Parishioners of St. Aedan’s in Pearl River completed a yearlong celebration of its 50th anniversary with a visit from Cardinal Dolan for Mass and a reception in the parish gymnasium on Dec. 3.
“We had about 450 for the Mass and 300 for the reception,” said Msgr. Emmet R. Nevin, pastor of St. Aedan’s, who also serves as the dean of the Rockland County Deanery.
“It was a really nice reception. The cardinal enjoyed himself. It was a happy night for everybody,” Msgr. Nevin said.
Cardinal Dolan’s visit concluded a celebration that began on Jan. 31, when Auxiliary Bishop Dominick J. Lagonegro, episcopal vicar of Orange, Sullivan, Ulster and Rockland Deaneries, celebrated Mass to mark the Feast of St. Aedan. The parish also held a concert and dinner-dance, and published a parish journal to mark the anniversary.
“It was a busy year for us,’’ said Pat Shannon, a parishioner at St. Aedan for more than 40 years. “The Mass (with Cardinal Dolan) was wonderful. The cardinal is a very personable person. We had a reception in our gym and he visited with all the people and enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed his visit.”
St. Aedan has 1,200 families, and 1,300 people attend Masses each weekend. Msgr. Nevin, who grew up in Rockland County and served as a teacher and principal at Msgr. Farrell High School on Staten Island, leads a parish staff that includes Father John Palatucci, parochial vicar, and Deacon James F. Maher.
Marie Gartner is the coordinator of the religious education program, which has 528 students this year, and Kieran McCormack is the coordinator of the CYO basketball program, which has 30 teams for the 2016-2017 season.
The parish also has a Bible study program, which attracts 50 adults each weekend.
“I enjoy the parish very much,” said Ms. Shannon, who is a Eucharistic minister and serves on the parish council. “It’s a very active parish, and the people are very friendly and giving.”
St. Aedan was one of three new parishes, along with St. Boniface in Wesley Hills and St. Joan of Arc in Sloatsburg, established in Rockland County by Cardinal Francis Spellman in 1966 due to a growing Catholic population following the opening of the Tappan Zee Bridge in 1955.
St. Aedan originally was a mission church of St. Margaret of Antioch parish, also in Pearl River. Msgr. Michael Toner, pastor of St. Margaret’s, purchased land to construct an all-purpose building for St. Margaret’s.
The all-purpose center and surrounding property became the home of St. Aedan’s. The church’s first bulletins were a mimeographed sheet of paper. Msgr. Joseph M. Devlin was appointed pastor and lived at St. Agatha’s Home in Nanuet until a rectory was purchased on Reld Drive.
A new parish house was later constructed and dedicated by Cardinal Terence Cooke in 1977.
Construction of a church followed in 1985 after a building campaign raised more than $700,000. The church opened for the Easter Vigil in 1986 and was dedicated by Cardinal John O’Connor on April 27, 1986. St. Aedan purchased its stained-glass windows and Italian mosaic stations of the cross from the former Ladycliff College in Highland Falls, where they were in the chapel.
“It is fitting that this dedication comes during the Easter season, a time of new beginnings,” Cardinal O’Connor said.
In 1991, Cardinal O’Connor returned to celebrate Mass to mark the parish’s 25th anniversary.
Groundbreaking began in 2007 for a building to serve as the home to the religious education program. The building has eight full-size classrooms and a dividable meeting room.
Msgr. Nevin is planning to start a youth group for high school students in the parish and reach out to Catholics who are not active in the parish.
“I was fortunate enough to be assigned here by Cardinal Dolan and I’m looking forward to being here for the years to come,’’ Msgr. Nevin said.