History of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Stanislaus Kostka

In May of 1915 a mission church of St. Mary’s in Plainfield was opened in the east end of Plainfield to accommodate the growing number of Catholics. The church bore the name of the pastor of the mother church as a sign of his care and concern for his parishioners; his name was Fr. Bernard Bogan and the name of the church was St. Bernard. The first Mass was celebrated on Sunday, May 16, 1915.

The Catholic population grew rapidly and in 1921 Bishop John J. O’Connor established it as a new parish and on Sunday, June 5, 1921, Joseph M. Kelly, the new pastor, celebrated the first Mass. With the growth of the population came the building of combination school and parish center for meetings and religious education. The project was started in 1925 and completed in 1927.

The church building that was St. Bernard and is now the parish of St. Bernard
and St. Stanislaus was consecrated in 1952. Immediately following there was the addition of a rectory, convent, and an addition to the school.

The Plainfields have gone through some dramatic changes since that time and as a result of those changes and in keeping with the direction of the Archdiocese, the convent building was sold to Renew International and the school closed. In 2002 the school was rented to The Newmark School, specializing in the education of children with behavioral and learning disabilities. The parish enjoyed a very successful working relationship sharing every aspect of the building.

Originally the parish was made up of people who had emigrated from Italy but it transformed itself into a parish that reflected a mosaic of nationalities and cultures from all over the world: Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Asia. The parish adjusted to change as it arose, following the guidelines and directives to provide for the spiritual needs of its members, from the youngest to the oldest.

On November 20, 2005 the parish of St. Stanislaus Kostka merged with the parish of St. Bernard of Clairvaux creating an entirely new parish which bears the name of both parishes: St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Stanislaus Kostka. This merger was the result of years of study done by the Archdiocese and so the new parish incorporates all of the many nationalities as well as a particular ministry to the Polish speaking people who proudly come with St. Stanislaus Kostka.

St. Stanislaus Kostka was established in 1920 in response to the large number of Polish people who settled in the Plainfield area. St. Mary’s Church Hall was the meeting place for the parish until 1922 when the first St. Stanislaus Church was built. The community continued to grow and the people of the parish celebrated their heritage and customs.

Between 1934 and 1949 improvements were made to the buildings and then in 1949 a new rectory was built and permission was granted to build an even larger church. The church was completed in 1972, where on Easter Sunday of 1972 the first Mass was celebrated.

The changing face of the area and the movement of parishioners began to shrink the size of the parish and from 1985 forward the parish moved from serving over 500 families to serving just over 100 families, most of whom were not in the immediate area. Likewise, the English speaking community was reduced to a handful of faithful parishioners.

In an effort to guarantee the life and culture of the Polish heritage of the parish community it was determined that the people of Plainfield in the parish of St. Stanislaus and St. Bernard could best be served and ministered to by merging the two parishes. In that merger the parish life of spirituality, cultural enrichment, and social action could be guaranteed to all the parishioners of the new parish.

And so, on Sunday, November 20, 2005, a bi-lingual Mass in English and Polish was celebrated to officially recognize and inaugurate the new parish of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Stanislaus Kostka. The Mass was con-celebrated by Fr. Frank Rose, the Pastor, and Fr. Jan Krzysztof Lebdowicz, the Parochial Vicar of the Church.

These are the days of a new beginning.