Parents and children alike have always enjoyed field days. A Dominican
Sister supervises activities during the annual affair.
The first priest of this second era of our history, and the first pastor of St. Francis Xavier, was Father Camillus Loponte. In 1914, in the month of April, Bishop O'Connor decided that the time had come to transform the Chapel of St. Francis from a Mission Church of St. Michael into a parish church. The number of families served by the church began to grow, slowly yet surely, from the total of 60 that had remained constant through the eight Mission years. It was this gradual growth which prompted Bishop O'Connor to canonically found the Parish of St. Francis Xavier and to send Father Loponte to it as its first pastor. A few days later, on Sunday, April 12, 1914, Father Loponte offered the two scheduled Masses for his tiny flock and preached the Word of God to them; he also baptized three babies and performed one marriage. No doubt he also had entered the small confessional before and between Masses to bring to his people the peace and pardon of the Sacrament of Penance. We have no record of his having assisted the gravely ill with the Sacrament of Anointing, but he probably also fulfilled this fifth phase of a priest's reason for existence among a Christian people. Throughout his 15 years as pastor Father Loponte fulfilled all that the priesthood requires of a man called and dedicated to this exalted state.
Divine Providence had unfolded an extraordinary turn of events for Father Loponte. Born in Italy, where he began his studies for the priesthood, he was destined by God's plan to complete his studies at South Orange, where the diocesan seminary was then located, and to spend two-thirds of his life in the priesthood in a parish which began as a predominantly Irish one and is now overwhelmingly Italian. The story of St. Francis Xavier Parish has moved slowly to this point, and purposely so, because it is in its origin and formation that the life of a parish is best recorded. Essentially, what one priest does in a parish is done by all priests, either well or poorly, with fervor or feebly, as true shepherds or as hirelings. Father Loponte lived in a three-story apartment building near the wooden church during the very first days of his pastorate. However, in those days his mind was not on his own dwelling, but rather on the dwelling place of the Lord Jesus living in the midst of his people. Father Loponte had the wooden church lifted several feet to allow for the construction of a new basement which would serve as a parish hall. He had central heating installed, as well as electricity. The entire structure was then painted both inside and outside. These necessary material preoccupations did not prevent Father from extending his interests to other phases of his ministry. He arranged a Lawn Party (Bazaar) in the summer and featured a Fife and Drum Corp Contest. St. Mary's of Nutley (Father Loponte had been a curate