Pastor ending 6-year stay

pastor_webHARRISON – 

For Joan Finnerty, a leader of the Vincentian Society, the Rev. Joseph Girone proved himself to be “a very devout man” from the moment of his arrival as pastor of Holy Cross Church in Harrison six years ago.

That devotion to spiritual duty is sure to continue, she said, after the priest takes on a new assignment Feb. 1 when he will become pastor of the combined parishes of St. Rocco and St. Brigid in Union City, replacing the Rev. Dominick Dellaporte.

As of last week, no one had been assigned to take over for Girone, according to Jim Goodness, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark.

“Father had the love of Christianity in his heart,” said Finnerty. “It was so hard to run two parishes here – Holy Cross in Harrison and St Anthony’s in East Newark – we saw him get thinner and thinner.”

But the caring for his extended flock didn’t seem to diminish the pastor’s energy. “He was the life of every party,” Finnerty said. “He’s quite a dancer.”

And there’s no question “he was there for his parishioners,” said senior lector/coordinator Tom Conlon. “He came to see me when I was in the hospital. He was good at visiting the sick.”

Girone, a native of Hoboken who grew up in West New York where he attended St. Joseph of the Palisades High School while his mother sold men’s shirts at Holthausen’s Department Store in Union City, began his spiritual journey in May 1982 when he became a deacon and, a year later, was ordained as a priest at Our Lady of Mercy Church, Jersey City.

Then followed stints at St. John the Baptist, Jersey City, 1983-84; Holy Trinity, Hackensack, 1984-90; Sts. Peter & Paul, Hoboken, 1990-94; St. Mary of the Assumption, Elizabeth, 1994-97, as parochial vicar; then his first pastoral assignment at St. Peter’s, Belleville, 1997-2009; and Holy Cross/St. Anthony in 2010.

“The people in Union City are going to come to know Father Girone as a wonderful, caring priest,” said Goodness, “and as very faithful to the church and faith-inspiring. He’s certainly going to be missed in West Hudson.”

In an interview with The Observer, Girone said: “My pastoral style has always been to serve all people,” and that has been reflected in his current parish receiving Mass in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

“I’ve heard that at St. Rocco’s, there are large concentrations of Colombians, Mexicans and Ecuadorians,” Girone said. “This is an exciting time for me and I feel I’m cut out for [the new assignment]. I speak Spanish. And there are still some old Italians in the neighborhood.”

At his current parish, it has been a busy six years, particularly with infrastructure rehabilitation at both Holy Cross – which marked its sesquicentennial anniversary as a parish last year – and at St. Anthony.

For a few years, the former Holy Cross Parochial School building was leased to an elementary charter school, Lady Liberty Academy, from Newark. Holy Cross continues to search for a more permanent occupant for the building.

At Holy Cross, the former school building was fitted with a new inner and outer roof, as was the chapel and the rectory; the Carmelite House was restored; the fire suppression system in the church hall was upgraded; major plumbing work was done at all four buildings, including new boilers installed in the church and school and a new hot water tank in the church hall; a new chimney in the rectory; with fundraising help from the Portuguese parishioners, the church sanctuary hall was painted and stained glass windows were restored; brick pointing was done at the school and Carmelite structures and part of the rectory.

At St. Anthony, brick pointing was done at the church building; the rectory roof was replaced; and the church floor was restored.

Regarding the religious life of the parish, Girone said he and his assistant priest, the Rev. Francisco Rodriguez, trained more lectors and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, trained altar servers, “made our missalettes (texts for the Mass) into bi-lingual (English/Spanish) books” and “built up our Spanish parish base.”

“We also shared resources with St. Anthony, such as jointly holding our Good Friday Procession,” he said.

Girone said he’ll miss the ethnic diversity of the West Hudson parish and sharing in such events as the Our Lady of Fatima Processions in May and October, celebration of Portuguese Week in June with a special Palm Sunday observance and Corpus Christi Procession and enjoyment of the music of the various ethnic groups represented in the parish.

While he said he had no idea who would be following him as pastor, Girone said that priests in the Archdiocese have until Jan. 15 to apply for new pastoral assignments and he anticipated that his replacement would be “someone at least bi-lingual.”

Learn more about the writer ...