“We have our home back.”

So said Elsa Napolitano, a parishioner for more than 40 years, about Our Lady Mount Carmel Oratory earlier this month during the Community Outreach Program’s welcoming brunch after Mass. 

At the brunch members of the oratory’s Community Outreach Program, alongside representatives from the St. Sebastian, St. Vito and St. Donato societies, presented the oratory’s rector, the Rev. Giandomenico M. Flora, with a check for $40,000.

Last November, the Community Outreach Program and the three societies hosted a tricky tray at which they auctioned off items like gift baskets for donations. Alongside the $40,000 raised, Eric Lavin, coordinator of the Italian Apostolate for the Archdiocese of Newark, raised another $1,975 for the oratory. 

Lavin cited the tenacity of the oratory’s members throughout the years they fought to keep the church open. “I think it speaks to the generous and kind spirit that the people of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Oratory here in Montclair have,” he said.

Sibling duo Marialena and  Raffaele Marzullo, co-presidents of the Community Outreach Program, led its effort that fed over 100,000 people during the pandemic. Now they partner with churches throughout Essex and Passaic counties in food drives and fundraisers. 

“This $42,000 will now allow father to give us this day our daily bread, every day here in this church,” Raffaele Marzullo said when presenting the donation to Flora.

The struggle to keep the church doors went on for several years. In September the Archdiocese of Newark decided that it would be transformed into an oratory — a worship place for daily prayer and the celebration of Mass and the sacraments.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel was established in 1907 to serve the religious needs of the Italians who were immigrating to Montclair. Throughout the years it has gone through changes, including its merger in 2016 with Immaculate Conception Church as St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish. 

For people like Stephen Ruccio, preserving the oratory meant not only a lot for him as a parishioner but also for his family. Ruccio is the president of UNICO Montclair and vice president of the St. Donato society. His grandparents owned three lots on Pine Street and in 1932 donated a lot to the archdiocese that ended up being the current property of Our Lady Mount Carmel. 

“A miracle happened here that we were able to get our independence back,” Ruccio said. 

Not only has the oratory served as a place of worship for the parishioners, but also a place that brought together families. 

Elsa and Carl Napolitano got married in the church, and their son met his future wife at the church when they were children; they also got married there. 

Russ and Geri Gil also got married in the church, and their two sons were baptized there. Geri Gil was baptized and received her sacraments at Our Lady Mount Carmel. 

“It's such a great community of people,” Gil said. “Everybody's working together, and we care for each other and we have a lot of fun, and our goal is to make this the parish that it was, it was a vibrant parish.”