The New Jersey Sisters of Charity – Our Missions 1859-1933 Volume III
by Sister Mary Agnes Sharkey, A.M.,Longmans,
Green and Co., New York: 1933.
(The following is the sequel to the story of “The Saint Joseph’s Orphanage for Girls.” (See ORPHAN RESEARCH – Paterson: Saint Joseph’s Orphanage for Girls on our MAIN PAGE.)
The unflagging zeal of Dean McNulty found its last outlet in the establishment of a Home for Boys, in Totowa Borough, not far removed from the site of the orphanage for girls at Lincoln Bridge.
In 1908 occurred the golden jubilee of the Dean’s priesthood. His people at Saint John’s thought a fitting gift on the occasion – for the revered follower of the Crucified refused to accept a purely personal offering – would be the founding of a home for his boys, a class of parishioners in whom he was particularly interested. To this end, therefore, twenty-five thousand dollars were subscribed by the many friends of the Dean and presented to him, as a testimonial of his half-century of sacerdotal service, at a public celebration in his honor on the date of the jubilee. Ground was at once purchased for the new Home, and the late Thomas Edward O’Neill, a son of Charles O’Neill, directed the construction of the building, giving his time and means to the promotion of the work. In 1911, the institution, popularly known as the “Dean’s Home,” was ready for the reception of boys. Sister Melania was appointed first Sister Servant. The number of applicants for admission to the Home was at first limited to forty, the age prescription being between six and fourteen years: the boys are then sent either to the industrial institution at Arlington or permitted to enter commercial pursuits for which they may be fitted. The complete grammar school curriculum is followed in the school for the boys, who at the completion of the course, are able to enter the State Examinations each year for the elementary certificate awarded by the Department of Public Instruction. In some instances, the call to the higher life has been responded to by the inmates of the Home, one being at the moment, a candidate for the priesthood at Saint Joseph College, Princeton; three have become Christian Brothers, one a Franciscan, so that aspirations to the sacred calling have not been discouraged among the wards of the Dean’s Home.
Too much praise cannot be accorded to the generous parishioners of Saint John’s who have for so many years helped to maintain these extramural institutions out of parish funds, or, at times, by special subscriptions. The other hospices founded by the late Dean McNulty, embrace the Home for the Aged, directed by the Little Sisters of the Poor, Saint Francis Home for Working Girls, Saint Joseph Hospital. These, however, are all self-supporting institutions and do not, therefore, come under the list of dependencies of the parish of Saint John. They owe their origin to the tireless pastor of the early days; their prolonged activity and ever-increasing usefulness to city and State attest to the wisdom of the zealous priest who brought them all into being.
Because of the diminishing number of boys who applied for admission to the new Home of the Dean in Totowa Borough, Father Quirk formulated a plan by which that special work of charity might be discontinued in favor of the orphanage for girls, as the Lincoln Bridge institution had grown beyond the limits of accommodation for the girls then comprising its registration. Father Quirk’s plan was the forerunner of what in the process of evolutionary changes, has since come to full realization, but in a modified history that makes the story of the Home embrace both boys and girls. On the removal of Father Quirk to the Cathedral rectorship at Newark, when the honor of Domestic Prelate was conferred upon him by the late Bishop O’Connor, Father James Delehanty took charge of the parish of Saint John. One of his first concerns was the management of the Home at Totowa, and he, as Monsignor Quirk had found before him, saw that the number of boys did not fill the institution. He then planned to make it an institution for both boys and girls, with distinct quarters assigned to each division, all under the zealous care of Sister Agatha and her corps of workers. At the same time, the orphanage at Lincoln Bridge was found to be unsafe, and the ground on which it stood sorely needed for the extension of the cemetery of the Holy Sepulchre, so that the original orphanage for girls was razed and the girl inmates transferred to the hospitable shelter at the Totowa Home. The improved conditions in the cemetery more than justified the action of Father Delehanty, and rewarded, in many advantages gained, the removal of the girls to the institution in honor of the late Dean McNulty. Spacious grounds permit of recreation so necessary for both boys and girls, and building facilities compensate fully for the change from the old to the new. The ladies of Saint John’s have not withheld their generous aid from the Home; rather, they have extended their beneficence to meet the dual claim upon their bounty. Christmas and other festivals of cheer find them ready, as heretofore, to minister to the wants and needs of those less fortunate in life; a general spirit of amelioration, engendered by the Dean himself in the building-up days of his old parish, makes itself manifest at all times. To single out names of benefactors in this story of the noble work would be to run the risk of omitting many whose laudable efforts are most deserving of commendation. To the angel of reckoning, therefore, we commit the honor of recording the list of true worthies; they all labor in secret, doing good in the altruistic spirit that marks Paterson’s hosts of good women; God, Who seeth in secret, will repay. Not less prominent in the work of beneficent ministration for the poor and needy are also the male members of the parish of Saint John, and indeed of all local organizations, whether of the household of the faith or not. Annually, the Knights of Columbus, the Elks, the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, joined by the fraternal organizations of the city generally, form an army of helpers for these charities of the parish. Without them, the work of the Sisters would be often handicapped, and the orphans’ provision suffer correspondingly.
Sister Assissium, who for so many years directed the orphanage at Lincoln Bridge, was superseded at Totowa by the late zealous Sister Agatha, lovingly known among the boys and girls as their second mother. Sister Agatha passed away at the recruiting home for the Sisters of Charity, the New Villa at Convent Station; her work has been since ably furthered by Sister Laurentine, who had charge of the scholastic work of the Home since it was opened. Others of the old band still continue the noble work for the orphaned children of the parish: Sister Mary Patrick, Sister Fabronia, Sister Laurentine, and others, who find their work a daily joy and a constant blessing. May God give them the reward, even in time, of their holy labors, and make of their heavenly crown, and that of all who are know in Paterson as the “orphans’ friends” – its brightest diadems.
The boys at the Home, skilled in athletic prowess, boast of a “Can’t -be-beaten” baseball team, a boast that has warrant in the unbeaten record of their encounters with outside would-be Ruths. The girls enjoy sports suited to their age and sex – but all alike have a home spirit at Saint Joseph’s that recalls the splendid attitude of the late Father Senez of Jersey City toward the training of orphan wards of the diocese. The good Sisters at Totowa must have been tutored in the Senez school of love, kindliness, and Vincentine charity.
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