10 February 2021

Saint Mary's Catholic Church of the Byzantine Rite

When the Johns Manville company moved its plant to Hillsborough in 1912, the rural township changed practically overnight. A whole new town sprung up, taking its name from the asbestos manufacturer, and filled with workers and their families. These new Hillsborough residents were of mostly Eastern European descent and within a few years, they began organizing new churches where they could worship in their own languages and with their own customs and rituals. 

Saint Mary's Catholic Church of the Byzantine Rite,
Main Street, Manville, circa 1920s

Among these new congregations - which by the end of the decade caused the number of churches in the township to double - were St. Peter and Paul Orthodox Church (1915), Manville Magyar Reformed Church (1915), Hungarian Reformed Church (1915), Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church (1917), and Emmanuel Baptist Church (1919). A sixth church - Saint Mary's Catholic Church of the Byzantine Rite (1917) -   is significant for Hillsborough history because it began in Hillsborough, found itself in Manville after the 1929 separation, then moved to Hillsborough in 1996.

The three dozen men who met on July 22, 1917, to organize the church traced their roots to the Carpathian Mountain region of Europe. They were followers of the Greek - or Byzantine - ecclesiastical tradition and were anxious to have their own church in Manville where they could worship with their families.

Bells being removed from St. Mary's to be reinstalled in the new church.

Within a month a charter had been granted officially forming the church, and four lots were purchased on Main Street where a building would be constructed. According to the book, Manville: A History Enduring by Kathryn Quick, no area building contractor wanted to tackle making the onion-shaped dome for the top of the church, so the job fell to local cabinet maker William Nagle.

After renovation and remodeling in the 1950s, Saint Mary's continued to serve the faithful Byzantine community from Manville and surrounding towns for decades. In 1974, the church purchased eleven acres of land on Brooks Boulevard in Hillsborough - and soon after another seven acres. Here they built a parish center for use by the CCD program, basketball, cheerleading, bingo, and other church events.

The "new" Saint Mary's on Brooks Boulevard in Hillsborough

In 1992 a plan was presented to erect a new church on the property adjacent to the parish center. The new church building, which was dedicated in June 1996, was built in the Byzantine style with three domes and an interior design in the Byzantine Ruthenian/Ukrainian tradition by Christina Dochwat.

9 June 1998 Courier News

Sadly, the old church on Main Street - only recently purchased and in use by the Faith in Action Church - was accidentally burned down during a renovation project on June 7, 1998.

No comments:

Post a Comment