In the meanwhile, Fr. Edgar had been appointed Master of the Vocationary in Florham Park and later transferred to St. Michael’s Church in Newark, to replace Fr. Louis Caputo, S.D.V., who has been appointed Father General of the Vocationist Fathers. In 2003, Fr. Edgar was appointed Bishop Auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Newark. The news brought joy to all parishioners of St. Nicholas who still regarded him with lots of love.
Fr. Antonio was then transferred to St. Michael’s Church in Newark and Fr. Armando Palmieri was appointed to replace him at St. Nicholas.
Fr. Armando M. Palmieri, S.D.V., was born in Altavilla Silentina, Naples-Italy. He was ordained on December 3, 1999, and almost immediately transferred to the US. Fr. Armando worked as Novice Master at the Fr. Justin Vocationary in Florham Park, prior to arriving at our parish.
Fr. Armando was first appointed Administrator of St. Nicholas, and later Pastor. He remodeled the inside of the church with new floors, elevated the altar, and changed the colors in the walls. His first fundraiser event was the “Memory Path” in the path between the rectory and the school.
Fr. Armando learned to speak Portuguese and become a true Brazilian at heart. He understood the need to maintain their cultural traditions and gave incentive to a great number of events in their community. His willingness to reach the Brazilian community was most shown when he brought a statue of Our Lady Aparecida, patroness of Brazil and supported the celebrations and procession of her feast day. Italians were also full of joy with their native Italian pastor and American were reinvigorated by his energy.
In 2008, as we celebrated 25 years of the Vocationist Fathers at St. Nicholas, Fr. Armando created many groups to celebrate the charisma of Fr. Justin Russolillo. There were the Friends of Fr. Justin, the Prayer Group Fr. Justin, and the Vocationist Missions Cooperators. He supported the Holy Rosary by Brazilian men, the Youth Group, the Passion Play and many other activities in the parish.
Fr. Armando was the Pastor of St. Nicholas from 2003 to 2011. On January 1, 2012, he was transferred to the new Vocationist community of Brooklyn, NY to be in charge of the Shrine of Our Lady of Solace. He had become a dear friend to all parishioners. St. Nicholas was his first parish, and they say the first one is loved the most and never forgotten. Even though it was a considerate distance, Fr. Armando remained a regular visitor to our parish.
St. Nicholas started the year 2012 with the installation of a yet a new Pastor: Fr. Jose Jeremy Soldevilla, S.D.V.
Fr. Jeremy was a charismatic Filipino priest who had served many years in the Vocationist province of Italy, prior to his arrival in the US. He gained the admiration of our parishioners from the beginning with his cheerful personality.
On Saturday, March 17, the group of people attending the first mass at 7:00 AM experienced a terrible surprise: The beautiful statue of St. Nicholas, installed in front of the church, had been decapitated! It might been an act of vandalism, maybe terrorism, or hate crime. Fr. Jeremy spent days being interviewed by reporters from all kind of media. Nothing was proven and to this day nobody can explain it. Two good Samaritans arrived and restored the statue, free of charge, to its former glory.
Fr. Jeremy promised to be a good pastor to St. Nicholas. Unfortunately, unexpected circumstances brought his term to an end. On April 29 of 2012, only a few months after being appointed pastor of St. Nicholas by the Archbishop of Newark, Most Rev. John Joseph Myers, Fr. Jose Jeremy traveled to the Philippines and never returned.
His decision to leave brought pain and sadness to the parish. A sense of abandonment followed unanswered questions that were difficult to overcome. Due to inexplicable absence of the pastor, the Parochial Vicar, Fr. Stephen Ehiahuruike, S.D.V., was appointed Parish Administrator of St. Nicholas in June 20 of 2012. His commitment to the parish and will to overcome their challenges brought new hope to the community that quickly saw in him a leader to follow, respect and trust. On September of the same year, Fr. Louis Caputo, S.D.V., former Father General of the Society of Divine Vocations – Vocationist Fathers, join the parish staff as Parochial Vicar. A few months later, Fr. Christogonus Iwunze, S.D.V. also joined the Vocationists of our parish.
Fr. Stephen Ehiahuruike, S.D.V., was appointed Pastor of St. Nicholas by the Archdiocese of Newark on the beginning of 2014. Over 350 parishioners joyfully attended the celebration and reception of his installation day on April 5, 2014.
… and the work of the parish continues!