Our Parish History

 

The history of Our Lady of Fatima Roman Catholic Church began years before

the actual building became a reality. As early as 1941, public Mass was offered in

Vernon Township to accommodate the Catholics who came to vacation in the hills and at

the lakes in this area. Mass was offered every Sunday during the summer months on the

second floor of the Vernon Fire House. The following year, in 1942, the site of the Mass

was moved to the original Club House at Highland Lakes for the summer season.

On May 28, 1950, in response to the needs of the Catholics residing in the area of

Vernon and Highland Lakes, the pastor of St. Monica's Church in Sussex, Monsignor

Christian D. Haag, instituted a permanent Sunday Mass schedule. Priests vacationing in

the area, especially Monsignor Leroy McWilliams, graciously assisted by offering Mass.

During the summer months, Sunday Mass was offered at the Club House; during the

winter months, Mass was celebrated in a small, one room building that once served as an

activities office for the Highland Lakes Club and even as a beauty shop! Over the years,

this building has been enlarged and continues to serve the needs of the community at the

comer of Waconia and Highland Lakes Roads.

 

The beauty of Highland Lakes attracted an ever increasing number of people. The

summer and year-round populations were growing and, to serve the needs of the

Catholics of this community, plans were made to build a permanent church. The present

building was started in August of 1954 on land generously donated by Mr. John R.

Seckler. Mass was offered in it for the first time by Monsignor Haag on May 29, 1955.

The church was dedicated on June 26, 1955 by Most. Rev. James A. McNulty, Bishop of

Paterson. Until June of 1965, Our Lady of Fatima was a mission church served by the

priests of St. Monica's Parish in Sussex.

 

The Parish of Our Lady of Fatima was established on June 18, 1965 when the

then Bishop of Paterson, Most Rev. James J. Navagh, appointed Rev. Aloysius J. Busch

the first pastor of the newly formed parish. The parish encompassed almost two-thirds of

Vernon Township and had as its mission. St. Francis de Sales Chapel in McAfee. The

Parish was legally incorporated on October 5, 1966 and Mr. John R. Seckler and Mr.

Joseph Meister, Sr. were named as the first lay trustees. To serve the great influx of summer parishioners as well as to provide a place for parish events during the winter months, a parish hall became an obvious need.

 

Construction, delayed by the untimely death of Bishop Navagh began in April of 1967

and was completed by September of the same year. The sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima

Church was also renovated and the rectory adjacent to the church was built at the same

time.

 

The value of a parish hall became apparent immediately when the Vernon Board

of Education began using it in September of 1967 for classrooms. Classes were held in

the hall until January of 1970. The parish hall continued to serve the needs of the

community in the following years as a polling place and a meeting room for the monthly

Pack Meeting of the Cub Scouts. The Vernon Township Women's Club met monthly in

the hall. Parish social events and meetings, high school Religious Education Programs, a

pre-school group, grade school dances and even a Dancing School constantly showed

how important this addition was for both our parish and our community.

 

The growth of Our Lady of Fatima parish was possible only with the involvement

of countless parishioners over the years. The main source of strength and inspiration has

always been the weekend Eucharistic Celebrations. The dedication of the choir members

and organists, those who served as lectors, altar servers, and Eucharistic Ministers added

to the peace and joy of our celebrations.

 

The Religious Education Program has always been a primary concern and

succeeded in strengthening the faith of our children because of the commitment of many

adults. The Rosary and Altar Society, which began to serve the parish in November 1965

has cared for the altar and raised funds for the needs of the sanctuary and the church hall.

Many others have donated their time and talents by being part of the annual Parish

Carnival, decorating the church for the feast days and caring for the church property.

The growth of Our Lady of Fatima was paralleled by the increase of parishioners

who attended St. Francis de Sales Mission Chapel. The original building was located in

McAfee at the intersection of Routes 94 and 517 adjacent to the Great Gorge Ski Area.

Anticipating future needs, Father Busch purchased twenty acres of land on Route 517

across from the Walnut Ridge School in October of 1966. In 1979 St. Francis de Sales

became a separate parish under the guidance of Rev. John V. Boland.

Our Lady of Fatima celebrated its 50-year anniversary as a parish in 2015.