A Catholic Mission is Born in Milltown - Posted 1/3/20
Early Catholic communities were few and far between in the mid eighteen hundreds. In Milltown, the Methodist Parish was established in 1844. The German immigrants, members of the German Reformed Church established St. Paul's German Reformed Church (now St. Paul's United Church of Christ) in 1872. The few Catholics who lived in Milltown were transported by mule drawn wagons to New Brunswick. As the number of German Catholics increased, St John the Baptist Parish on Neilson St. New Brunswick was established. These Milltown families became part of the early Our Lady of Lourdes founders. In 1907, Milltown saw unprecedented growth with the arrival of the Michelin Tire Company. The Michelin brought many of their French Catholic workers with them. In 1912, the Catholic Mission in Milltown was created by the Bishop A. McFaul of Trenton, and Fr. Devine from Sacred Heart Parish New Brunswick (now part of Holy Family). Early family Masses were said in buildings owned by the Michelin Company. The first Mass was said in the French School House that was located on the property where the Milltown Pharmacy now stands.
The Spiritual Growth of the mission continues to grow and the first May Crowning is held - Posted 1/10/21
The Milltown mission of Sacred Heart continued to grow and in 1914 the first organization, The Children of Mary was established. In 1917 when the USA began its involvement in WW I and the Mission moved it's location to the French Club House, Mr. J. Hauvette-Michelin, Vice President of the company offered the use at no cost to the Mission. To make it a more religious atmosphere, sacred appointments were either made or donated. A tabernacle was built for the table used as an altar. Many statues were donated and the Stations of the Cross came from the chapel of the old St Peter's Hospital. An organ was donated and choir started as well.
The spiritual growth of the Mission continued and in May 1918 the first May crowning was held. Fr. Holloran, the associate from Sacred Heart who was serving the Mission, became the only clergyman from the New Brunswick area to enlist as a Chaplain in WW I. (There is no further note in the history except that the next may crowning of our Blessed Lady was not held until 1934.)
Fund Drive Begins and the Community Begins to Build - Posted 1/17/21
In October of 1918, Rev. Joseph A. Ryan became the pastor at Sacred Heart and that same year Bishop Thomas Walsh was installed in Trenton. In his ten years as Bishop, he established twenty-one new parishes, six in 1921,and our Mission, informally established, was one of the six.
As the number of faithful increased, the need for a large space caused the Mission to move two more times. A fund drive began to build a proper church. Fr. Ryan was authorized to acquire a site for a church, rectory, school and convent. Our church property was purchased from John Van Liew Booream on May 19,1919. A campaign began to raise $40,000.00 for construction. Fr. Ryan and the committee sought the assistance of Mr. J. Hauvette-Michelin. He did assist, he offered one dollar for every dollar raised up to $15,000.00.
The fund drive was well received by the community including the ministers of the Methodist Church and St. Paul's German Reform Church. By June 1921 the Mission raised $15,000.00 and church construction began. The men of the future parish were called upon to dig the basement and erect the foundation. Men volunteered their time in the evening after their day's work. The owner of the Marguerite Hotel (now the Golden Lion) sent sandwiches and beverages to the workers every night.
Our Parish Gets a Name - Posted 1/24/21
The construction of the church was well underway and Bishop Walsh approached Mr. J Hauvette-Michelin and offered him the privilege of suggesting a name for the new parish in thanksgiving for all of his help and generosity. The honor was declined and the Bishop chose the name “Our Lady of Lourdes” to honor him, his country and his people.
On October 21, 1921 the Milltown Mission was formally incorporated under the laws of the State of NJ. Bishop Walsh, assisted by Fr Ryan, blessed and laid the corner stone on October 30, 1921. Approximately 2,500 were in attendance. Many dignitaries attended and the Michelin Brass Band played at the ceremony.
If you are interested, our corner stone contains copies of the Home News, Sunday Times, Catholic News, Standard-Times of Philadelphia, a silver dollar, and fifty cent, twenty-five, ten, five and one cent pieces, the names of President Warren G. Harding, Governor Edward I. Edwards of NJ, Mayor Christian Kuhlthau, the names of those who made donations, as well as all those who contributed in any way to the erection of the church and a transcript of the history of the parish up to that date. The Bishop spoke and reminded all Catholics in the vicinity of Milltown that they were to attend Mass at OLOL, saving them from travel to New Brunswick churches. Construction on the upper church began and in less than seven months the church was completed.