What Happened to St. Peter's Orphanage

by Dave Hosseini


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.

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