About St. Anthony Claret Parish
St. Anthony Claret Parish was established during the 1950s in response to a great influx of Hispanic families to Ocean County, N.J., especially those from Puerto Rico. Jackson Township in central New Jersey and the surrounding territories were centers for immigration. Today, St. Anthony Claret continues to be the spiritual home to a growing population of Hispanic families.
The Parish was founded by the Claritians in 1955 to serve these immigrants, at the urging of . Mrs. Maria Figueroa who was herself an immigrant from Puerto Rico. She and her family came to Ocean County. Her greatest desire was to serve the spiritual needs of the Hispanic population in the region with her large family and the desire to spiritually serve the Hispanic people in the region.
At first, in 1957, a chapel was built in Cassville, Jackson Township under the name of St. Anthony Claret. At the time, Ocean County was assigned to the Claretians who administered to a large Hispanic parish, out of Our Lady of Fatima Church, which was located in the city of Perth Amboy, New JerseyJ.
Later, in 1973 Land was bought on Ocean Avenue (Route 88) in Lakewood, to build a new parish center. The activities held in Jackson were moved to a new and better location for the community. Then, in January 1977 a Parish Center was blessed and dedicated by Bishop George Ahr, Bishop of the Diocese. At this time the St. Anthony Claret was declared a National Hispanic Parish.
The Claritians had served the parish well for some thirty eight years, but in 1993 the Divine Word Missionaries took St. Anthony Claret Parish Church over from the Claretians. Rev. Pedro Bou, SVD became the first SVD pastor and remained in this capacity until he was transferred on June 30, 2002. During Father Bou’s term as pastor, the parish experienced new life with many SVDs who served the parish and also helped in the construction of a new church building for worship which was dedicated in the spring of 2002. The dream of many years, of having a new worship place became a reality.
Over the years many SVD confreres came through St. Anthony. Their names reflect many different backgrounds. Father Rolando Danzine (who is no longer with us) was the first vicar. Father Miguel Ruiz and FatherMiguel Virella both did their deaconate program in the parish under the supervision of Father Bou.
Later, they were joined by Father Manual Mayvett , Father Carlos Paniagua and Father Francis Mansfield, as well as, three theology students; two from Portugal and one from the Chicago Theological Union, doing their mission experience in the parish (CTP.) The internationality of the SVD community made life very interesting in the rectory and in the parish at large.
Father Walter Miller, SVD succeeded Father Bou as pastor of St. Anthony Claret in 2002, and Father Jun Pateno, SVD, became the Parish assistant pastor. Father Miller remained pastor until June 2008. At that time Rev. Jesus Briones, SVD became Administrator of the parish.
Father Briones was followed as pastor by the first SVD to be assigned to St. Anthony Claret, Father Pedro Bou. He had returned to St. Anthony Claret and found things much different than what he left behind in 2002, just six short years earlier.. The Hispanic population of Lakewood has grown a lot in those years and so have the needs of the people. on every level; social, psychological, and spiritual.
Father Bou recalls that the architect of the new parish church kept on saying that “if we build a new church, they will come”. This is precisely what happened in Lakewood. There are now five weekend masses (only one in English).
In 2009, there were 296 baptisms, eighty First Holy Communions, forty eight confirmations; sixteen weddings and many Quinceanera masses. It is evident that there is much pastoral work to be done at St. Anthony’s.
Then too, Religious Education Program for some 400 registered children is a must. Along with religious education programs, an RCIA, program is flurishing. The parish sponsors fraternal organizations, including the Knights of Columbus, St. Vincent de Paul and Grupo de Oracion prayer groups. It also is the site of the Lakewood community food pantry.
In the Parish there is also a very active St. Vincent de Paul Society, a Knights of Columbus and a Food Pantry. In addition, they have a retired therapist on board twice a week who administers to those in need of therapeutic help.
Fr. Bou indicates that because of the various parish groups and ministries which need attention and direction from the priests and staff, that another SVD is needed in this parish in Lakewood. He is looking for takers!