History of the New Brunswick Oratory, Part 1

While all Congregations of the Oratory belong to the same spiritual family, each Congregation is an independent and self-governing community. As a result, each Congregation has its own history of how it came into existence. The origins of what would become the New Brunswick Congregation of the Oratory go back to a conversation a small group of clergy and laymen had in 1989 at St. Joseph Church in Bound Brook. This group’s intention was to consider various ways priests and laymen might live together to support one another in ministry and in living the Christian life. It was during this time the idea of St. Philip’s Oratory first emerged.

With the support and permission of the late Bishop Edward Hughes, then Bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen, three men began to live the common life in St. Joseph Rectory in May of 1989. While the idea of the Oratory was presented as an option it was not at that time the favored choice for a way of life. Over the next three years this small community continued to gather for prayer and discernment, though the common life experience ended in 1990.

By 1992 St. Philip’s Oratory had become a much more serious option and it was in that year that contact was first made with another Oratory (Brooklyn, NY), for the purpose of obtaining a deeper understanding of Oratorian life. A pivotal moment took place at the nascent community’s annual retreat at Spencer Abbey in Massachusetts, in June 1992. Four of the five men on the retreat arrived at a definite “yes” to the idea of founding an Oratory; one was still uncertain. He would go on to become the founding Provost of the Oratory and the only one of the five to remain an Oratorian!

In December 1992, the group took two important steps towards founding an Oratory: they met with the Delegate of the Apostolic See for the Oratory, Fr. Michael Napier of the London Oratory, who would serve as the guide of the growing community; they also gave a formal proposal to Bishop Hughes for the establishment of an Oratory in the Diocese of Metuchen. In 1993 Bishop Hughes assigned the initial members to begin the common life with the intention of moving towards the establishment of an Oratorian house.

Part 2

Note: This article is part of our ongoing series on St. Philip Neri and the Oratory, in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Philip.
Please direct any questions or comments to Fr. Jeff.

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