St. Mary of the Lakes Church, which began as a mission church to Sacred Heart Church in Mt. Holly, was established into a parish on June 18, 1943 by Bishop of Trenton Aloysius Griffin. Previous to that, in 1931 a cabin was built on Mohawk Trail in Medford Lakes for the purpose of holding Mass for the forty Catholic families who lived in the area. The original cabin still stands and now belongs to the Protestant Community Church.
Father Paul Grieco, remembered by those who knew him as a good administrator, spiritual helper and friend, was chosen as St. Mary of the Lakes’ first pastor. In his brief time as pastor, he built a rectory (with a parish hall in the basement) and made sure that children in the area had access to the local Catholic schools.
In 1949 Father Grieco was replaced by Father Raymond Hurley. In 1953 it was decided that a Catholic school would be built for the children of the parish. So, in 1954, the new St. Joseph’s School was dedicated by Monsignor Michael McCorriston, representing then Bishop George Ahr. At the time, the school had an enrollment of only 180 students, and was staffed by four Sisters of St. Joseph from Newark and one lay teacher.
In 1959 Father William Campbell was appointed pastor of St. Mary of the Lakes. By that time, school enrollment had already jumped to 300 and parish registration was growing at an amazing rate. By 1965 the log cabin on Mohawk Trail could no longer accommodate the needs of such a large community and so it was resolved that a new church needed to be built. The cornerstone was laid in November of 1966 and the beautiful new worship space was dedicated for use.
In 1969 the Sisters of St. Francis came to staff the school with its growing population. In 1980 the school was expanded and its name changed from St. Joseph’s to St. Mary of the Lakes. A religious education program was begun in the early 1970’s with Peggy Bennett as its first coordinator.
Father John Campoli became pastor in 1981, replacing Father Campbell. That same year, Sister Justina Marie Miller became principal of the school, and St. Mary of the Lakes continued on its path of academic and spiritual growth.
By 1982, the registration topped 4000 families, with the population of the area continuing to grow. Bishop John C. Reiss decided the time had come to divide St. Mary of the Lakes and form another parish which would become Holy Eucharist Parish in the Tabernacle area.
In 1982 Father Joseph LaForge became pastor of St. Mary of the Lakes. By 1985 it was determined that the school buildings needed to be expanded and that a kindergarten program should be added. Other improvements were made to the buildings in order to meet the growth in student enrollment.
Father Joseph Tedesco was appointed pastor of St. Mary of the Lakes in 1992. The parish had grown to again over 4000 families and had over 1000 children in religious education and some 450+ children in the parish school. In 1996 the decision was made to expand our physical space. PARISH 2000, a capital campaign to raise monies to build a parish education center was developed. Through this campaign it was possible to renovate the school into a Parish Education Center. The Center has a new Pre-School and Kindergarten wing, Religious Education Center, large prayer space, regulation size gym, meeting rooms, media center and computer labs. The faculty and art rooms have been renovated along with additional parking spaces and improved grounds.
Since January 2003, Monsignor James H. Dubell has been pastor. The parish community now has reached 4300 families with 1200+ children in our Parish Religious Education Program (PREP) and 379 enrolled in St. Mary of the Lakes School.