The first attempt to establish a Catholic parish in Scotch Plains came in 1914, when the San Nicola DiBari Society purchased a 100 by 100 foot parcel of land on Lyde Place in Scotch Plains for the erecting of a church. The request was denied by the Chancery Office when it was decided that the property was too small.
More attempts at forming a parish came during the years following. In 1925 the San Nicola DiBari Society purchased 6.5 acres fronting Westfield Avenue from Emilio and Aquilina Ferrara for $6,000. Again, the request for the formation of a parish was denied. The land was retained by the Society, however, in hopes that a parish would one day be formed. The acreage bought in 1925 comprises a significant portion of our current church property.
Intense efforts to establish a Catholic parish in Fanwood and Scotch Plains were started in early 1946. A private census under the chairmanship of Fr. Burke and Fr. Driscoll had revealed 350 Catholic families lived in our towns. Based on a conservative estimate, the census indicated that a minimum of 2,000 Catholics would comprise a new parish. A parochial school would be needed to educate the children of the parish in the proper spirit of their faith.
A letter of appeal dated July 10, 1946 was sent to the Most Reverend Thomas Joseph Walsh, the bishop of Newark. The letter concluded with the paragraph:
"We, therefore, kindly ask that you give our request the attention it deserves and we are looking forward to the inauguration of a Catholic Church and school in Scotch Plains at an early date. The population is large enough to support it."
Written by Joseph Riester of Union Avenue in Scotch Plains, the letter was signed by 19 men: Joseph Reister, Paul DeFrancesco, William E. Debbie, J.P. Godby, Joseph Wallace, Philip A. Donnelly, Thomas Santo Salvo, Joseph Dillion, Frank J. Bardoff, Louis DeCuollo, Jr., Dr. W.J. McGinn, Robert Evans, John Morel, Joseph Flynn, Mauro Novello, Alfonso Checchio, Joseph Decaro, Daniel Moynihan, and F.J. Chemidlin.
On June 4, 1948, Archbishop Walsh established a parish for those Catholics residing in Fanwood and that portion of Scotch Plains northwest of Morse Avenue. The parish was named Saint Bartholomew the Apostle, a name selected by the Archbishop as one of twelve churches planned to honor the apostles. Days later on June 16th, the Archbishop then appointed the first Pastor, The Reverend John. S. Nelligan.
Sunday Mass was offered in the High School, known today as Park Middle School. A sizable crowd had gathered in the High School auditorium for Mass on Sunday, June 20, 1948, to hear their first pastor. Fr. Nelligan took the lead immediately. In his first homily at St. Bartholomew´s, he told his parishioners that they would move forward together in the building of the new parish. The task ahead would be most difficult, but then Fr. Nelligan was a tremendous optimist.
A majority of families belonging to the parish in 1948 were a combination of first and second generation Italians, many of whom had migrated to Scotch Plains from Montazzoli, Italy. Seventy-five years earlier, the first Montazzolesi families had journeyed from their small mountaintop town close to the Adriatic Sea, to the Scotch Plains area where they began work for the Fanwood Stone Company quarry in Watchung.
With them came the strong Catholic spirituality of their ancestors. Often at Sunday Mass, Fr. Nelligan would launch into Italian sermonettes following the Gospel, and he fully endorsed the religious festivities which were part of the San Nicola DiBari festival celebrated every Labor Day. As the first pastor, and founding father of St. Bartholomew´s, he brought a pioneering spirit to the Scotch Plains mission in 1948, and cultivated the spirit of Christian Community well in advance of his time.
Monsignor John J. Cain assumed the pastorate of St. Bartholomew´s on April 9, 1960. The community of St. Bartholomew´s had grown to include over 3,000 families by 1962. 1,300 children were attending our grammar school and 1,600 children who attended public school were enrolled in the CCD program.
Fr. Donald Hummel was installed as pastor on Palm Sunday in 2000. His time here was marked by a strong involvement in community service through ties to the local police forces, firefighters and Ministerium. He remained pastor until he was named Director of the Continuing Education and Formation of Priests for the Archdiocese of Newark on March 1, 2005.
Fr. John Paladino was asked by Archbishop Myers on April 17, 2005 (Good Shepherd Sunday) to assume the role as Pastor of St. Bartholomew the Apostle parish. He was formally installed on June 11, 2005.