A newly-installed mosaic of St. Michael the Archangel is blessed by Bishop O’Connell with the help of St. Michael’s priest Father Peter Bujdos.
A newly-installed mosaic of St. Michael the Archangel is blessed by Bishop O’Connell with the help of St. Michael’s priest Father Peter Bujdos.

The church motto “No one comes to St. Michael’s as a stranger and leaves us that way” was abundantly evident Dec. 12 when Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., celebrated a Mass and blessed a St. Michael mosaic to commemorate the 100th anniversary of St. Michael Church in Trenton.

Coined by Father Louis W. Kralowich, St. Michael’s administrator in the late 1970s to early 1980s, the phrase emphasizes the sense of community and common purpose that has married the historically Slovak Catholic community of St. Michael Church with the Korean Catholics and English-speaking Catholics who also now share the worship site affiliated with St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville.

To view a photo gallery of the St. Michael's Anniversary Mass, click HERE.

“Anniversaries are a time for ‘going home,’ for reaching back through the years and remembering the good things and the good times that were part of our lives,” said Bishop O’Connell in his homily. “Today we celebrate a homecoming of 100 years here when St. Michael Church was built and consecrated by my predecessor Bishop Thomas Walsh a century ago yesterday.

“As we celebrate a homecoming of 100 years today, we also recognize that Advent, in a sense, is a homecoming,” the Bishop continued, “a return to the Church and all that it offers: a family; things familiar; the opportunity to be ‘at home’ with God and one another – all things to celebrate with joy.”

From Roots to Branches

Erected in 1921 to serve the Slovak community of North Trenton, St. Michael Church sits at 1130 Brunswick Avenue. Slovak and Polish priests from the surrounding area served the parish until a permanent pastor was found in Father Michael J. Kallok, installed in 1926. Under his direction a social hall was added under the church in 1927 and a rectory was constructed in 1929.

Plans were made for a more majestic church in the current parking lot, with the smaller original building rebuilt into a school – but financial income in the hard-strapped 1930s wouldn’t allow for the expansion.

A long-celebrated tradition of the St. Michael community is the St. Jude Novena, a fixture among the Slovak faithful of the church since 1939. Father Ladislav J. Rakvica – who became administrator in 1936 and served for 36 years – initiated the first Solemn Novena to St. Jude Oct 20, 1939, as a thank you to the saint for his miraculous recovery from a near fatal illness. The novena tradition continued weekly on Thursdays, gaining in popularity, and devotion to St. Jude continues today.

When Father Rakvica, after 10 years of assisting at St. Michael’s following his retirement, died in 1982, the Slovak language Mass was not regularly celebrated again in the church until 20 years later. In the meantime, the community was administrated by Father William Capik (1972-1974); Father Kralovich (1974-1982), and then-Father (now Msgr.) James G. Innocenzi, who was appointed administrator in 1982 and pastor in 1986. Through his guidance and assistance, Msgr. Innocenzi welcomed weekly Masses in the Slovak language and the Slovak community back to St. Michael’s in 2002, with the approval of then-Bishop John M. Smith.

Father Vladimir Chripko, a native Slovak priest, began celebrating the Slovak Mass there, ushering in a return of St. Michael’s as a center of spiritual and cultural life for Slovaks of the wider area. Msgr. Innocenzi remained until 2005 when St. Michael’s merged with St. Ann Parish. The Korean Catholic community was welcomed to St. Michael Church in 2006.

Currently under the ministry of Father Peter Bujdos, who replaced Father Chripko in 2015, many repairs and updates were made to the church and rectory structures, including the addition of a camera system and internet access to allow for livestreaming of Masses.

A Century to Remember

“I would like to thank God we are here … can we imagine how many sacraments, graces and blessings people have received here these 100 years?” Father Bujdos reflected at the end of the anniversary Mass. “The church is not big – however it is cozy, and we are thankful to those who have built this church. … We should be joyful people because we are people of light …for all three communities – American Slovak and Korean – St. Michael is not only a building, but as Bishop David said, it is home.”

A St. Michael parishioner for 18 years, Maria Krutkova helped plan the celebratory Mass and music selection as a member of the liturgical committee, and also worked on the committee creating a commemorative St. Michael booklet, due to be distributed in a few weeks.

“This centennial celebration means so much to me,” said Krutkova, who came to the U.S. from Slovakia at a young age. “What made it so much easier for me is that the Slovak community at St. Michael’s was already established; I have found [my] home away from home. … I’m so proud and grateful that our Slovak predecessors, with great dedication, built a place where people of many origins found their spiritual home.”

In addition to the anniversary Mass, the committees have been organizing events and commemorations throughout the year that celebrate St. Michael’s legacy in the community: the writing and recitation of an anniversary prayer and logo; slideshows and photo collections; archival material in Slovak language curated and updated; clothing drive, bake sale and anniversary souvenir sales held as fundraisers; the installation of a St. Michael the Archangel mosaic above the church entrance, and much more.

Dagmar Sabova, chair of the 100th Anniversary Committee and parish religious education teacher, has been a member of St. Michael’s since 2002, along with her husband, Jozef Sabo; son, Michal Sabo, and daughter, Emma Sabova. Father Kralovich’s motto “is how I felt on our special day,” she said. “It was so nice to see the church full of people; everyone was smiling and enjoying the beautiful ceremony.”

“Our ancestors... found time, energy and, most importantly, funds to build a new church,” she continued. “They brought from their homeland a hard-working mentality, but also a deeply rooted faith in God. This led to the conviction that, with His grace, they would be able to fulfill their dreams of a better life.”

Sabova’s second grade class contributed to the anniversary Mass with a song sung in the Slovak language following Communion. Their group name is Pramienok, meaning small fountain or small river flow.

“Commemorating 100 years is even more meaningful given that we are even now able to exalt our Heavenly Father [at St. Michael] in our language,” Sabova noted.

Krutkova agreed. “It was a pure joy and blessing,” she said. “In these uncertain times, we are grateful we could celebrate with such honor and joy. This celebration and its planning surely brought our three communities – English speaking, Slovak and Korean – closer together.”