The Church of Saint James began with Mass in private homes in the pre-Revolutionary War era in Basking Ridge. This Sunday, Saint James church, the Roman Catholic parish in Basking Ridge, will start a yearlong celebration in honor of and gratitude for its 150th year since its incorporation in 1864, according to the church.
The celebratory year includes:
— An opening Mass at 10:30 a.m. this Sunday with the church's pastor, Reverend Glenn J. Comandini, S.T.D., presiding.
— Bible study classes focusing on Letter of Saint James.
— A parish pilgrimage June 21-30, 2014 to Santiago de Compostela, the city in northwest Spain where the tomb and cathedral of Saint James the Greater, the patron saint of the Church of Saint James in Basking Ridge, are located. The pilgrimage will follow part of the “El Camino de Santiago” (The Way of Saint James), a network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the tomb of Saint James.
— A parish picnic.
— A closing Mass in October 2014 with Most Reverend Paul G. Bootkoski, Bishop, Diocese of Metuchen, presiding and preaching.
— A parish gala event featuring dinner and dancing in October 2014.
In addition, the parish is preparing souvenirs and enhancements offered to parishioners during the course of the anniversary year.
— A commemorative history book.
— A keepsake prayer card, calendar and magnet.
— Special meditation music for the anniversary.
— Decorations in the sanctuary including the mantra of the 150th anniversary, “Remember, celebrate, believe.”
As part of the anniversary, the parish created a new logo based on the scallop shell, the symbol of Saint James the Greater.
“Congratulations to The Church — the people — of Saint James. This is a birthday which only comes along once in a lifetime: Enjoy it, savor it and, together, let us thank God for the opportunity to be part of it.” said Rev. Comandini.
"If our founding mothers and fathers could be here today, what would they say? Hopefully: 'So this is what it means to be Church!'" he said.
About The Church of Saint James
Although the parish today has a wide-ranging Catholic ministry based at its complex of church, rectory, pre-K thru 8th grade elementary school, and school of religious education, the church has a long history that led to this point.
The parish has grown from a few families at its founding to more than 3,100 today, and from 85 seats in its first church to space for 450 people in the second church, now the chapel, to the current main sanctuary with seating for 1,000.
As early as 1758, a Jesuit priest traveled on horseback into Basking Ridge on his way to or from Philadelphia, according to information from the church. He would hear confessions, baptize, celebrate Mass, preach a sermon, give Communion, perform marriages, and then continue on to another place. Baptismal records refer to the area as “Bascon Ridge.”
First church seated 85
In 1853, Basking Ridge Catholics were placed under the spiritual care of Saint Vincent’s Parish in Madison. Church property was purchased in 1859 on the lower end of South Maple Avenue and Henry Street. It included almost a third of an acre and a 125-year old carpenter shop, which was renovated into a church to seat 85 people.
The Church of Saint James was incorporated October 20, 1864 by the Most Reverend James Roosevelt Bayley, D.D., a second cousin of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and also a cousin of the 20th-century Saint Mother Elizabeth Bayley Seton. Incorporation papers read “baskinridge.”
After its incorporation, Saint James was a mission of the Church of the Assumption in Morristown until 1873. It then shared a pastor, chalice, buckboard wagon, horse and harness with Saint Joseph’s in Mendham. In 1898, the parish became a mission of the newly-established Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Bernardsville.
By 1948, Saint James became a fully established parish with two missions, at Mount Bethel and Martinsville, now both separate parishes. On October 6, 1957, Father Joseph A.B. Wade was appointed pastor. During his pastorate (1957-1981), land for a new church and rectory was purchased; subsequently, an existing house (previously a convent and currently the offices of the Saint James School of Religious Education) and school property were added.
The chapel’s New England colonial design was originally chosen in keeping with the character of the town. Saint James School was built and opened in 1969. The church (now chapel) was consecrated on May 4, 1980 by the Most Reverend John C. Reiss, Bishop of Trenton. In January 1982, Saint James became part of the new Diocese of Metuchen.
From the 1980s through the 1990s the Somerset Hills continued to grow with expansion of condominium developments and housing. During these years, the number of weekend Masses increased to six with standing-room only crowds at each Mass. Masses on Christmas and Easter were held in the newly expanded school gym.
In response to this growth the Bishop initiated an expansion effort at Saint James in 1992. Monsignor William J. Capik headed the effort to expand the church. A new church expansion, costing $7.6 million, began in September 1998 and was completed and dedicated on December 12, 1999.
The church listed its pastors since the start of the 20th century as including the Rev. Joseph A. Ryan 1898-1914; Rev. Monsignor William I. McKean, 1914-1948; Rev. Edward J. Draus, 1948-1954; Rev. Gerald J. Griffin, 1954-1957; and Rev. Joseph A. B. Wade, 1957-1981. On May 1, 1981, Rev. Monsignor William J. Capik was appointed pastor of Saint James and served for 24 years until his retirement on July 1, 2005, at which time the Rev. Glenn J. Comandini, S.T.D. assumed the pastorate.
More information on the church on the St. James Church website.
About Saint James
James was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of Saint John the Apostle. He is called “the Greater” either because he became an apostle before Saint James the Lesser, because he was taller or bigger than Saint James the Lesser, or because he was older than Saint James the Lesser. He was a disciple of Saint John the Baptist and a fisherman by trade. He left everything when Christ called him to be a fisher of men.
James was present during most of the recorded miracles of Christ, including the Transfiguration. He preached in Samaria, Judea, and Spain and was the first apostle to be martyred. His feast day is July 25.