The Church of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady was founded by the Franciscans of the Holy Name Province in 1926.
In the early part of this century, Catholics of Wood-Ridge had to go to neighboring towns for the celebration of the sacraments as well as their Sunday Eucharist. It was not until the spring of 1926 that Wood-Ridge would form a separate Catholic parish. The old church was built on the site of the present day Friary. Its cornerstone was laid on August 15, 1926, the feast of Our Lady of the Assumption. Fr. Edwin Garrity, O.F.M. was the first pastor and he celebrated the first mass in Wood-Ridge on November 28, 1926. The rapid growth of the parish coincided with that of the town itself.
A convent and a school were built in 1938 by the then pastor, Fr. Edgar Barrett, O.F.M. By the time that Fr. William Hayes, O.F.M. arrived in the parish in the mid-fifties, plans were being formulated for a new church, an addition to the school and new friary. It was also during Fr. William’s tenure that the friars first became residents of Ridge-Wood (formerly they resided at St. Joseph’s in East Rutherford). The first friary was the old Goerner house at Second Street and North Avenue.
The growth of the town necessitated a new and larger church which came into being in 1958. By September, 1965 an addition to the school was completed and right after that a new rectory.
The parish continued to flourish over the next four decades building a full sacramental, community outreach and social events life involving all generations fo parish family members. After the Great Recession of 2008, enrollment in the parish school declined resulting in the closing of the school by the Archdiocese.
Saddened by the loss of their beloved school but determined to look to the future, funds from the sale of the school were re-invested in the renovations to church and parish hall. The construction of a garden, offering several varieties of roses, evergreens, seasonal flowers, handmade bird feeders, an almost life-size statue of St. Francis and a koi pond with waterfall made possible through a gift from parishioner Richard Taylor and dedicated to the memory of his wife was built on the site that housed the pre-K program playground.
Assumption has always been blessed with loving, giving, spirited parish family members who serve their church and community freely and frequently. Both today and our future of our community will be nothing less than amazing!
Convent and Assumption School
One of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany who served our parish.
Assumption School opened its doors in 1938 with great fanfare - a parade was held, albeit a small one, to mark this momentus occasion. Just twelve short years after the parish was founded, the the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany began what would be a 72 year history of welcoming students of all racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.
But Assumption School wasn't just about 'book' learning. To be successful in life, a well rounded student needed to be exposed to music, art, and learn good social skills. In the early years, minstrel shows and plays filled the auditorium with music, laughter and applause. School plays, friendly card games, holiday and themed dances for students and parents alike continued to shower all who attended with a light heart and decades of family fun.
This was no ordinary school and parish family. They worked hard but they also played hard taking entertainment and creativity to new heights. To celebrate the anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood of one of its beloved Franciscan Friars, a team of parish family members wrote, scored and performed a play in full Broadway style complete with professional scenery and even a 'Playbill' that could have easily come right out of a Broadway show.
Fr. Hayes Center originally built in 1938 as the convent to house the Sisters.
Much of the original building remains today as it was built with original woodwork, stained glass and tile along with a few pieces of furniture. The chapel is used frequently for mass and baptisms.
Members of the Class of 1953
From top left to right: Gail Eisenbach, Lucille Navarro, Frances Abitante Weeks, Sandra Bosna
But the school auditorium was more than just an entertainment venue. Science fairs, spelling bees, environmental exhibits and literary contests all helped shape the futures of the graduates of Assumption School.
First Communion - 1947
Lots more photos, memorabilia, trophies and stories from the early years of Assumption School through the school's closing were showcased in the exhibit celebrating the Church's 90th anniversary in Fr. Patrick Morris Hall. and are currently being archived for future generations.
Class of 1969 All Grown Up
Embracing the basic skills as the building blocks of education, the school nourished many young people who went on to make significant contributions both locally and outside the Wood-Ridge community. Although no longer a part of our parish, Assumption School continues to educate the children of Wood-Ridge as the Wood-Ridge Intermediate School.