New Jersey-born architect and Jersey City resident, and boasts several remarkable features: an enormous dome, massive walls and arches, a brick and sandstone exterior, a rose window and stained-glass windows along its walls, while inside there are elaborate mosaics of scenes and figures taken from scripture and Catholic tradition.
Until the 1970s, St. Aedan’s served a mostly Irish-American congregation. But over the years, as more Asian, Hispanic, Caribbean and African immigrants came to Jersey City, by the 1990s the congregation shifted to one with much more diverse ethnic and national origins: Filipino, Central and South American, Caribbean, Indian, African, Italian, Irish, and others. The parish continues to see and celebrate this dramatic diversity today.
In August 2011, after discussions with the Archdiocese of Newark, St. Aedan's Catholic Church became part of Saint Peter’s University, the Jesuit university of New Jersey, with responsibility for the spiritual care of the parish being given to the Society of Jesus, the religious order that established Saint Peter’s University. The church now became known as St. Aedan's: The Saint Peter's University Church. While serving the university community as a space for communal prayer and convocations, it continues also to function as the parish church of St. Aedan’s. Under the administration of the Jesuits, i.e. members of the Society of Jesus founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1540, the parish strives to impart to its members some of the richness of Ignatian spirituality, among whose central principles are the search to find God in all things, the practice of the discernment of God’s will in one’s personal life, and the commitment to the service of all people, of which the promotion of social justice is an indispensable part.
Some content adapted from New Jersey City University's website, Jersey City: Past and Present. Carmela A. Karnoutsos, PhD, Professor Emeritus of History; Patrick Shaloub, MLS, Guarini Library. For a more detailed history of St. Aedan’s, click here.