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About Our Parish

About Us

A Short History of St. Gabriel's Parish

Imagine, if you will, a long stretch of road (one that reaches between Freehold and Marlboro.) Picture on that road a little figure in black in a horse cart. The year is 1871 and that little figure in black is Fr. Frederick Kivelitz of St. Rose of Lima's Church in Freehold. He is heading for the village of Marlboro, where he will say Mass for the Catholic families in the village and its surrounding hamlets.

Until the 1860's these families attended Mass in the Church of St. Rose of Lima. But by 1871 there were a sufficient number of Catholics to consider forming a separate congregation, a mission church of St. Rose's, for the people in the village of Marlboro and the hamlets of Wickatunk and Hillsdale (later Bradevelt.)

With the help of Fr. Kivelitz, these people gradually formed the congregation of St. Gabriel's. At first, Mass was celebrated in the houses of the parishioners. Fr. Kivelitz would journey from Freehold to offer Mass once a month (in later years he arrived on bicycle.) During these first years, religious instruction was given to the children every week, for the people of St. Gabriel's looked to the future of their children and their church even then at the beginning.

In 1878, a major event occurred in the life of the small congregation. Under the guidance of Fr. Kivelitz, a church building was erected near the Bradevelt railroad station (along what is now county Rte. 520) on a lot donated by Patrick Fallon. In a ceremony that drew hundreds of people, the cornerstone was laid and the building consecrated on November 4, 1878 by the Rt. Rev. M.A. Corrigan, Bishop of Newark.

The original building was a brick structure thirty by fifty feet with a seating capacity of two hundred and fifty people. The cost of the structure was $1,150.00 (inflation has since increased the cost of churches somewhat.) The furniture was donated and paid for separately by parishioners. In August of 1885, St. Gabriel's was clear of debt and had $100.00 in the treasury, sufficient for the congregation to be withdrawn from the spiritual charge of St. Rose's and to become a parish in its own right. The Reverend John O'Leary served as pastor of the new Roman Catholic Church of St. Gabriel's for the next three years. He was succeeded by the Rev. James A. Lawrence who was, in turn, succeeded by Rev. James F. Gough of Trenton.

The next Rector was Rev. James A. Healey who arrived in 1914 and died while in charge of the parish on March 17, 1919. Hundreds of people attended his funeral, including the Bishop.

In 1922, a second church, a mission of St. Gabriel's, was built. It was called St. John's and was located in the center of Marlboro village on land donated by John Holland. For years the church functioned as a mission of St. Gabriel's. St. John's has since been reconverted into business offices.

The parish of St. Gabriel's continued to grow along with the local population. Through the years, the Church building and an adjoining Rectory both experienced a fire. The church was damaged considerably and the roof destroyed. Fire also plagued and destroyed a Church Hall that was erected behind the church after World War II. The structure was actually two former Army barracks that had been purchased for the church by the Collier sisters. Many well-attended church dances were held in this "hall." There was a small kitchen in one portion of the building. One evening after one of the famous dances (upwards of 600 people were said to have attended,) the fire bells rang out. The building burned "like a paper bag," and there were many sad people who watched it go up in flames.

In spite of the setbacks, St. Gabriels' has continued to flourish under the Pastorships of Rev. John O'Grady, Rev. Francis Sullivan, Rev. Lucitt, Rev. Cogan, Rev. Horan and Rev. John Novack.

By the 1960's St. Gabriel's parish had undergone tremendous population growth. Often, people attempting to hear Mass could not squeeze into the church, and they found themselves only able to peer into the windows. Church expansion plans were begun by the Rev. Vincent Lloyd when he became Pastor and were carried out by Rev. James T. Connell, the next Pastor, under whose leadership the new church was built on the corners of Rt. 520 and Rt. 79.

The original Church of St. Gabriel's was redecorated in 1995 and, under the Pastorship of Rev. Ralph Stansley, served as a meeting place as well as a church where Mass is still offered Tuesday through Friday at 9:00AM.

In June of 1990 a new Pastor, Rev. Eugene J. Roberts was appointed by Bishop John C. Reiss of the Trenton Diocese. St. Gabriel's continues its growth, with a congregation currently of 3,600 families and a variety of parish, community and apostolic activities. Under the leadership of Father Roberts the Church was renovated in 2014.





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