History & Tradition
Saint Joan of Arc
of soldiers and France
St. Joan of Arc (Jeanne La Pucelle) was born on January 6, 1412 at the obscure village of Domremy, near the province of Lorraine. At a very early age, she heard voices: those of St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret.
In May, 1428, her voices told Joan to go to the King of France and help him reconquer his kingdom. After overcoming opposition from churchmen and courtiers, the seventeen year old girl was given a small army with which she raised the siege of Orleans on May 8, 1429. She then enjoyed a series of military successes, during which the King was able to enter Rheims and be crowned with her at his side.
In May 1430, she was captured by the Burgundians and sold to the English. After months of imprisonment, she was tried at Rouen by a tribunal presided over by the infamous Peter Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, who hoped that the English would help him to become archbishop. When she refused to retract the assertion that it was the saints of God who had commanded her to do what she had done, she was condemned to death as a heretic, sorceress, and adulteress, and burned at the stake on May 30, 1431. She was nineteen years old. Some thirty years later, she was exonerated of all guilt.
Joan was canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.
St. Joan of Arc Church
In 1917, just five hundred years after the birth of this simple woman of faith, the beginnings of the parish that would bear her name began to unfold in the Knight's of Columbus Hut at the newly started Aberdeen Proving Ground.
When Sandy Hook testing facilities were moved to Aberdeen in 1917, the Catholic presence there suddenly exploded from three families (the Conrad Krouse family, John Yarosh family and Meehan family) to over fifty members gathering for mass. When Catholic Chaplains were no longer available, Fr. Francis Siggins, SJ came from Woodstock to serve mass. In 1920 Cardinal Gibbons appointed Fr. Siggins pastor of St. Joan of Arc Church. During that time, Fr. Siggins made his home with the Carroll Hopkins family.
On Easter Sunday, April 6, 1920, mass was celebrated in the Town Hall on Howard Street. Later that spring the celebration of mass was moved to the new American Legion on Post Road. The townspeople of Aberdeen were not accepting of the fledgling Catholic population and invited a defrocked monk to speak on the evils of Catholicism. When he made remarks about Catholics not being good citizens, several Catholic and Protestant servicemen pelted him with eggs and a riot ensued.
This hastened Catholic community plans for a church of their own. Since they were not a people of great means, they had to rely on the generosity of Colonel Joseph Baldwin for the gift of land, and from the Knight's of Columbus for the old Knight's of Columbus Hut. The people of the parish worked to move the hut to its new location in Baldwin Manor and to improve its appearance for worship.
In 1927 Fr. John Carroll Moore led the Parish in the purchase of the Strasbaugh property on the corner of Bel Air Avenue and Post Road. The parish made considerable improvement to the Morgan house by converting it to the new rectory, and a framed building out back helped better serve dinners and numerous religious and social affairs. The Sisters of Charity began an annual summer school and parish picnic that became a centerpiece in parish events. The parish picnic is celebrated annually to this day.
In the spring of 1953, just 36 years after its inception, a ground breaking ceremony was held on the current location of the property donated by Mr. & Mrs. Frederick Hinder. An envisioned rectory, convent, and combination church/school were the proposed occupants. 1954 was the dawn of our four classroom school that was tutored by two Sisters of St. Casimir. By 1958, 226 children were enrolled in the St. Joan of Arc School - our four room school was overflowing. It became necessary to give thought to a separate church building. Construction of the Gaudreau designed church began in 1964 by Henry J. Knott Company. Mass was celebrated by Fr. Francis P. Wagner in the newly completed Church on All Saints' Day, 1965.
Since 1965 our physical plant has had several face lifts. Additional classrooms were constructed in 1992. Our Gathering Space and choir loft were added in 2001. Purchase of additional property in 2008 allowed us to expand our chapter of St. Vincent de Paul.
Through the decades people, clergy, and leadership have changed but one constant, our parish motto, will remain "Jesus Invites, St. Joan of Arc Welcomes" leading us to our goal of emBRACing all families.