In the early 1950's the Catholic residents of East Hanover traveled to Whippany or Florham Park for church services. However, the post World War II population boom resulted in more and more people moving out of the cities and into the suburbs, and it soon became evident that there was a need for a Catholic church in the Township of East Hanover.
Two and a half acres of land on Ridgedale Avenue were acquired from the Vanacore family in October 1955 when Our Lady of Mercy Parish of Whippany anticipated a Mission Church in East Hanover. However, it was not until June 1957 that Bishop James A. McNulty assigned Rev. Alphonse Tuozzo (then a curate at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Paterson) to explore the possibility of establishing a new parish for the faithful in that area. During this period, Father Tuozzo resided at the rectory of Holy Family Church in Florham Park.
The first Mass of the independent mission of St. Rose of Lima was celebrated by Father Tuozzo in the East Hanover firehouse on July 21, 1957. Jim Fahey served as altar boy with Terence McHugh, John ONeill and Tony Pellecchia as ushers. Larger quarters became necessary almost immediately; and so, upon request, the Board of Education granted the use of Central School Auditorium in September 1957, where Sunday Masses were celebrated each week until March 1959.
Ground breaking for the church took place on a showery Sunday afternoon in May 1958. The shovel used that day became a treasured memento for Father Tuozzo. Years later he confided to a parishioner, "I'll never part from that shovel; that's what made St. Rose."
Anthony J. DePace had been hired as architect for the new church, and construction was soon under way. A few weeks later a fund drive was initiated among the 250 families in the parish to begin payment of the $30,000 mortgage.
Although the church building was not yet completed in December 1958, Father Tuozzo celebrated Mass there for the first time on Christmas Eve. An organ was rented to provide music. One of the parishioners, Agnes Naumann, rehearsed and directed the choir.
It was a bitter cold night. Portable heaters provided much smoke and little heat, but the families who gathered in their new Church were warmed by the presence of fellow parishioners. Bare light bulbs hung on wire from the rafters, but the aura of that mystical night gave a special glow to the unfinished church.
With the continued support of faithful parishioners, St. Rose of Lima Church began to grow and flourish. Recognizing this, on March 15, 1961, the Bishop sanctioned plans for the construction of a school and convent. Work on the school building commenced in June. Within a few weeks, a house was purchased at 113 Ridgedale Avenue, which became the Convent for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Newark who would staff the school. Sister Regina Agnes, Superior, was assigned to the new parish together with Sister Augustine and Sister Camille.
Since the school building was not ready for occupancy in September 1961, classes were held in the basement of the Church. Second, third and fourth grades were "class-roomed" in partitioned sections, while the stage was classroom for the first grade. Due to these circumstances, enrollment did not exceed 89 pupils that first year.
On December 18, 1961, the doors of the new school opened wide and welcomed the Sisters and pupils. Dedication of the school took place on April 18, 1962, with Bishop McNulty again presiding. September 1962 brought an increase in enrollment to 170 pupils, thus making the addition of a fifth grade and two lay teachers necessary. God's work was indeed prospering in East Hanover! The school continued to grow each year until it was comprised of eight grades, as it is today, with Kindergarten and Pre-K classes in addition.
In 1962 the house adjacent to the Church was purchased to serve as the parish rectory. Up until this time, Father Tuozzo made his humble home in the room adjacent to the Church sacristy.
In the Spring of 1971, Bishop Casey needed an Italian speaking priest for a church in Paterson. Father Tuozzo was assigned to St. Michael's church as pastor and bid farewell to his parishioners of St. Rose of Lima with a heavy heart, but obedient and willing to do God's work wherever he was asked to serve. Parishioners honored their founding Pastor at a testimonial dinner held on November 21 that year at the Birchwood Manor in Whippany. A commemorative plaque was presented and later installed in the Church vestibule, where it remains today.
Rev. Robert Morris who had been a curate at St. Rose of Lima earlier in the Church's history, returned to East Hanover in 1971, succeeding Father Tuozzo as Pastor. During the next three years, Father Morris was instrumental in forming the Knights of Columbus, Council 6504. He also asked parishioner Joseph Labrecque to assume some ministerial duties, in view of which Father Tully (who assisted with weekend masses at the time) encouraged Joe to study for the diaconate.
When Father Morris left St. Rose of Lima in 1974 to become Pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Wayne, Father Tuozzo returned to East Hanover to resume his role as Pastor of the Church he had worked so diligently to establish 1957. Father Tuozzo's prophetic message to his parishioners at this time was, "The next time I leave this Church, it will be feet first."
On November 20, 1979, five days before his 66th birthday, Father Tuozzo suffered a heart attack, collapsed and died on the front lawn of the Church where today stands the shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary, erected and dedicated in his memory. Father Tuozzo's death was a shock to his family, to his parishioners, and to the community of East Hanover. He had given many years of his life unselfishly to the Church. His philosophy was to "take one day at a time." And that is how he lived.
At the request of Bishop Frank J. Rodimer who succeeded Bishop Casey in July 1977, Rev. Ronald Tully, Associate to Father Tuozzo, continued to serve the parishioners as Administrator for the next few months until a new Pastor was appointed. On Sunday, March 9, 1980, Rev. William McCarthy celebrated Mass for the first time as Pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church.
Father McCarthy is a native of Ireland. He was a graduate of St. Patrick's Seminary, Carlow, Ireland, where he was ordained to the priesthood on June 8, 1963. Upon his arrival in the United States, Father McCarthy was assigned to St. Patrick's Church in Chatham. His next assignment was St. Michael's in Netcong and then he was assigned to St. Cecilia's in Rockaway. After serving as Pastor for 23 years at St. Rose of Lima, Fr. McCarthy stepped down in April of 2003.
Our current Pastor, Father Owen B. Moran entered the seminary in 1985 and graduated from St. John's College in Waterford, Ireland with a degree in philosophy, liberal arts, theology and sacred scripture.
He was ordained to the Priesthood by Bishop Rodimer at Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Limerick, Ireland on December 14, 1991.
Father Moran's first assignment was as a Parochial Vicar to St. Patrick's Church in Chatham, where he served for 12 years from July 1991 until April 2003. During this time, Father Moran touched many parishioners' lives with his caring and compassionate spirit.
Bishop Rodimer appointed Father Moran as the Third Pastor of St. Rose of Lima on April 3, 2003. Father Owen was officially installed as Pastor of St. Rose of Lima by Bishop Frank J. Rodimer on Sunday, September 21, 2003.