By Steve Sears
It’s the long, thin church building, seeming to stretch a good block back from Route 46 West in Denville.
“The Parish itself was founded back in 1926,” says Glynn, alluding to its history. “It was run (as a mission church) by Saint Cecilia’s of Rockaway starting in 1926, and then it was established as a parish in 1941, and then they built a school in the 1950s, and as of today there’s about 1,500 families. We would be seen as kind of a midsize parish.”
Glynn thinks the early parishioners were primarily Irish or German, coming from the old minefields in Hibernia. “The other big thing, I believe, is that for many, many years Denville was a summer place. People would come out to the lakes and they would just have their summer homes here. Over time it became a full-time community.”
Welcoming people, being an “open arms” type community, is something Saint Mary’s thrives on. “People will come in all different stages of faith,” says Glynn. “The idea is to be a welcoming parish regardless of their education, and to welcome everybody as much as possible. I think as well this means the parishioners have to be a welcoming community. When you encourage that and you see them welcoming strangers, it’s wonderful, it makes people feel included, and then they’ll come back.” Glynn also adds that, “We do a lot of funerals, about 80 a year. A lot of them, because they’re elderly, have been in the church for many, many years. The importance of welcoming their family, when we bring them in and plan for their funeral and do the readings and get them involved in it, we find a lot of those family members come back time and time again, which is great. It’s mostly because we’re being welcoming.”
Glynn was ordained in Ireland in 1978 specifically for the Paterson Archdiocese. He first served for 8 years at Saint Anthony’s Parish in Hawthorne, then 8 years at Florham Park’s Holy Family Parish, followed by 12 years at Immaculate Conception Parish in Franklin, and now has been at Saint Mary’s for 12 years.
“Denville is one of the best communities because they have a downtown center that is magnificent, it enables the people to get together,” says Glynn, who is assisted at Saint Mary’s by 40 plus year Saint Mary’s priest, Rev. Richard Tartaglia, along with weekend associate, Rev. Msgr. Kieran McHugh. Deacons are Mike Allgaier, Jack Flynn, and Jim Rizos. The parish also has a full-time Director of Religious Education, PJ Miller. “In our Religious Education program, we have over 550 kids from kindergarten to 8th grade.” About 145 students attend neighboring Saint Mary’s Prep School. Dr. Peg McCluskey is the Principal, and Donna Ott is Parish Secretary.
Saint Mary’s has a very active outreach program into the community. Glynn explains. “To people who are maybe caught in a hard place, maybe don’t have enough money to buy food, they just need money for furniture…they’re just caught in a bad place, and they will call us up here for anything we can help them with, whether it be baby food, transportation, or paying some of their bills. For some people it may mean picking up the tab at a hotel for the night for them. The other thing is we have a great program for bereavement (Bereavement Support Seasons of Hope, run by Peg Feyl). It’s wonderful to see so many people gathering, especially during the holidays, because it’s such a tough time and they’ve lost a loved one. They come together for 4 or 5 weeks in a row just to talk abut their loved ones and how they’re coping, and then hopefully from all the people in the group they can kind of keep in contact with each other and encourage one another.”
The biggest challenge Glynn faces as pastor is to give a good education in the faith. “A lot of times there is the notion that education concerning the faith kind of finishes after you finish confirmation. It’s almost like they look at confirmation as a graduation, that you don’t have to learn anything more about your faith or be involved in it. That’s definitely a big difficulty.” The other big challenges say Glynn is the sexual abuse issue plaguing the Catholic church. “People that kind of were on the fence about their faith or about their church – this kind of has given them permission to pull away entirely.”
Glynn closes by stating a key positive about the parish he presides over. “Anytime we have a drive for food, a drive for clothing, a drive for anything that’s in need, the people are just phenomenally generous. I feel that so many times over the last 12 years that they are a very, very generous community.”
St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church is located 15 Myers Avenue. Sunday Mass times are 7:00, 8:30, 10:00 and 11:30 a.m., and Saturday at 5:00 p.m. Call (973) 627-0269 or visit https://stmarys-denville.org.