CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY

CHURCH OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
now known as the
CATHEDRAL OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

The mother church of the diocese, Immaculate Conception and its members played an integral role in the development of Camden and was deeply woven into the social fabric of the city. Unlike many institutions, Immaculate Conception has remained in Camden and continues to serve the spiritual needs of its members, social services, as well as provide cultural input into a city desperately in need of exposure to examples of classical and contemporary performing arts. 

On April 4, 2008 Bishop Galante announced the following changes which affected to churches in Camden and Pennsauken. The changes, taken from the text of the bishop's speech, are as follows:

* Merge the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (Camden), Holy Name (Camden) and Our Lady of Mount Carmel & Fatima (Camden), with the primary worship site at the Cathedral and a secondary worship site at Our Lady of Mount Carmel & Fatima.

* Merge St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral (Camden), St. Cecilia (Pennsauken) and St. Veronica (Delair), with the worship site at St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral.

* Merge St. Joan of Arc (Camden) and St. Bartholomew (Camden) with the worship site at St. Joan of Arc.

* Cluster the new parish at St. Joan of Arc (Camden) with Sacred Heart (Camden).

* St. Anthony of Padua (Camden) and St. Joseph Polish (Camden) will remain as stand-alone parishes.

The following is derived from
George Reeser Prowell's
History of Camden County, New Jersey
published in 1886

The few Catholics residing in Camden nearly forty years ago were content to attend divine service in a poorly-furnished room in the old City Hall, which stood on the south side of Federal Street, above Fourth, where the present market is located.

There are not many now living who participated in those services, but the few who still remain have had the satisfaction of seeing the little mission grow to a congregation numbering four thousand souls, and possessing church property valued at two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

Rev. E. J. Waldron, who was attached to the Cathedral Parish, Philadelphia, is the first priest who is known to have attended to the spiritual wants of the Catholics of Camden. He celebrated, on every other Sunday, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the old City Hall for some time, but it was deemed wise to select another place of worship. The residence of the late Henry M. Innis, on the south side of Bridge Avenue, above Third Street, was used for the purpose until more commodious quarters were secured in Starr's Hall, which stood on Bridge Avenue, below Second Street, and was demolished some years ago to make room for the Pennsylvania Railroad yard. Mr. Jesse W. Starr kindly gave the worshippers the use of the room and divine service was celebrated there every other Sunday until a church was erected on the southeast corner of Fifth and Taylor Avenue, in 1859.

The laborious efforts of Father Waldron to secure funds for the erection of the Philadelphia Cathedral necessitated the transfer of the Camden mission to Rev. William Donahoe. The latter succeeded in advancing the work of his predecessor and was then called away to take charge of a church at Norristown, PA.

From October, 1850, until the spring of 1853, Rev. H. B. Finigan, who was stationed at Gloucester celebrated Mass in Camden and was succeeded by Rev. J. N. Hanigan, also of Gloucester, who continued to attend the mission from May 1, 1853, until November 11th of that year. On this date Camden was formed into a separate parish, with Rev. James Moran as its first resident pastor. In 1857 a lot of ground on the southeast corner of Fifth and Taylor Avenue was purchased of W. D. Cooper, Esq., on which to erect a church. Ground was broken for the same on June 9, 1859, and in three months time the building was completed. It was built of brick and amply answered the wants of the growing congregation. The building is still standing and is now used as a Grand Army of the Republic hall.

It was called the Church of the Immaculate Conception and was dedicated by Right Rev. J. K. Bayley, Bishop of the Diocese of Newark, on November 5, 1859. Father Moran continued in charge until 1863, when he was succeeded by the Rev. Patrick Byrne.  The latter was not satisfied with the church at Fifth and Taylor Avenue and he wisely selected the lot of ground on the southeast corner of Broadway and Market, upon which, to erect a new and much handsomer edifice. Its cornerstone was laid by the Right Rev. Bishop Bayley, on May 1, 1864, and the name of the old church was transferred to the new one. It is one hundred and fifty-two feet long, sixty-five feet wide, is built of Trenton brown stone, with Connecticut stone trimmings and represents the English decorated Gothic style of architecture. Father Byrne subsequently secured the entire block upon which the church stood and also a large plot of ground on the Moorestown pike, two miles from the Delaware River, for use as a cemetery.

In May, 1873, Rev. P. Byrne was transferred to St. John's Church, Trenton, by Right Rev. M. A. Corrigan, D.D., and Rev. Peter J. Fitzsimmons took charge of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, in this city, of which he is still rector. For some years previous to his coming the children of the parish were taught in a brick building on Federal Street, between Seventh and Eighth Streets. Seeing the urgent need of better accommodation, he commenced, in May, 1874, the erection of a new school and Sisters' house on Broadway, and completed them at a cost of nearly forty thousand dollars.

In September of the same year the Sisters belonging to the Order of St. Joseph, having their mother's house at Chestnut Hill, Pa., opened the school in the new building and continued in charge till the summer of 1885, at which time they were succeeded by the Sisters of Mercy, from Bordentown, N. J.

During three years the membership of the congregation had been increasing and it was found necessary to make some addition to the church property. For this reason a square of ground was purchased in the Eighth Ward, on which was erected the Church of the Sacred Heart. A separate parish has been formed and Right Rev. M. J. O'Farrell has appointed Rev. William Lynch rector.

In 1880 Rev. Peter J. Fitzsimmons engaged as teachers the Brothers of the Holy Cross, from Notre Dame, Ind. They came to reside in the house he had specially built for their use on the church grounds, and have had charge of the boys' school since their arrival. By constant efforts this property has been improved and at this moment it is acknowledged that no other congregation in this city possesses a church property equal to it in value. The church members are not wealthy, but out of their slender means they have paid off a large debt and supported schools having an average attendance of four hundred and fifty children.  

 
 

The COMPLETE TEXT and PHOTOS
of the 64 page boom published to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Church in 1905 

1855                                                                       1905
FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY
Church of the 
Immaculate Conception
Camden, N.J.
November 12, 13, and 14th, 1905

Philadelphia Inquirer
February 19, 1906

Click on Image for Complete Article

Philadelphia Inquirer
September 16, 1909

Philadelphia Inquirer - March 21, 1913
Click on Image for PDF File

Philadelphia Inquirer - July 1, 1915
Harry Thompson - Ellen Thompson
Joseph McCloskey - Rev. George Welsh

Events at the Church of the Immaculate Conception
March 17, 1920
ECHOES 
Story by Mr. Daniel P. McConnell, of the Camden Post Telegram,
for Wednesday, March 18, 1920

Camden last night gave a splendid welcome to the Very Rev. Dean William J. 
Fitzgerald, J. c. D., M. R. V. F., the new pastor of the Church of the Immaculate Conception and Dean of the South Jersey Catholic parishes.

Citizens of other faiths, judges, doctors, lawyers and those in more humble stations of life, rubbed elbows in the vast audience that packed to capacity the Catholic Lyceum. All were present for a common purpose- to honor the new prelate, who comes to Camden with a splendid reputation as a Christian gentleman, patriot and ambassador of the Catholic Church. 

At the reception in the Lyceum, former Judge William T. Boyle presided. He in turn introduced Rev. Francis J. McCallion, who was acting pastor of the parish. Father McCallion was given a wonderful reception after Judge Boyle extolled his oratorical and executive ability. In a splendid speech Father McCallion paid a glowing tribute to Dean Fitzgerald, the subject of the evening's testimonial. 

James F. Lennon was the principal speaker for the occasion. Already famed for his ability as an orator, Mr. Lennon probably gave his best talk last night. It was a tribute to the new Dean and the members of the Catholic clergy and Sisters of Mercy.

In his remarks Mr. Lennon told of the duties of a priest, of his mission and his value to the community. To the good sisters a glowing tribute was also paid by the speaker. Mr. Lennon also lauded the public school system and explained the principles of the parochial school. His reference to the 312 Immaculate Conception members who fought in the war for Democracy evoked a storm of applause. To the late and lamented Monsignor Mulligan Mr. Lennon offered a deserved tribute. In the course of his address the 
speaker told of the early struggles of the founders of the Immaculate parish. His description of the good old Irish mothers and fathers who erected a monument to Catholicism at Broadway and Market street struck a happy chord. 

Turning to Dean Fitzgerald Mr. Lennon extended to him a warm welcome after which he presented the pastor with a large basket of beautiful flowers, a gift of the ladies of the parish. 

Mayor Charles H. Ellis was warmly received and in a splendid talk the city's chief executive turned over the keys of the city. The Mayor's talk was punctuated with witty remarks concerning the "suburb of Philadelphia".

The Mayor said that the great day had arrived when religious strife was no more and creeds were united for one common cause. 

With much feeling Dean Fitzgerald told of his appreciation of the great honor. He was visibly affected by the testimonial, but modestly stated that he considered it not only a reception to him, but to the members of the Catholic clergy. 

Dean Fitzgerald assured all that he was glad to come to Camden and he asked the hearty co-operation of his parishioners. He turned and gazed over the members of the reception committee seated on the stage and told how happy he was that men like former Senator Baird, County Clerk Patterson, Mayor Ellis and other big men of the city and county were present to do him honor. 

After the reception in the Lyceum Dean Fitzgerald adjourned to the parlor of the Lyceum where he met members of the parish and other friends. He stood under a canopy of flowers and colored electric lights.

The guard of honor was comprised of fifty-fourth degree Knights of Columbus. 
Three hundred members of the parish formed the honorary escort from the train terminal to the rectory. 

Unable to be present, because of previous engagements, Rev. Leon K. Willman, pastor of the Broadway M. E. Church, and Rev. Edwin F. Hann, of First M. E. Church, sent letters of regret in which they wished the new pastor success in his new fields of labor.

Success of last night's eventful occasion can be attributed to Rev. Francis J. 
McCallion, who directed the affair. He was ably assisted by Edward Clare, George Slake, George Burke, Cornelius J. Healy, James McGowan, Hugh Pattie, Michael Quinn, Robert A. Stack and James Wren.

This morning the church reception was held with a solemn high mass, which was sung by Dean Fitzgerald. F ather Whelan was deacon, Father Hennig, sub-deacon, and Father Shay, master of ceremonies. Father McCallion delivered a splendid sermon for the occasion and the singing of the altar boys was very fine. William H. Lorigan presided at the organ. 

Children of the parish this afternoon tendered a reception to the new pastor. The altar boys will present Dean Fitzgerald with an enlarged and framed likeness of himself. 

Camden Courier-Post - June 2, 1932

Mary W. Kobus - Holy Name Roman Catholic Church - Church of the Sacred Heart
Ss. Peter and Paul's Roman Catholic Church - Church of the Immaculate Conception

Camden Courier-Post * June 10, 1932

Junior Aides to Give Card Party Tonight

Final arrangements have been made for the. Immaculate Conception Junior Aide card party which is to be held tonight in he gymnasium of the Camden Catholic High School.

Miss Dorothy A. M. Connelly is chairman and Miss Marie V. Moore is vice-chairman of the committee arranging the affair.

Girls in charge of tallies are Miss Catherine Keller. Miss Helen Weiss, Miss Margaret Kauffman, Miss Elizabeth Egan, Miss Marguerite Fleming, Miss Elizabeth O’Leary, Miss Catherine Fallon. Miss Teresa Wallace, Miss Mae Niles and Miss Anna McComeskey.

The refreshments will be served by Miss Monica Barrett, Miss Beatrice Connelly, Miss Alice McGinley, Miss Anne McHugh, Miss Helen Hopke. Miss Anna Connell, Miss Elizabeth McKernan, Miss Agnes Cleary and Miss Marie Ryan.

The prize committee is composed of Miss Margaret McGinley, Miss Mary McHugh, Miss Ann M. Hurley and Miss Rosemary E. McKernan..

Camden Courier-Post * February 8, 1938

CATHOLIC CHURCH BENEFITS IN WILL
Gertrude L. Higgins Leaves Numerous Bequests to Religious Groups

The major portion of a $10,000 and upwards estate is left to religious organizations in the will of Miss Gertrude L. Higgins, of 718 Market Street, which was filed for probate in the office of Surrogate Frank B. Hanna yesterday.

Miss Higgins died in Cooper Hospital on January 24. She was the daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Thomas F. Higgins. After making bequests to relatives, friends and the church organizations, Miss Higgins directed that the residue be given to the Church of The Immaculate Conception. The Camden Safe Deposit And Trust Company is named executor.

The bequests listed in the will follow: .

Bridie Lucy Richter, cousin, Camden, all personal effects, including household goods, books, silverware and jewelry and $1000; Rose Faigan Lodge, aunt, Philadelphia, $1000; Agnes Evans Huber, cousin, Woodlynne, $200 ; Mrs. Sarah Ostertag, friend, Camden, $200; Margaret Higgins Webb, Albany, N. Y., $20; Rose Higgins, Albany, $20; Eugene Higgins, cousin, Albany, $20; Joseph Higgins, cousin, Albany, $20.

Many Religious Requests

Property 718 Market Street, to be sold and the proceeds distributed as follows: one-third to Rev. Sylvester Eisermann, in trust for St. Paul's Indian Mission, Marty, South Dakota; one-third to Rev. Edward Berheide, in trust for The Little Flower Indian school, St. Michael, North Dakota; one-third to Rev. Joseph Maguire, in trust for The Society for the Protection of Destitute Roman Catholic Children, Buffalo, N. Y.

The Catholic Home for Orphans at Hopewell, $500; property 218 North Brown street, Gloucester, New Jersey, to be sold and the proceeds distributed as follows: one-third to The Society of The Divine Word of Techno, Illinois, to be used for the education of young men for the priesthood; one-third to the school sisters of Notre Dame Motherhouse, Baltimore, to be used to educate young ladies to become school sisters of Notre Dame; one-third to Mother M. Teresa, in trust for Mt. St. Mary's, Plainfield.

Property 806 Birch Street, to be sold and the proceeds to be distributed as follows: one-third to Mother M. Evangelista, in trust for St. Joseph's Home for the Blind; one-third to Mother Regina, in trust for St. Joseph’s Home for Girls, Seventh and Spruce streets, Philadelphia; one-third to Father Superior, Detroit, In trust for Mariannhill Mission, to be used for the education of young men for the priesthood.

Edna Lodge, cousin, Philadelphia, $20; Lewis Lodge, cousin, Philadelphia, $20; Dominican Sisters of The Perpetual Rosary, Haddon avenue, $1000; Catholic Home for the Aged, Beverly, $500; the Commissariat of the Holy Land, Franciscan Monastery, Washington, $1000; the Sulpician Fathers of Washington, $500; Father Louis Pastorelli, Baltimore, $500 to be used to educate young men for the priesthod.

The Capuchin Fathers, Yonkers, N. Y., to spread the faith among the Negro and Indian Missions, $500; Benedictine Sister of Perpetual Adoration, Clyde, Mo., to educate young women to become nuns, $300; Jesuit Martyr's Shrine, Auriesville, N. Y., $100; Father Patrick O'Boyle, of St. Joseph's Union, New York, to feed and clothe orphans, $100; The Church of The Immaculate Conception, Camden, residue.

Elizabeth Mary Brain, who died January 2, left an estate of $14,000 to Elvie E. Colmer, a daughter, of Beach Haven, and Alton I. Gilman, a son, of 312 Mechanic Street.

Ethel Horner Garwood, of Salem, and Maurice W. Horner, of Medford, were left the $14,000 estate of their father, William M. Horner. He died November 23, 1937.

The will of Almeda G. Lippincott, who died January 17, bequeaths an estate of $19,500 to Charlotte E. Lippincott, a daughter, and Jacob Lippincott, a son, both of Stratford. Wearing apparel, furniture and jewelry were left to Mayor Royden K. Lippincott, her husband who was named executor.

Burleigh B. Draper, former vice president of the First Camden National Bank and Trust Company, is named sole heir to the $6000 estate of his wife, Mrs. Ruby MacDonald Draper, who died January 22.

James M. Gardner, who died January 19 leaves a $2100 estate to his wife, Anna M. Gardner, of 619 State Street.

Article written noting the Silver Jubilee of Father J. Joseph McCallion's service in the priesthood, written around 1941-1942.
1916-1922 
By Mr. Daniel P. McConnell, Staff Writer Courier-Post Newspapers

Pilfering a few minutes of the newspapers's time before starting our chores covering the court house offices and courts on one morning some 25 years ago we were sipping a malted milk in Hinski's drugstore. 

Gerald, the store's drug clerk and auxiliary soda jerker, confided that a new curate had been assigned to the venerable Church of the Immaculate Conception. That wasn't particularly hot news. We had seen several curates arrive and leave. Most of them stayed a year or two. Three years was a record. 

This reporter was a parishioner of the Holy Name Church. However, as a youngster we went to Mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception before our own parish was established by the revered Rev. Thomas J. Whelan. 

It wasn't many weeks before the older fellows who frequented Hinski's drugstore were talking about this newly appointed curate at the Church of the Immaculate. He was a fine-looking young priest, they said. He was an orator. His sermons were masterpieces. they added. 

So on one balmy Sunday morning this curious reporter learned that this brilliant young priest was to speak at the 10:30 a. m. Mass. To Mass at the Immaculate Conception parish we went. It was the holy season of Lent.

The sermon we heard that morning on the Crucifixion was the most moving, dramatic and finest we ever heard. Women, young and old, dabbed eyes with handkerchiefs. Strong men sobbed unashamed. This perhaps cocky reporter, who only a short time before witnessed his first execution at the New Jersey State prison, was moved to tears.

That young priest and silver-voiced orator was the Rev. Francis J. McCalion. We shortly made his acquaintance. Ours has been a lasting friendship down through the years. Father McCallion set a record when he stayed five years at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, now the Cathedral of the beloved first bishop of the 
Diocese of Camden, the Most Rev. Bartholomew J. Eustace, S.T.D.

Father McCallion's five-year assistant pastorship was saddened by the passing of the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Bernard J. Mulligan. The death of the beloved pastor of the Church of the Immaculate Conception was mourned by Catholics, Protestants and Jews alike.

This reporter was operating the telephone branch exchange at Cooper Hospital when Father McCallion gave the sad news that Dean Mulligan had gone to his heavenly reward. 
The arduous duties of administrator or the parish fell upon the shoulders of young Father McCallion. In that capacity he showed rare ability.

The scholarly Rev. Dr. William J. FitzGerald was named to succeed Dean Mulligan. 
Father McCallion organized a Good Will Get Together to welcome the new pastor of the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Mayor Charles H. Ellis, now deceased; members of City Council, judges, lawyers and other prominent citizens including ministers of Protestant churches attended the welcoming exercises held in the Catholic Lyceum on the night of March 18, 1920. 

Father McCallion's name as an orator was heralded throughout South Jersey and his services as a speaker on the history of New Jersey were much in demand. As a member of the Catholic Lecture Guild of America he was called to speak in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York City, Baltimore and many other cities. 

With all his speaking engagements and parish duties he found time to teach Greek in the newly-built Camden Catholic High School, which stands as a monument to the memory of Dean FitzGerald.

This ambitious and tireless young priest was made a member of the Camden Rotary Club, the first priest to receive such an honor in Camden.

The Camden Rotarians, unknown to Father McCallion, took up a private subscription to purchase an automobile which was presented to him with a fitting ceremony. 

Father McCallion also took an active interest in the welfare and activities of students of Camden Catholic High School. He was chaplain of Camden Council, Knights of Columbus. 

One Camden newspaper writer, commenting on Father McCallion's hobby wrote as follows: 

Indoors, you'll find him in a nook, 
            A browsing in some friendly book. 
Outdoors, he loves the silent talks 
With nature, which one gets,
who walks. 

Then came a dark, rainy day. The telephone in our cramped editor's office rang. Father McCallion has been transferred to Perth Amboy, we were told.

We didn't have a chance to snake hands and say farewell. Thousands of South Jersey citizens regretted his transfer.

When our beloved Bishop Eustace came to Camden Father McCallion was in his party. Hundreds of people crowded around the Cathedral rectory. As the one-time young curate tried to reach the rectory porch he was literally surrounded. An old lady kissed his hand. Others embraced him. His name was passed from person to person. He, too was being given a reception by former parishioners who had not forgotten him. 

A Perth Amboy newspaper carried this editorial, which is herewith repeated in part: 

"Perth Amboy loses a valued citizen and a faithful servant of the church by the departure of Rev. Francis J. McCallion, who leaves St. Mary's parish to assume charge of his own parish at Pleasantville .... Coming to this city from Camden nearly four years ago Father McCallion has made a host of friends among all classes, creeds and denominations .... His success in his new field of religious labor goes without saying. Perth Amboy offers congratulations and best wishes." 

So we in Camden who can call you friend say, God bless you Father McCallion. We, too offer congratulations and best wishes on your silver Jubilee as a worker in the vineyard of Jesus Christ. 

Camden Courier-Post * August 15, 1945

Camden County Record - July 10, 1969

Cathedral Club In Drive For More Members

A newly-formed social organization with lofty ideals devoted in general at community awareness is extending an invitation to all men living in the Camden area to join in a common bond of friendship.

The group is named the Cathedral Social Club with Joseph Marchese, president; Dr. Frank Bufanio, vice president; Robert B. Burke, secretary, and Albert J. Gruber, treasurer.

While outlining the aims of the group, Marchese said, "The invitation to join is to all men living in and around the community. We are seeking men who are earnestly interested in the welfare of our neighbors and their families.

"Here is where men of all ages, creed or nationality may join in common bond to help create a more friendly spirit not only with each other but also others with whom they come in contact at work, at home or wherever they may be." 

Meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 8 p.m. in the Immaculate Conception Cathedral rectory basement, 642 Market Street, Camden, N. J.

A club official stated the meet­ings are educational, constructive and interesting, and where ques­tions may be asked or a problem submitted in writing if it is the questioner's wish. There are no dues attached to membership. After adjournment, refreshments are served by the entertainment com­mittee for the enjoyment of members who find delight in a friendly night out.

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