The History of
IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CHURCH
90 YEARS OF UNENDING GRACE
Located in the mountainous northwest corner of New Jersey’s Bergen County, Immaculate Conception is the most rural of all the parishes in the Newark Archdiocese.
May 1, 1928 was a notable event in the history of the Diocese of Newark. It marked the day of the accession of His Excellency, the Most Reverend Thomas J. Walsh, D.D., J.U.D. as Bishop of the Diocese of Newark. Shortly thereafter, on the occasion of his first visit to the Diocesan Seminary of the Immaculate Conception at Darlington, he made a survey of conditions in the Ramapo Valley. He wished the priests there to take care of the Catholic people in the area, and to this end he created the new parish.
Immaculate Conception Church was established
In November of that year, our Most Reverend Bishop established the new parish of the Immaculate Conception, comprising the territorial limits of the Township of Hohokus. During this time, the Great Depression was dawning. The bishop made the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Thomas H. McLaughlin, S.T.D., rector of the Diocesan Seminary, the first pastor and naming Reverend Charles Demjanovich as Administrator, who was residence at Darlington Seminary and served as procurator.
This parish was created by dividing the parish originally under the zealous care of Father Pindar of Waldwick. The new parish was placed under the charge of the priests attached to the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, located at Darlington since 1926. The instructions of the Bishop to the priests at the Seminary were that they should take care of the Catholic people of the Township, and any such others as would seek spiritual service at their hands.
The First Mass at Immaculate Conception Parish
Immediately, in order to make a start, a building formerly used as a carpenter shop on the Seminary estate was adapted for a church and school. Divine services were held there for the first time in December, 1928.
St. Thomas House: The first worship place
Since the new parish has no building of her own, the founding parishioners, including the members of McDarby, Orthman, Popum, Wagfenhoffer, Dooley, Hade, DeMaye, Cogan and D’Arcy families rented a carpentry shop, the St. Thomas House on the seminary property in which they held their church services. This building can still be seen on the grounds of the county’s Ramapo Reservation, where it serves as the park office and ranger residence.
The Opening of the Immaculate Conception School
The school was started in February, 1929, with seventeen pupils. Sister Alice Teresa of the sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth from Convent Station was in charge of the new school. St. Thomas House also served as first classrooms of the new school. Towards the summer of that year, it was found necessary to take down a partition in the building and turn the entire building into a church.
A census of the parish taken during July and August of that year (1929) revealed many children anxious for the benefits of a Catholic grammar school education. The enrolment in September, 1929 increased from the original seventeen to fifty-two. At that point, Sister Joseph Concepta was sent to assist. The children were transported from Cragmere, from the Valley Road, and from Fardale by taxi.
The first commencement of the parish school was held Sunday, June twenty-second, at three-thirty o’clock in the afternoon, in the parish church. The church, prettily decorated with the American and Papal flags, and the school colors, blue and white, was taxed to its capacity in accommodating the extremely large numbers of friends and relatives of the graduates. The graduates were Virginia Costello and Thomas Duggan.
The Rt. Rev. Msgr. Thomas H. McLaughlin, pastor of the church, delivered the sermon, and assisted by the Rev. Charles C. Demjanovich, made the presentation of diplomas, medals and prizes. Major Charles V. Bacon, then commander of the American Legion Post No. 236 of Mahwah, NJ, also was present and assisted in the conferring of the American Legion medals. Particular praise is due to the parish choir which rendered the music for the occasion in a most commendable manner.
The cost of transportation by public taxi was seen to be too great to be continued. Accordingly, in the summer of 1920, the parish bought a school bus, built to specifications, the capacity of which is fifty-six children. The enrolment increased to one hundred in the Fall of 1930, and a private dwelling situated at the intersection of Darlington Road and Darlington Avenue was transformed into the parish school and hall. This building, still in use, was dedicated on Sunday, September 7, 1930. Assisting Msgr. McLaughlin in the dedicatory ceremonies were the Rev. John M. McDonald of St. Joseph’s Church, Paterson, as deacon; the Rev. Michael C. Zarrillo, of St. Vincent’s Church, Madison, as sub-deacon, and the Rev. Charles C. Demjanovich, Vicar of the Parish, as Master of Ceremonies. The sermon on the occasion was preached by the Very Rev. Msgr. John J. Dauenhauer, S.T.D., pastor of St. Vincent’s Church, Madison, N.J.
The second commencement of the school, held in June, 1931, saw diplomas of graduation awarded to three children, namely Rosemary D’Arcy, Elizabeth Hackett, and George Buletza. The sermon on this occasion was preached by the Very Rev. Msgr. Michael J. Whalen, spiritual director of the Immaculate Conception Seminary.
In September, 1931, the enrolment of 133 children necessitated the addition of a fourth classroom and the acquirement of added teaching personnel. Seven children received diplomas of graduation at the commencement exercises, held in June. These seven were Paul Borish, Ann D’Arcy, Charles Dooley, Robert Fay, Hilda Grotewahl, Mildred Grotewahl and Susan Larkin.
The bus, in addition to transporting the children to and from the school at Darlington takes care of the transportation of the children going to St. Luke’s High School, at Waldwick. The bus schedules have been coordinated, so that the bus from St. Luke’s school arrives at Ramsey a few minutes after the bus from Darlington reaches there, while the order of arrival is reversed in the afternoon. The bus, bringing to the school a total of 103 children each school day last year, traversed twenty-seven miles each morning, and a like distance each afternoon, passing from Darlington through Oakland, Crystal Lake, Campgaw, Fardale, Wyckoff Avenue to Ramsey and then to Darlington, and then on a second trip through Cragmere and Mahwah, and then back to the school.
The teaching personnel is composed of Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth from Convent Station, New Jersey. Sister Alice Teresa, the principal, is assisted by Sister Joan Miriam, Sister Mary Justin and Sister Joseph Concepta.
The Incorporation of the Immaculate Conception Church
A point to be borne in mind is the fact that the Immaculate Conception Church of Darlington is entirely distinct from the Immaculate Conception Seminary of Darlington. The Seminary is conducted by the corporation known as the Roman Catholic Diocese of Newark, whereas the parish is a separate corporation, in every way, the corporate title of which is “Immaculate Conception Church, Darlington, New Jersey.”
The certificate of incorporation was filed at the Court House at Hackensack on January 2, 1931. The only point of contact is in the fact that the priests at the Seminary are the ones to whom the parish has been entrusted, since the parish is too small as yet to support a priest and the school, while the buildings in use up to the present are on Seminary property, belong to the Seminary, are only rented by the parish.
On December 22, 1930, the Certificate of Incorporation was granted to the Immaculate Conception Church by Bergen County, New Jersey.
New Church and School
The attendance at the church has necessitated increased facilities for the hearing of Mass on Sundays. In the beginning, one Mass at eight o’clock was sufficient for the parish needs. In September, 1930, an additional Mass at 6:45 was found necessary, while in May, 1931, a third Mass at 10:30 was deemed imperative in order to provide an opportunity for all to fulfill their obligation on Sundays. The parish is regularly established and has all the functions and devotions that are to be had in any of the larger city parishes of the diocese.
Permission for the erection of the new church and school was given by the Most Rev. Thomas J. Walsh, D.D., J.U.D., Bishop of Newark, last February. Messrs. Fanning & Shaw, of 49 Ward Street, Paterson, specialists in school and church construction, were engaged to draw plans and specifications for the new building.
A special meeting of the parishioners was held in March in the present parish hall at which meeting the proposed plans were submitted. All present were enthusiastic about the new building, the need for which was apparent. Mr. Guy H. Popham, Sr., representing the trustees of the Church, pledged his support, and the support of the entire parish for the project. Mr. John Wagenhoffer, chairman of the Committee on Social Activity, spoke in the name of the members of the Holy Name Society, while Mrs. Michael J. McDarby and Miss Marguerite Hade voiced the enthusiastic sentiments of the Rosary-Altar Society and the Me-We Club, respectively.
The plans for the financing of the building were discussed and approved. It was also decided to purchase five acres of ground at the corner of Darlington Avenue and Ramapo Valley Road, the approximate geographical center of the parish, for the parish buildings. The purchase was duly made, and the deeds for the same were filed at Hackensack on April 15, 1932.
They decided that the new building would be constructed of fieldstone, a commonly used local building material. It was so local, in fact, that the stones used to construct the building and the original stone wall that bordered the grounds were all gathered from the property itself.
Bids for the new buildings were received in the middle of April. Contracts for mason, carpenter, steel and paint work were awarded to Mr. J.L. Bried of Englewood, whose bid of $39,500.00 was the low bid for the work. The plumbing and heating contract was awarded to the Standard Plumbing and Heating Co. of Paterson, on their low bid of $8,800.00. The contract for electrical work was awarded to John E. Cogan of Suffern, on the basis of his low bid of $2,100.00. Since then, contracts for the sewage disposal plant and for the organ have been let to the Nustone Products Corporation of Tenafly and the Beach Organ Co. of Newark, respectively.
Four years to the day of our Bishop’s accession, namely on May 1, 1932, ground was broken for the new church and school. Work progressed favorably, for the building was to be completed on September 1, 1932, to enable the school to start in the new building on Wednesday, September 7th. Although the work was retarded somewhat during August, it is sufficiently advanced to admit of the dedication on schedule time, and all Masses on Sundays.
Dedication of the New Building
of the Immaculate Conception Church and School
The new church and school building was completed on time and the dedication occurred on schedule on September 11, 1932.
1928 — Immaculate Conception Church was established
1929 — School opens in St. Thomas House
1930 — Certificate of Incorporation issued
1932 — Dedication of the New Church and School