For many years St. Peters Orphanage stood
behind the gates on Lyons Avenue-the story of how it survived to
this day in Denville would make a great movie in the Father Flannigan
Boys town Tradition.
By the early 70's St. Peters parish was struggling with the same
woes as many urban parishes; changing demographics meant lower attendance
each year at the school and the church; finally the church decided
to cut the losses and close not only the church and the school,
but the orphanage as well.
At this time what had been a facility for up to one hundred children
was now a small close knit group of 40 kids and four nuns of the
School Sisters Of Notre Dame order lead by Sister Mary Leocadia.
At about the same time Sister Leocadia received instructions from
the Bishop to close the orphanage, she also received word that an
old orphan had died in Florida and had left $600,000 for the education
of the children of St. Peters Orphanage - if there was no St. Peters
Orphanage the bequest would go into the coffers of the diocese.
After much deliberation and probably a lot of prayer, the Sisters
who included Leocadia, Dismas, Mary Ann and Carol Ann decided to
back a lawsuit against the archdiocese-while they of course could
not sue the bishop the suit was officially named 'the children of
St. Peters Vs the Archdiocese Of Newark.'
Much publicity ensued and in a short time the diocese caved, agreeing
that the orphanage could keep the money from the sale of the property,
thus enabling the nuns to rent the old Janet Memorial Home in Elizabeth
for two years and purchase land in Denville - during that time on
weekends the children and the nuns went to Denville most weekends
to help with the construction of the new facility- I remember well
the dedication of the new facility, and the hope and closeness of
those times,for I lived at St Peters after the move to Elizabeth,and
the experience changed my life for the better.