Parish History

Our Parish Began…

Our Lady of the Magnificat Parish, like so many others, had an interesting beginning. Eighty acres of land were bequeathed to the Diocese of Paterson in 1952 by Henry Wise Miller and his second wife, Audrey Frazier, specifically for a future parish in Kinnelon. At that time there were three stone cottages on the property and Henry was in the midst of constructing a Chapel in honor of his first wife, Alice Duer, a columnist, screen writer and poet who’s most famous poem is The White Cliffs (of Dover).

As a young man during World War I, Henry served with the Red Cross in England.  Being a devout Anglican, he frequented an Anglican chapel located at the Cotswolds edge in this parish ofHarescombe, Gloucester, England.  That chapel intrigued him so much that many years after the war; he began to construct a chapel in Kinnelon which resembled      that 13th century original.  While showing the design of the chapel to Bishop James A. McNulty of the Diocese of Paterson, Henry told the Bishop that he had a devotion to Our Lady and he especially liked her Canticle, The Magnificat.  The Bishop suggested that the chapel be called Our Lady of the Magnificat.  Bishop McNulty dedicated the chapel on July 2, 1954, assisted by Msgr. Joseph M. O’Sullivan.  Shortly thereafter, Henry died and the first funeral Mass held in the chapel was for Henry on Sept. 15, 1954.  He is buried in the parish cemetery.

In 1961, Bishop McNulty began the Mission Parish in Kinnelon.  He appointed Rev. John R. Ryan, a curate at St. Paul’s Church in Clifton as Administrator of Our Lady of the Magnificat.  Fr. Ryan, although born in Morris County, had no idea where Kinnelon was located.  He offered the first Mass in the Mission Chapel on Sept. 8th with his brother, Fr. Leo Ryan attending.  One year later Bishop McNulty announced the canonical erection of the Parish of Our Lady of the Magnificat and named him the first Pastor.
Fr. Ryan and his first curate, Rev. John Boland, moved into the cottage that was formerly occupied by the Millers.  It was very small and Fr. Ryan began to make plans for the nearby guest house to be converted into a rectory for two or three priests.  Funds were raised and additions were made so the renovated and expanded cottage became the parish rectory.

As the young parish grew, it soon became obvious that there was a need for a parish school.  Fr. Ryan hired an architect and plans were drawn for an eight room school with a dual purpose room which would also serve as a place for Sunday Masses since the parish was quickly outgrowing the Chapel.  The school building was completed in 1964 and was dedicated by Bishop James J. Navagh.  The Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill, Pa. agreed to send Sisters and Mother Ann Vincentia was named the first Superior of the convent and principal of the school.  The Sisters loved to come to OLM because of the country like atmosphere and the availability of ice skating and sleigh riding. The Sisters provided the students with a superior faith based education until they were withdrawn in 1988.

Shortly after the parish was formed, it was also decided that a parish cemetery should be constructed.  There was already a pre-existing family cemetery behind the rectory so permission to build a bigger one was obtained.  Henry Miller’s remains and those of other relatives and friends were removed and interred in the new cemetery.  The first burial of a parishioner was on Dec. 11, 1965.

In 1981, Rev. John Ryan was made a Domestic Prelate by His Holiness, Pope John Paul II with the title of Monsignor.  At the same time he initiated a campaign to raise funds to construct a much needed Church.  Construction was completed in 1983 and on March 26th of that year Bishop Frank J. Rodimer celebrated the official opening of the new Church with a Solemn Mass of Dedication.

In 1986-87, the parish celebrated its Silver Jubilee with a concelebrated Mass with Bishop Rodimer as the main celebrant.  A formal dinner/dance followed which was held in the new Parsippany Hilton.

On June 1, 1991, Msgr. Ryan retired after completing 30 years as founding Pastor.  He was succeeded by Msgr. John J. Carroll on the same date.  Msgr. Ryan’s last formal act as Pastor was to bury Rev. Patricia Wickham, who grew up in the parish and who’s young life was taken by a careless driver. She is buried in our cemetery.

In 1994, Msgr. Carroll organized a building committee which surveyed the parish facilities and the needs of the parishioners.  The committee recommended to the parish finance council that the rectory be expanded to include parish offices and meeting rooms. The work was completed in 1995 and the rectory was renamed the Parish House.  That same year, Dr. Joseph Richardson was ordained a permanent Deacon, and Sr. Ellen Denise O’Connor became the Director of Religious Education.

In 1996, the Chapel got its own parking lot and as a way of expressing gratitude for those who minister in the parish in various ways, an Appreciation Dinner Dance for parish volunteers was initiated and became an annual event.

In 1997, the parish gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of retired Msgr. John Ryan’s Ordination.  A concelebrated Mass was offered in the Church with Msgr. Ryan as the main celebrant accompanied by his brother, Msgr. Leo Ryan, the priests from the parish as well as visiting priests.  A reception followed in the parish school.  Five years later, Msgr. Ryan celebrated his 55th year of Ordination and on the following Dec. 11, 2002, he died in the Lord.  Honoring his wishes, he was buried next to Henry Miller in the parish cemetery.

Both the parish religious education program for public school students and the Catholic School were growing in numbers making it difficult to accommodate everyone in the 8 room school building.   After much dialogue and many meetings, plans were made to expand the facility by 6 classrooms and a large gymnasium.  Construction began in 1998 and was completed in 1999.  At that time Michael Pierce became the Director of Music for the parish and also an instructor of music in both the religious education program and the school.  Michael has since established both a cherub and a junior choir, and he expanded the senior choir.  Eventually he would organize a summer choir involving high school and college students.

In 2004 the parish celebrated the 50 anniversary of the dedication of the Chapel.  The Chapel’s “cornerstone” was opened but unfortunately there wasn’t anything significant found there. 
Additional parish information was inserted when the stone was resealed for another 25 years.

Shortly after the OLM School graduation ceremony in June, 2004, the Church was closed for a year of renovation and expansion.  7,800 square feet were added to the building and the floor was covered with both tile and marble.  The windows were replaced as well as the roof and ceiling.  New altar, ambo, baptismal font and curved pews were added.  The entire project was completed by Palm Sunday, 2005.

Later that year, the parish celebrated Sr. Ellen’s 50th anniversary as a Sister of St. Francis of Peace.  A concelebrated Mass was held in the newly expanded and renovated Church and a large number of Religious Sisters, family and friends attended.  A reception was held in the school. 

Msgr. Carroll had celebrated his 25th anniversary as a priest while still Pastor of St. Patrick’s in Chatham three days prior to becoming Pastor of OLM.  While at OLM he celebrated other anniversaries including his 45th year of Ordination.

A position of Parish Business Administrator was created in 2007 when Ted Howard joined the staff.  In the following year, 2008, Our Lady of the Magnificat Knights of Columbus, Council 14493 was established.  This year also marked the 25th anniversary of the annual Christmas Concert.

In June of 2010, due to a decline in enrollment and an increase in expenses, and after 46 years, the school was forced to close.  This was a most unfortunate occurrence and caused many parishioners, especially those with children in the school much anxiety and sadness.  The parish could no longer sustain it.

At the annual parish picnic in September 2011, the parish began the celebration of its “Golden Jubilee” with a concelebrated Mass.  The jubilee committee began preparations 6 months in advance and met every month during the jubilee year. The jubilee theme was carried out at every activity both spiritual and social during those 12 months.  During the course of 2011-2012 jubilee year many activities took place in honor of the jubilee among them a dinner/dance at the Smoke Rise Inn, a parish retreat and a concelebrated Mass by Bishop Arthur J.Serratelli.  The year concluded with the parish picnic in Sept. 2012.  This summary of the 50 years was contributed to by some members of the jubilee committee.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”  These words from St. Luke’s Gospel, often referred to as The Canticle of Mary, reflect the spirit of this jubilee year.  May Jesus and Our Lady of the Magnificat continue to bless our parish, benefactors and many parishioners.