Chuch history

       Szent István Római Katolikus Magyar Templom -
St. Stephen R. C. Magyar Church

223 Third Street, Passaic, NJ 07055

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Church history timeline
 A magyar változat itt...
Fénykép vagy album= photo / gallery


The Slovak & Hungarian Catholics joined together to build St. Mary’s Assumption Church and later with the help of the Kingdom of the old country built the present church.

1898 On March 20th St. Elizabeth’s Ladies Society was founded.

The Hungarian parish is founded by Rev. Geza Messerschmidt, the first Pastor of the church.  Dec. 2, 1902 – Dec. 20, 1911. 

The first funeral  Dec. 24:  Terez Schuster.

The first Mass and Baptism Dec. 25th, Elizabeth Berki.

Jan. 14th the Passaic St. Ann Ladies Altar Society was founded.

First marriage January 18th – Karoly Molnar and Maria Krivda.

March 31st  official incorporation of  the  parish under St. Stephen’s R.C. Magyar Church,

Passaic, NJ. 

May 1st   St. Stephen’s Church cornerstone  was laid. 

May 22nd the first Mass in the church.

July 26th the consecration of the Main Altar – gift of  St. Ann’s Altar Society.

August 21st Church  is consecrated.

The church choir was formed under the name of St. Mary’s.

The carpet for the sanctuary and the  tabernacle was given by the St. Ann Altar Society.

Nov. 20th a new society was formed  - The First Hungarian St. Stephen Roman & Greek Catholic Sick & Benefit Society of Passaic.
1906 The pews are installed.
1908 March Rev. Geza Messerschmidt started a weekly newspaper  “Hajnal”.
1909  The record number of Baptism in the church history – 248.
1910 July 26th the two side altars were consecrated:  The Most Sacred Heart  and the Blessed Virgin Mary, a gift of St. Ann’s Altar Society. Rev. Geza Messerschmidt in memory  of the Altar Society donated to the church a St. Ann  Altar.
1911 Rev. Janos Schimko became Pastor (Dec. 21, 1911-Oct. 8, 1913).Fénykép vagy album

March 24th the 10th Anniversary of St. Ann’s Altar Society.

Rev. Louis Kovacs  becomes the Pastor (Oct. l5, 1913 – Sept. 1, 1915).  Fénykép vagy album

Jan. Rev. Louis Kovacs invites from Hungary the Sisters of Divine Charity to help with the spiritual needs of the parish.  In February the C.C.D. and  Hungarian School were started.

and the First Communion was held in May with 40 children.

Rev. Joseph  Marczinko becomes Pastor (Sept.2, 1915 – 1932). Fénykép vagy album
Nov. 25th the 10th Anniversary of The First Hungarian St. Stephen Roman & Greek Catholic Sick & Benefit Society of Passaic. – they helped many widows and orphans in the parish.

1918 In May the organ was installed after successful fundraising by the parish.
1922 The Boy Scouts of America Troop 31 of St. Stephern’s Church was founded. (till 1985).
1925 November 15th the Rectory next to the church was built.

At he Eucharistic Congress in Chicago the Hungarian delegates were present. who  were important in Hungarian church history  (two who are already beatificated) –Most Rev. Janos Cardinal Csernoch, Rev. Tihamer Toth, Rev. Zoltan Meszlenyi, Rev, Janos Scheffler. 

Rev.  Janos Scheffler, Professor and later beatificated Bishop of Szatmar celebrated  Mass on St. Stephen’s  Feast Day. 
1927 St. Stephen’s Athletic  Union was founded.

The 25th Silver Jubilee of the Parish was celebrated. 

 Dr. Erno Brody, Hungarian Congressman visits the church.
1930 Holy Name Society was formed and during the Second World War the Society was divided into Hungarian & English.
1932 Rev. James Raile becomes the Pastor till 1933 when the Hungarian Jesuit Privince called him home.  Fénykép vagy album

Social Sister from Canada came to the church for a short time.

Rev. William Furlong became the Administrator (in 1938 again). Fénykép vagy album
Rev. Janos Gaspar becomes the Pastor. (Sept 1933 – Feb. 21, l963).Fénykép vagy album

1934 Rev. Janos Gaspar calls thr Sister of Divine charity back.
1936 September  the cornerstones of the  school and the auditorium were laid.

March 15th the auditorium and Sept 19th the school were consecrated.

The school building was used for Hungarian education..
1938 St. Stephens Drum & Bugle Corps was formed.

The St. Stephen’s Drum & Bugle Corps leads the Hungarian Societies at the Holy Name Societies parade.


The first temporary convent is opened.

Oct. 27th Dr. Otto Hubsburg visits St. Stephen’s church.
1941 The new convent is consecrated which became home for the sisters till 1950.
1942 On May 30th Rev. Andrew Molnar was ordained as a priest.  He was the son of our organist Endre Molnar.  He said his first Mass on May 31st at St. Stephen’s and he was the first associate Pastor between 1945-1954

Sixty new stained glass windows were installed.

New heating system for the church was installed.

The Hero Altar was erected with a picture by a Polish painter.

The interior of the school was rearranged

The regular daily English school started with 30 pupils.

The church decoration continues with wall paintings which was done in 6 months.

Rev. John Gaspar celebrated his 25th Anniversary of his Ordination, Pope Pius XII sent him a congratulatory telegram.
1947 New floor was installed in church.

New lighting system installed in church.

The  pews were refurbished and the kneelers were cushioned.

One hundred seventeen were confirmed.

New Stations of the Cross were installed in church.  The old Stations were buried in the Rectory garden.

On Dec. 21st the St. Stephen School students  recorded Hungarian Christmad Carols which were broadcasted  in Europe on the “Voice of America.”
1950 The new Rectory was built.  The old one became a convent with a Chapel and the sisters moved in.
1951 St. Stephen’s Drum & Bugle Corps were the  State  Champions.

The 50th Golden Anniversary.

There are 300 students  in our school therefore the space is not enough.  The church purchased a 6-family house on 211 Third St. which served as temporary classrooms till 1966 when the building was demolished.

The church interior was damaged by fire.

The church was restored with new stained glass windows on the right side.

On Dec. 25th John Foster Dulles, US Foreign Minister, sent a telegram to sympathize with those gathered in the church on the occasion of the 5th Anniversary of the imprisonment of Cardinal Mindszenty.
1956 After the  Oct. 23rd Hungarian Revolution many refugee parishioners came to this community.

The church collected and sent  $27,000. and 13,000 pounds of clothing to help Hungarians in the camps in Austria

St. Stephern’s Church Choir is formed with the leadership of Julia Bartko till 1979 and after

was taken over by George  Mattysovszky.

On Dec. 18th St. Stephen’s Freedom Bell was dedicated in memory of 1956 Revolution Freedom Fighter heroes .  To have three bells was the dream of Rev. Messerschmidt.

By the help of the Hungarian Holy Name Society, the Hungarian School restarted.

Between Oct. 5-26th the Parish celebrated Rev. Janos Gaspar’s  installation as a Pastor. Ferenc Vandor wrote a play of the life of Rev. Gaspar which was performed by 12 people. A summary of the Rev. Gaspar’s 25 years in Passaic:  1535 Masses, 1122 First Communions, 2238 Rosaries, 779 Stations of the Cross, the Parish consisted of  around 6,000 people from 1200 families.

Feb. 21st  Rev. Janos Gaspar passed away.

Rev. Anthony Dunay became the new Pastor till May 29, 1977. Fénykép vagy album
1964 Rev. Dunay’s 25th Anniversary as a Priest.
1965 Daily Mindszenty Hungarian School was formed with more than 100 children.  The Hungarian Holy Name Society was responsible for the financial support.
1966 Between 1966 and 1967 during the construction of the addition to the school, the students were guests of the Hungarian Reformed Church at the invitation of Dr. Aladar Komjathy, Ref. Church Pastor.
1967 April 9th the new addition of the school with 6 classrooms and the cafeteria was completed.
1968 Feb. 24th the First “Megyebal” was held.  The last in 1986.

The 70th Anniversary was celebrated with a huge folklore exhibition.

On Oct. 27th was the  Hunter’s (Vadasz) Ball.  
1974 May 19th  The parish welcomes Most Rev.Jozsef Cardinal Mindszenty.  Fénykép vagy album

The church choir  wrote and performed songs at the Cardinal’s Mass.

In the fall five neighboring schools was emerged by the  Diocese forming the Passaic Catholic Regional School. All grades were held here.

The Mindszenty Hungarian School was transformed into Churchbrothers  Hungarian School. The classes were held in Calvin  Hall and was financed by St. Stephen’s Church.

A new study group was formed called Cardinal Mindszenty as a part of the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation from Missouri with Ethel Jaskot as President.

The parish mourns the death of Rev. Anthony Dunay, May 29th.

Rev. John Cusack becomes the Administrator till 1978.

Rev. Bela Torok becomes the Pastor till July 29, 1990. Fénykép vagy album
The Parish celebrates the 75th Anniversary.  The choir performs together with Zoltan Zorandy and his 12 piece orchestra at the mass.  The American Congress welcomes the pastor and the parishioners of the church on the Diamond Jubilee.

1979 The American Hungarian weekly newspaper, “Katolikus Magyarok Vasarnapja” dedicates its March 18th  edition to St. Stephen’s RC Magyar Church 75th Anniversary.
1981 Feb. 21st the American Hungarian Museum opened its doors at the former convent building till Dec. 1986 when they moved out.

On October 11   the parish welcomed Most Rev. Laszlo Iranyi and 22 priests for the American-Hungarian Priest's meeting.

On November 27th the parish celebrates its 80th Anniversary with Most Rev. Laszlo Iranyi, Bishop of Hungarian catholics living abroad of Hungary.

In November the Hungaian School moved back to St Stephern’s School classrooms and changed the name to St. Stephen’s Hungarian School.
1987 The Auditorium roof was destroyed by fire.

The parish welcomes Most. Rev. Laszlo Cardinal Paskay of Hungary, Sept. 28th.

October 30th the first four children stricken with heart problems arrived in the convent building as part of the “Gift of Life” program. They were sponsored by parishioners and the Rotary Club.  Until the convent building was restored in 1990, the Keresztes family welcomed them.

May 19th the new and restored auditorium was reopened and named the Cardinal Minszenty Cultural Center.

On July 29th Rev. Bela Torok’s farewell celebration.
October 7th Rev. Stephen Mustos, Sch.P, was installed as Pastor by Most Rev. Frank Rodimer, Bishop of Paterson and Most Rev. Attila Mikloshazy, Bishop of Hungarian catholics living abroad of  Hungary. Fénykép vagy album

1993 The convent was renamed as St. Elizabeth Home.  Our parishioner. George Pandi’s wood carving was blessed and placed in the Chapel.
1994 On Dec. 3rd  the parish celebrates its 90th Anniversary. 
1995 The organ was restored.
1996 The church had its first Organ Concert.
1998 On Nov. 22nd   the parish celebrates its 95th Anniversary. 
2000 November 4th the  parish welcomes for  the second time Most. Rev. Laszlo Cardinal Paskay of Hungary
2001 The bells and the cross were restored.
2003 On  April 27th  the parish celebrates its 100th Anniversary.  Fénykép vagy album
2004 July 27th  the parish welcomed Most Rev Peter Cardinal Erdo of Hungary.Fénykép vagy album
2006 Október: Seregély István érsek látogatása

With the approval of the Diocese of Paterson the insurance company financed the restoration of the church interior.

On June 17th Father Mustos returned to  Szekesfehervar, Hungary to a priest retirement home because of his health.  April 20, 2008 he died.

On June 24th Msgr. John Demkovich, Pastor of St. Mary Assumption Church, was appointed as temporary Administrator.  The Hungarian masses in the summer time were celebrated by Rev.Marton Hegyi,SJ of  Fordham University and Rev.Gabor Kollo from Romania.

September 16th the parish welcomes Most Rev, Joseph Tempfli, Bishop of Oradea, Romania.  Because of the church renovation the masses are held in the auditorium.

December 2nd Rev. Laszlo Vas was appointed the parish administrator. Fénykép vagy album

The renovation of the church was completed.
April 5th the parish welcomes Most Rev. Ferenc Cserhati, Auxiliary Bishop of Esztergom -

Budapest and the Delegate of the Hungarian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Fénykép vagy album
The Diocese closed the Catholic Regional School which stood empty for almost 3 years


February 21 Masquerade Ball - The first ball which was held after the last "Megyebal" in

1986. The ball's King & Queen were two elderly respected parishioners: Bela Keresztes (died in Jan. 18, 2011 at age 96 and Agnes Bodnar (died Nov. 1, 2009)

Feb. 22nd Farewell to Piroska Gyorok, the housekeeper of the parish for 18 years, who returned to Hungary, (died Dec, 2010) 

In October the parish welcomed Most Rev. Endre Gyulai, retired Bishop of Szeged for recollection days. Fénykép vagy album

October 11th reception held for the Bishop Gyulai and farewell of Sister Emerica Tarnai SSND.


February 13th St. Stephen's Ball - Roaring Twenties. Fénykép vagy album

On Feb. 14th the parish welcomed Most Rev. Arthur J. Serratelli, Bishop of Paterson

On October 23rd the parish welcomed Dr.. Ilona Ekes, member of the Hungarian Parliament.


The new cafeteria under the Mindszenty Auditorium was opened.

The new section of the school is leased.

On May 15th the parish welcomed Most Rev Ferenc Cserhati who Confirmed 7 children in Hungarian.Fénykép vagy album
On May 16th the parish welcomed 7 priests for the American-Hungarian Priest's meeting.


The first Bogracs Festival was held in the rectory's garden.

A library with over 10,000 books was opened in the basement of the church.

In September at the invitation of St. Stephen's Church from South River.NJ Rev. Laszlo Vas restarted to celebrate Hungarian Mass, and is celebrating it yearly.

October 29th., because of hurricane Sandy, there was no power and heat in the church and rectory.


In the spring the new kitchen is completed in the new cafeteria.

The Diocese of Paterson started a Partners in Faith 5 year fundraising program. By the pledges we fulfilled almost doubling.our quota.

On May 26th the Most. Rev. Ferdnc Cserhati, Auxiliary Bishop of Esztergom - Budapest and the Delegate of the Hungarian Conference of Catholic Bishops celebrated the beginning of the 110th Anniversary of St. Stephen's R.C. Magyar Church. Fénykép vagy album


The sanctuary of the church was re-carpeted and also the sacristy was restored. In the cafeteria air conditioning and a dropped ceiling were installed.

On June 1st the parish welcomed Most Rev Laszlo Bocskei, Bishop of the Diocese of the Oradea-Mare, Romania. Fénykép vagy album
In July St. Stephen's R.C. Magyar Church and the Passaic Board of Education signed a long-term lease for the whole school building. After a few months of work the building was refurbished to current building codes.

On September 20th the parish welcomed Most Rev. Arthur J. Serratelli, Bishop of Paterson who closed the 110th Anniversary year. Fénykép vagy album

On September 27th the parish welcomed His Excellency Dr. Janos Ader, President of Hungary. Fénykép vagy album

Összeállította: Ft. Vas László és Kerkay Emese

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