“This is so exciting to me,” Father Angelito Anarcon, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena, Farmingdale said with enthusiasm. “I was simply at the right place at the right time and now I am a part of the history of the parish, and I am so exhilarated, it’s wonderful.”
The exciting time that Father Anarcon reflects upon is the centennial anniversary of St. Catherine of Siena Church, which was located on the corner of North and West Main Streets, and is now known as St. Catherine of Siena Chapel, built in 1912.
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To begin their centennial celebration, the 100th anniversary Mass was celebrated by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. on April 15.
Joining Bishop O’Connell and the parish community in the celebration was former pastor Father Michael S. Vona and town officials. “It was a beautiful celebration, the church was standing room only,” Father Anarcon said.
In his homily Bishop O’Connell affirmed the parish community, saying, “Today is a day for special joy - we continue to celebrate Easter; we also celebrate a milestone for our parish, St. Catherine of Siena here in Farmingdale - a century of living the Catholic faith as a community of believers, patterned on the example we heard about today in the Acts of the Apostles. Our 100 years are a living testimony to a living faith, eager to bear witness to Jesus Christ and what he asks of us. As your Bishop, I am so pleased to be with you today. Congratulations.”
William Ditto, centennial planning committee chairperson, explained that additional plans are underway for an anniversary dinner, a family picnic, a viewing of a relic of St. Catherine and a collaboration with the historical society to share parish artifacts, including vestments, Bibles and chalices as well as the rich history of the parish with the entire Farmingdale community.
“This is a wonderful story and testament to the strong faith of our ancestors,” he said. “When I think of where we started to where we are today, it’s amazing.”
Father Annarcon concurred. “The faith of the people is magnificent and outstanding,” he reflected. As he looks forward to moving his parish into the future, he does so with the same excitement as the earlier faith community did, one hundred years ago.
The first Mass in the new parish of St. Catherine of Siena was celebrated by Father Frederick Kivelitz in 1872 at the home of John C. Mahoney of Asbury Road and continued to be held in his home until 1892, when it was necessary to move to a larger space – Red Men’s Hall.
Mass continued there for another twenty years. During this time, the parishioners of St. Catherine were anxious to build a church and throughout the first decade of the 1900’s much was done to secure funds and donations for a building.
During this time, the jurisdiction of the Farmingdale parish was turned over to the parish of St. Dorothea, Eatontown, under Father Aloysius A. Quinlan’s pastorate. It was through the efforts of Father Quinlan and many of the parishioners, that the original church of St. Catherine of Siena was built and completely finished with available funds, leaving no debt. In July of 1939, St. Catherine became an independent parish with Father Joseph A. Sullivan serving as its first resident pastor.
As the community continued to grow, it became necessary for the church to expand and meet the needs of the people. In 1995, plans were developed to build a parish center, which would include an additional and larger church building, religious education classrooms, meeting rooms and parish offices. The parish center, located on Asbury Road, was built on a parcel of the Mahoney property, which was purchased a number of years ago.
The groundbreaking ceremony took place in June, 1996. The dedication of St. Catherine of Siena Church and parish center by Bishop John M. Smith was held on August 29, 1998. The parish hall was constructed in the year 2000 and was dedicated on November 4, 2001.
“We are a small parish but a wonderful mixture of people,” Father Anarcon shared. “What makes this parish unique is that there is a large amount of dedicated people.”
Lay ecclesial minister, RCIA director and pastoral council member
Jane Cable agrees.
“Because St. Catherine of Siena Parish serves the town of Farmingdale and a large part of northern Howell township, our community consists of a diverse population. The melding of all these personalities and cultural traditions mirrors the family of God worldwide. I find this aspect most comforting and enlightening as I learn from all those I encounter through St. Catherine Parish.”
Father Anarcon has reached out to the members of his parish community since his appointment in July 2011 and launched the pastoral council and is hoping to initiate the Legion of Mary and the Knights of Columbus to the parish soon.
Following Bishop O’Connell’s example, he also would like to welcome inactive Catholics back to the parish and develop adult faith formation communities.
“We have such a rich history,” stated Ditto, who has been a parishioner for 23 years and also volunteers as the coordinator of readers and song leaders.
In addition to his current role, Ditto has been a parishioner for 23 years and also volunteers as the coordinator of readers and song leaders.
“Down the road the challenges will be there, but the faith of the people is so strong,” he said. “It is their strong faith that will lead this parish for the next one hundred years.”[[In-content Ad]]