2011-08-10 / Front Page

Pastor to be installed at St. Rose of Lima

Freehold Borough native, the Rev. James A. Conover, worshipped at church as a boy

FREEHOLD — The Rev. James A. Conover said he has come full circle as preparations are in full swing for his installation ceremony and liturgy as pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Freehold Borough.

Bishop David M. O’Connell, bishop of the Diocese of Trenton, will officiate at the installation ceremony to be held in the parish church at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 13.

“I was a member of St. Rose Parish as a boy, worshipping with my parents. I received all my sacraments there and offered my first Mass as a priest at St. Rose,” said Conover, a 1967 Freehold High School graduate who was ordained in 1978. “Now, I’m returning to serve as pastor of St. Rose with pleasure and much happiness.”

Since June 2010, Conover has served St. Rose as a permanent administrator and he was appointed pastor by O’Connell effective April 26.

According to parish records, St. Rose serves approximately 4,000 families, including members of the Filipino, Vietnamese and Hispanic communities from surrounding areas who worship at St. Rose.

In addition to the 140-year-old church on McLean Street, the parish facilities include a chapel, a school with students in grades from pre-K to eighth, a parish center, a convent and a rectory. Numerous ministries serve the parish members, the surrounding communities and even a foreign country, as a sister parish to Fond Pierre parish in Haiti.

“It’s been a busy year, but an easy one for me because of the patience and assistance of the church and office staff and the parishioners,” said Conover, who studied at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., where he received a master of arts degree and a master of theology degree.

He said the past year has seen the completion of Phase I of the parish’s capital campaign projects, including renovations of the church and the addition of a handicap access ramp. Also, a new mausoleum at St. Rose Cemetery in Freehold Township was constructed.

Phase II will include the addition of a gathering space at the parish chapel.

Conover, a native of Freehold Borough who prior to entering the priesthood worked as assistant chief of laboratory services at Monmouth Medical Center, Long Branch, said there was time for fun events, too, including the parish picnic and the 135th anniversary celebration of St. Rose School with music, liturgy and a dinner-dance.

“We have an excellent school, our students do very well, even excel in high school, and about 50 percent go on to Catholic high schools,” he said. “The last year’s school enrollment was 404 students, and we are strategically planning for the future to increase our enrollment.”

Conover attended Monmouth University, West Long Branch, and Georgian Court College, Lakewood, as well as Westminster Choir College, Princeton.

“Music ministry is part of my life, too,” said Conover, who was one of the seminary house organists during his studies at the Mount St. Mary’s. “I started to play the accordion in third grade, then the organ, and in high school I played the organ for some evening devotions at St. Rose.”

Around 1983, Conover said, he worked to re-establish the diocesan Festival Choir and is now the diocesan organist for events such as the ordination of priests and deacons.

Conover has served as a chaplain for St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, where he accompanied students on outreach programs in Appalachia and in Mexico.

Prior to coming to St. Rose, Conover served as a parochial vicar in the following churches: St. Mary, New Monmouth (Middletown); St. Veronica, Howell; St. Raphael, Trenton; and St. Joseph, Keyport. His first pastorate was at St. Catherine Church from 1992-93. In 1993, he returned to St. Joseph, Keyport, as a parochial vicar and remained there until his appointment at St. Rose.

“I am thrilled to be pastor at St. Rose and I am looking forward to my installation,” said Conover, who enjoys skiing, the beach and travel when time permits. “People ask me why I am always smiling and happy. I tell them it’s because I love what I am doing.”

Conover said his mother, Anna, (his father, James, is deceased) and several cousins will be among the attendees at his installation ceremony that will include liturgy, music and a reception following the event in the parish hall.

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