Established in 1923
Our Lady of the Lake Parish formally became a parish with the celebration of two masses on September 16, 1923 in the new Verona High School auditorium by Rev. Thomas Judge, the temporary rector. Reverend James J. Kelly was appointed the first pastor on November 19, 1923, and soon established the first rectory at 42 Gould Street, Verona, NJ.
On January 21, 1924 the ground breaking ceremony for Verona’s first Catholic Church was held at the Church property on Lakeside Avenue. Two days later, on January 23, the excavation of the church property began. In March, 1924, a double dwelling at 443-445 Bloomfield Avenue was purchased as a permanent rectory. A temporary chapel in the new rectory was built and used for the first time on First Friday, April 6, 1924.
The cornerstone of the new church on Lakeside Avenue was laid on April 13, 1924 with 5000 persons in attendance. On May 29, 1924 the first masses in the new church building on Lakeside Avenue were said by Father Kelly.
The new church also had accommodations for classrooms. Our Lady of the Lake School opened with 120 scholars and was staffed by the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell. Sister De Ricci was the temporary principal, and was later succeeded by her fellow Dominican, Sr. Mary Petronella. The first graduation took place in 1925.
On June 6, 1932 the parish initiated a drive for a new school building. Enthusiastic response to this appeal and the unanimous support of the parishioners resulted in the erection of a new school building in a remarkably short time. It was completed and dedicated in December 1932. This building was comprised of ten modern classrooms, a principal’s office, a library, an ultra-modern kitchen and a dining room.
The Dominican Sisters of Caldwell had been associated with Our Lady of the Lake Parish and School since its inception. The Parish Review of December 1932 complimented the “good sisters of St. Dominic, who from the beginning have labored, in season and out of season, to edify, to train, to guide, and to counsel each individual child who has come and gone in the first nine years. The sacrifices which they have made on behalf of our children will never be known or appreciated by us until we all meet before the Supreme Teacher.”
Our Lady of the Lake continued to grow and prosper. The increase in the parish population led to the construction of a second school building known as the Montrose Building, which was completed in 1952. There continued to be a marked increase in student enrollment and classes averaged over sixty students.
The decade of the sixties was also marked by the construction of a new church building. The first church was no longer able to accommodate the ever increasing population of the parish, and a beautiful new edifice was completed in 1964. The “old church” was now converted into a gymnasium to accommodate the expanding sports programs of Our Lady of the Lake School, and “the lower church” was now put into service as an auditorium.
Sad times fell upon Our Lady of the Lake School in 1973 when the Caldwell Dominicans, after forty-nine years of dedicated service, reluctantly decided to leave the parish school. After conducting an intensive search for Sisters to staff the school, a parish committee secured the services of the Emmaus Community of Christian Hope.
Several years later, the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters of Scranton, Pennsylvania were chosen to guide and teach the Our Lady of the Lake School students. Sr. St. Roger Pierce, I.H.M. was the first principal and was followed by Sr. St. Monica, I.H.M. and Sr. Fidelis Flannery, I.H.M. During this period, fewer vocations to the religious life and the opening of other ministries for sisters, were responsible for the appearance of many more dedicated lay men and women in the classroom.
In September 1990, after the departure of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Community, a member of the Caldwell Dominicans was chosen as principal of Our Lady of the Lake School. The challenges of the 90’s were met successfully by Sr. Mary Agnes Sullivan, O.P. and continue to be met today.
Our Lady of the Lake School owes much to the fine leadership of pastors and principals, a generous parish community and to the tremendous dedication of the many lay men and women who continue to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to teach the Word of God. Our present pastor, Rev. Michael A. Hanly, energetically continues to support the school. The graduates and their successes are a constant source of inspiration and edification for the entire parish community.
The 75th anniversary of the school was celebrated in 1999 and was attended by many alumni, some from the earliest graduating classes. The school boasts thousands of graduates who have contributed greatly to the world with their knowledge and their Catholic values. With God’s help, we shall continue in this century, preparing the youth of today to meet and conquer the challenges of the future.