St. Aedan’s Church is at the corner of Bergen Avenue and Mercer Street. Ground was broken on the feast of St Joseph, March 19, 1929. The building, which a newspaper of the day called an imposing jewel of architecture a marvel of light and Ornament., was completed for a cost of $1,000,000. The style of the church is Romanesque, which is characterized by semicircular archers, massive walls, enormous piers and small windows. It is a heavy style, in contrast to the upward reaching light Gothic style which succeeded it in popularity during the Renaissance. The overall effect is one of stability, permanence and security.
The enormous dome at an exterior elevation of 108 feet and a diameter of 60 feet gives majesty and dignity to the building. The exterior of the church is built of face brick in autumn colors which harmonize well with the color and texture of the red sandstone. The stone work of the main entrance has a mass of carved ornament and carved capitals of the columns.
An important feature of the main facade is the unique design of the rose window. The vine forming the molding of the rose window is symbolic of the Savior as the True Vine and the branches with flowers symbolize the true believers who abide in Him. Surrounding the rose window are the symbols of the four evangelists carved in stone.
In the tympana of the three main Dorr wars are sculptured representations: The Widow’s Son of Naim, Jesus preaching to the multitude on the shore and the Primacy conferred on Peter. Below these scenes are Biblical quotations carved in stone.
For the interior, Father McGinley and the architect Edward A. Lehmann, a longtime Jersey City resident, chose mosaic tiles for much of the decoration in the cathedral-like structure. The murals were designed by Ilario Panzironi, an Italian artist and installed under the supervision of Bruno di Paoli. The mosaic tiles form religious designs on the canopy over the main altar and around the sanctuary and side chapels. The stations of the cross, as well as scenes of a number of saints, including the parish’s patron, St. Aedan, are depicted in mosaic throughout.
The church building features marble columns and carved pilasters. The wainscoting of the vestibule, the main body of the church and all the floors are also of marble. An unusual architectural feature is the communion railing which extends 96 feet across the transept. There are no pillars to obstruct the view of the main altar.
The church was dedicated on October 4, 1931
St. Aedan’s parish can trace its origins to the transportation industry. Prior to the founding of the parish, Masses were offered in a small room on the upper floor of Foye hall at the corner of Foye and Montgomery Streets across the street from the car barns. These Masses accommodated the odd working hours of the motormen and conductors of the trolleys who worked there. Eventually it was recognized that there were enough people to create a new parish out of that section of St. Joseph’s parish. On June 23, 1912, St. Aedan’s parish was formed by the Bishop of Newark, Rt. Rev John J O’Connor in response to the needs of these people.
Reflecting its Irish-American origins the parish was named for St. Aedan (550-632), Bishop of Ferns in County Wexford on Ireland’s southeastern coast. His feast day is celebrated on January 31.
Reverend Roger A. McGinley, then pastor of St. Bridgid’s Church, New Durham, N.J. became the first pastor of St Aedan’s. He was to serve St. Aedan’s for the next 24 years to build and to provide for the needs of this growing parish.
Because of his deep commitment to the education of youth Father McGinley decided that the greatest need of the new parish was not a new church, but a parochial school, and within a year and a half, a three story building was erected and St. Aedan’s school was opened in November, 1913. The first story of the school building was converted into a church and served that purpose until the present church was built in 1930.
By 1926, the influx of new parishioners had made it necessary to build a portable chapel adjoining eh school property for additional Sunday Masses. Permission was granted by Bishop Walsh for the erection of a new permanent church and rectory at Bergen Avenue and Mercer Street. Ground was broken on the feast of St. Joseph, March 19, 1929, and the cornerstone laid on June 15. The church was dedicated on October 4, 1931 by Most Rev. Bishop Thomas J. Walsh who presided at the Mass. More than 4,000 people attended, including Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague, a parish member and patron who had donated the main altar in memory of his parents.
Father McGinley was to remain pastor at St. Aedan’s for six more years, until his death in April, 1936, He was succeeded by Rev. John A. McGeary, and then, in 1938, by Monsignor John C. McClary. Monsignor McClary, brilliant and cultured, was also an excellent businessman. A major accomplishment of his pastorage was the liquidation of the church mortgage of $585,000 in 1947. The installation of the bells which Monsignor McGinley had purchased in 1927 for the parish was another highlight of Monsignor McClary’s years as pastor. The bronze bells, were stored for 18 years at Goodman’s warehouse near the church property, and finally installed in 1947. The bell chime was restored in 1985 and rededicated on September 15, 1985.