Click on the picture for more historical pictures.
When the Garden State Parkway was extended south to Lincroft in the early fifties, it connected city to suburbs. The building boom that resulted brought many young families to this area. Many were Catholic, who not only needed a place to worship, but were also seeking a Catholic education for their children.
The Diocese of Trenton obliged by purchasing two adjoining chicken farms with a total of 20.5 acres in the heart of the small village of Lincroft.
Saint Leo the Great Parish was established in June 1958 when Reverend Arthur J. St. Laurent was appointed the founding Pastor. Due to illness, however, he was unable to assume his duties until September of that year. Early Parishioners attended Saint Leo’s first Sunday Mass on July 26th in the Lincroft Public School. It was celebrated by Reverend Francis A. Crine, a native of the area.
Thanks to the Middletown Township Board of Education, Masses continued to be celebrated in the public school until the Church was completed several months later.
On October 29, 1958, the first daily Mass was celebrated with thirty persons in attendance, after Parish volunteers helped convert two rooms in the rectory (one of the original farmhouses) into a small Chapel. To meet the spiritual and social needs of the three hundred and fifty families registered in the parish at that time, the Holy Name and Rosary-Altar Societies were formed and Saint Leo’s was on the path of progress toward the development of the great Parish it is today. Meetings were held in the Rectory basement. Religious instructions for public grammar school children were held every Sunday after 8:00 a.m. Mass by the Sisters of Mercy from St. James School, Red Bank. Transportation was provided by the ladies of the Rosary-Altar Society.
In May 1959, forty-four children received their First Holy Communion, another milestone for the new Parish. Plans were made to construct a building suitable for both Church and School, and volunteers started a fund raising campaign in March 1959. The Sisters of St. Francis, Glen Riddle, Pa. agreed to provide teaching Sisters for the September 1960 school year. On April 22, 1959, the School’s official groundbreaking took place. In November 1959, His Excellency the Most Reverend Bishop James J. Hogan officiated at the laying of the cornerstone of the new Parish building. The Dedication and Blessing of the new Saint Leo the Great Church/School took place in June 1960. Two months later, the Parish welcomed its first teachers - four Sisters of St. Francis. The Sisters lived in four classrooms on the School’s second floor.
The School building officially opened in September 1960 with two hundred one students registered in Grades 1 through 4. Grades were added each of the next four years.
The first graduation took place in June 1965 for fifty students. In September of that year, seven hundred students were greeted by a faculty of fourteen Sisters and lay teachers. In May 1961, the Sacrament of Confirmation was administered at Saint Leo’s for the first time to one hundred youths. Just three years later, the class had increased to two hundred and fifty.
A Parish house was built in December 1963 and used by the Sexton and Housekeeper, Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Kaney. In August 1964, Reverend George E. Deutsch assumed duties as first Parish Assistant. In later years, he was succeeded by Reverends Cioffi, Di Antonio, Brady and in 1973, Reverend William J. Bohnsack. Father Bohnsack also held the position of Spiritual Director of the Holy Innocents Society of Monmouth County - a group that provides Christian Doctrine training for the handicapped.
In June 1964, construction began on a permanent residence for the Sisters. The School population had expanded greatly, and the four rooms on the second floor were needed to accommodate our full complement of eight grades. The Convent was designed to house sixteen Sisters and it was completed the following June.
In the early 80's we saw a tremendous surge in the Parish population bringing it to over 1,000 families.
In August 1980, the founding Pastor, Father St. Laurent, who had been ailing for some time, died. His Assistant, Father Bohnsack was appointed Pastor in September.
Recognizing the enormous growth and the need for change, he immediately restructured the Parish’s Societies. An outstanding motivator, he also conducted workdays with Parishioners volunteering to paint, plant, scrub and do whatever needed to be done around the grounds.
With the increase in staff and sensing continued growth, Father Bohnsack, in 1982, moved into the Parish House, converted the Rectory into a Convent and the Convent into a Parish Center to serve the ever expanding Parish activities. The picnic area, playground and softball field behind the Rectory were also built to foster community in a natural setting.
On May 18, 1984, one of the Parishioners and former Trustee, Robert Nimon, was ordained a Deacon. Always active and involved in community and Church affairs, he has not only provided assistance and continuity to the Parish, but has been a friend to all.
A burgeoning Lincroft Catholic population triggered discussions about a new Church; but Father Bohnsack was unable to gain approval from the Diocese. As a result, plans were made to renovate the existing Church. A fund-raising drive followed that proved enormously successful and renovations were soon completed. Father Bohnsack designed the stained glass windows and new entrance for the renovated Church that was dedicated in June 1983.
After five years as Pastor, Father Bohnsack died suddenly on August 4, 1985. His untimely passing was a shock. He was universally loved and admired by the Saint Leo Parish family.
On September 13, 1985, Rev. James M. Clark was installed. Like Father Bohnsack, he sensed the Parish’s continuing needs. Among his first accomplishments during this period was the completion of the Parish Center Chapel renovation. This project, begun by the Saint Joseph Society prior to Father Bohnsack’s death, was finished and the Chapel, now used for daily liturgies and prayer services, was dedicated to his memory.
On May 8, 1999, Joseph DePaolis was ordained a Deacon in the Diocese of Trenton. He has been head/coordinator of Liturgical Ministers, Altar Servers and Baptism Preparation.
Another major accomplishment was the addition of the new School wing, which opened September 5, 2001. On January 27, 2002 the new wing of the School was dedicated by Bishop John M. Smith.
After battling cancer for over a year, Father Clark passed away on February 24, 2003.
In May of 2003, we welcomed our new Pastor, Rev. Leonard P. Lang, who came to us from Holy Spirit Parish in Asbury Park. He was the Pastor there for over twelve years.
We began the 2008 year with celebrating our 50th Anniversary as a Parish. All of the Parish Ministries were involved throughout the year with their own special additions to our celebration.
At the end of January, 2009, due to health reasons and the recent passing of his mother, Father Lang resigned as Pastor of Saint Leo the Great. Thank you, Father Lang, for your years of service and ministry.
Effective February 6, 2009, Reverend John T. Folchetti was named Administrator of our Parish. He spent many years as the Chaplain at Christian Brothers Academy, as well as a Teacher there. He also was the weekend Assistant at Saint Rose of Lima, Freehold. He was ordained in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York and has now been incardinated in the Diocese of Trenton.
On Sunday, May 24, 2009, Father John Folchetti was installed as the fifth Pastor of Saint Leo the Great Parish by Bishop John M. Smith.
Edward H. Wilson was ordained to the Diaconate in the Diocese of Trenton on May 14, 2011 and was assigned to Minister here at Saint Leo's. His Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated on May 22, 201.
January of 2012 we welcomed Father Rocco Cuomo (a retired Priest of the Diocese of Trenton) as a weekend assistant to our Parish.
Richard Tucker was ordained to the Diaconate in the Diocese of Trenton on May 12, 2011 and was assigned to Minister to the people of Saint Leo's. His Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated on May 20, 2012.
Summer of 2012, Cornelius Begley (who was our School's Vice Principal) became the Principal of Saint Leo the Great School. Deirdre Senkewicz became the new Vice-Principal.
Deacon Joseph DePaolis (AKA Deacon Poppy) was called home to Our Lord on August 23, 2012. He served the Parish Community of Saint Leo the Great for 13 years. He touched the hearts of many.
IIn the Fall of 2012, we welcomed Sister Jeanne Belli, a Sister of Saint Joseph, as a Pastoral Associate. She has come to us from Saint Mary's in Colts Neck.
Father Rocco Cuomo celebrated his 50th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood on May 23, 2014. Congratulations Father Rocco!
June 27, 2014 Father John celebrated his 40th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood. Two days later, Father John celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving at Saint Leo's for his Anniversary. Timothy M. Cardinal Dolan was a Concelebrant and Homilist for the Mass.
In August 2014, Father Richard Vila, who was with us for a little over a year, was transferred to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Maple Shade, N.J. as temporary Administrator of that Parish. At that time, we welcomed Reverend David X. Stump, S.J. as a Weekend Assistant.
June 29, 2016, after twenty-one years of ministering to the Parish Community of Saint Leo the Great, Sister Ann Barry retired from her ministry at Saint Leo's. Thank you Sister Ann and God speed!
September 1, 2016, we welcomed Sister Margaret Bulter, S.S.J. as an Assistant Coordinator for our Child Faith Formation Program.