History & Tour
St. Lucy's was but an idea before its incorporation in 1891, but work immediately began to make the parish a reality. While many persons were involved, the great inspiration and day-by-day leadership came from Monsignor Perotti who guided the parish through its infancy into a major force within the Archdiocese and the city.
The early years are interesting to look at. The parish was of course smaller than it is today and, therefore, we get a felling of intimate involvement with its problems and growth. The parish record for its first years tells of the purchase of property and buildings necessary for the minimum needs of the people. Land for the new Church and parochial school was secured on Amity Place in December of 1900. In February, 1901 a house located on Amity Place was bought for use as a parish house. In April of the same year a sacristy was added to the Church, a new piano brought in and the old organ replaced. In the same year, the parishioners wanted a new bell and a new tower to house it.
They promised to assume responsibility for the necessary collection and Father Perotti gave his approval and blessing to the undertaking.
A major work began at the end of 1901 when serious effort was turned toward building a school. As stated in the parish record, the Pastor, Father Perotti with the lay trustees and parishioners recognized the "necessity of an English-Italian Catholic School for the moral and religious instruction and for the good education of the very numerous Italian children of the parish." But the school didn't just happen. Many difficulties surrounded it, such as financial ability and the ability to locate a teaching community of sisters who could undertake the mission. After two communities began the mission but were forced to leave, the school in 1906 went to the charge of the Baptistine Sisters of the Nazzarene. So for five years Father Perotti struggled to stabilize the school and bring education to the children.
During the same period the parish faced other crises and challenges. In April of 1904 the Church suffered a fire. The record states it was caused by "the draperies thrown accidentally upon a candle of St. Rocco's niche, on account of wind."
Repairs had to be made. Also, Father Perotti saw the need for constructing a children's playground which was paved and fenced in for their safety.
Father Perotti knew his people needed a new Church and for years had been trying to raise the money. Finally on May 29, 1918 the decision was made to launch a major campaign but, since nothing happens easily or automatically, it wasn't until May 21, 1923 that the campaign officially opened. Ground was broken on May 3, 1925 and though not totally completed, the Church opened on the Feast of St. Lucy, December 13, 1926.
Throughout this major undertaking of building the Church, Father Perotti attended to both the individual and group needs of his parishioners. He provided facilities in 1921 for the Columbus Cadets and recreational facilities for the other youth of the parish. When Father Perotti, then a Monsignor, died September 14, 1933, St. Lucy's was an established parish. His legacy, however, was not just the Church and the School, but the legacy of good will and an example of a life of grace in the dedicated service to God through the ministry of His children.
St. Lucy's it seems, was favored with outstanding leaders. Father Gaetano Ruggiero succeeded Monsignor Perotti as Pastor. Many present today knew Father Ruggiero and his work and his spirit still are alive in our memories. Under this pastorate the parish continually grew and its needs became more and more complex. Anxious to meet the needs of his people, Father Ruggiero undertook many major works. The Church was renovated and the rectory was built. But perhaps the project closest to his heart was the erection of the Community Center. He was committed to drawing his people close to the Church, to giving them a building with many facilities. He wanted to reach all the people of the parish and community, appealing to the various interests he would find among them.
As Pastor, Father Ruggiero was dedicated to the religious needs of his people and the salvation of their souls. He guided the religious life of the parish, provided for the devotional needs and wishes of the people, such as the continued honoring of patron saints. The Feast of St. Gerard flourished to such a great extent that it is now recognized across the country. The years of Father Ruggiero's pastorship also witnessed great social change not only in the parish but in Newark and in other major cities throughout the country.
Father Ruggiero opened the doors of St. Lucy's to all - welcomed all as his children. His example and spirit he left with us.
The first one hundred years of St. Lucy's are over. But we here today are in the process of writing the history for the next one hundred.