Generosity Unknown and Unappreciated
Edited by Morgan P. Hanlon, C.P.
The facts given in this presentation were occasioned by a letter from an attorney representing the Board of Education in Union City. This letter, dated March 25, 1969, contained the following sentences:
“The land in question (Monastery property along Summit Avenue) has for the most part been left barren for over 100 years. It is my opinion that in the face of the facts, the Passionist Order can no longer afford the luxury of separated seclusion in Union City.”
The Provincial Archivist of the Passionist Eastern Province at that time was Fr. Clement Buckley, C.P. This archivist painstakingly assembled background material of over 40 pages for the Passionist authorities. The items that follow have been selected from his work:
- August 9, 1893: On this date St. Michael’s Passionist Monastery donated 3 1/2 acres of their land to West Hoboken. (West Hoboken became Union City in 1925). This area embraced all of what is now 21st Street between West and Summit, as well as additional footage along Summit Avenue.
- June 16, 1897: The Monastery was mortgaged for $40,000 to provide funds to build a grammar school for the parish.
- February 14, 1900: Because the people of St. Michael’s and St. Anthony’s parishes were unable to meet expenses, once again the Passionists mortgaged the Monastery for $50,000. This became an outright grant because eventually the Passionists repaid the entire sum (principal and interest) of almost $70,000.
- World Wars I & II: During these war years, most of the free land was made available for the citizens for Victory Garden plots. This also happened during the Depression years.
- 1917 to present: Since 1917 the Passionists have made a generous portion of their property available to youngsters for recreational use. First, it was a 125′ X 100′ plot. Later, it grew to 6 3/4 acres. This was more, it is believed, than the city itself offered for the entire municipality. There was never any recompense for the use of this property. In fact, the city insisted upon taxes for this very property until 1947!
- 1929 – 1931: During these Depression years, the Passionists saved some of their neighbors from foreclosure on their homes by paying their mortgage installments. Homes were saved and there was never any reimbursement demanded or received.
- September 26,1951: On this date the Passionists ceded to the parish (and through it to the Newark Archdiocese) all their properties at 15th Street and New York Avenue. The area contained 14 lots; the price was one dollar.
- Not to be overlooked is the fact that during the period of 1916 to 1969 (the date of letter mentioned at beginning) St. Michael’s Parish educated over 28,000 of the young citizens of Union City. This contribution to Union City residents must have saved them literally millions of dollars over the years and thus kept the tax-rate low. The municipality contributed not a single dollar to this education endeavor according to our records.
N.N. #8 This final fact is not taken from the statements of Father Clement Buckley, C.P. However, records in support of the first seven (7) items are found in the Passionist Historical Archives.