Our Parish roots began with a strong desire by a group of Catholics in the South River area, to have a church serve their needs. The time was the late 1930`s when if one wanted to attend mass in the area the options were St. Mary of Ostrabrama, the Polish parish; or, St. Stephen Promartyr, the Hungarian Parish.
In the early 1940`s, Mr. John Barrington called a meeting under a tree opposite St. Thomas Church on Old Bridge Turnpike. The topic was how to go about forming a parish for English speaking Catholics in the South River area. The strong support he received motivated him to contact Fr. James Foley, a curate from South Amboy, who later became pastor of St. Thomas. It was Fr. Foley, (later Monsignor) who approached The Most Reverend William A. Griffin, Bishop of Trenton, with the needs of the South River Catholics.
In 1942, Bishop Griffin, seeing the need for a territorial parish in South River, was determined to fill it. At that time Fr. Foley appeared before the South River Board of Education a asked permission for the use of the Campbell School auditorium for mass on Sunday mornings. On February 7, 1943, 140 adults joyfully attended the first mass, in what had become the territorial parish of Corpus Christi Church, that was officially erected on August 31, 1944. The Parish Incorporation papers of August 22, 1944 list Fr. James S. Foley as Pastor, but now fully established, needed a full time pastor.
Fr. Joseph J. Connolly, the 33-year-old Curate of Our Lady Star of the Sea, Long Branch was the choice. He arrived on September 8, 1944 and became pastor of a parish in its infancy.
As the parish grew and expanded, the need for a permanant facility increased. Fr. Connolly was encouraged to proceed building a complete church by the new Bishop, The Most reverend George W. Ahr.
On November 2, 1952, Bishop Ahr blessed the new colonial ediface. After nine years of anticipation and sacrifice, the people of Corpus Christi had a permanant Church buildingin which to worship.
But this was just the beginning.
In 1954 our Basilca Bells were installed by Schulmerich Carrilons. Fr. Connolly intended the bells as a tribute to our Blessed Mother. Since that September 12th, the bells have rung out daily. The bells, eight in number, toll or swing automatically. By 1955, a new rectory was completed and Fr. Connolly took residence there for the next fifteen years.
The rapid growth of the Parish during the 1960`s was also marked by the erection of a School and Convent. These final additions to the parish were dedicated by Bishop Ahr on June 20, 1965.
The 60`s brought liturgical changes with modification of the sanctuary. It was this setting that welcomed Fr. August Neumann back to Corpus Christi. Having been an assistant from 1952-1955, he joined that parish as the second Pastor on September 29, 1970. When he arrived for his first pastoral assignment, many challenges and problems awaited him. This included a huge mortgage-demand note that needed to be paid, a deficit of $60,000, for the current year and a reorganization of parish administration.
In 1971 the old Church-Convent on Old Brige Turnpike was sold for $62,000 and was immediately invested. The sum remained invested and reinvested until the day the mortgage was paid, December 31, 1980.
In 1972, a fire damaged the Shrine of the Blessed Mother in the sanctuary. The dense smoke damaged the interior walls and a complete restoration was required. Improvements were also made in the rectory at this time. The outdoor shrine, adorned with beautiful marble statues, bronze-like bas relief Stations of the Cross, colorful mosaics of the Rosary, and a Lourdes grotto were all dedicated May 17, 1981 by the late Fr. Patrick Peyton, the international Rosary Missionary.
1979 brought a new Religious Community to South River to our convent. The Passionist Fathers moved their Provincial headquarters from Union City to the convent building. At present, it`s Provincial, The Very Reverend Joseph Jones, and several other priest live in and work in the building.
Upon the retirement of Fr. Neumann in 1983, Monsignor Donald Endebrock became our third pastor and provided Corpus Christi with leadership through some difficult times. Our school enrollment dropped for a while, but it gradually improved. Oil storage tanks were removed and other changes took place – the main one being the refurbishing of the sanctuary.
In the early 1980`s an order of Portuguese priests from Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima in Perth Amboy asked for permission to celebrate mass in Portuguese for a small number of families in South River. Permission was given and the community began to grow with the establishment of two weekend liturgies, one daily mass and a Religious Education Program that operates out of our school on Sundays. We have embraced the Portuguese Community as our own. Their importance in South River is very clear and we are very proud they worship here.
When Msgr. Endebrock retired in 1996, Fr. Kevin P. Duggan came to Corpus Christi as our fourth Pastor and was installed on July 27, 1996. During his pastorate, our church, rectory and school have undergone extensive changes. In addition to many necessary changes to improve the exterior of these buildings, such as new roofing, doors, and windows, the interior of the church has been completely renovated. The elegance and quiet grace which are evident when one enters the church is set off dramatically by the crucifix and stained glass windows on the wall behind the altar. The interior and exterior have been renovated and restored to reflect the beautiful colonial designs of the orginal church.
On June 22, 2003, the dedication of our new church altar and restoration of the church, was formally blessed by The Most Reverend Paul G. Bootkoski.
In April 18, 2005, Fr. John L. Brundage was installed as our fifth Pastor. The original 140 adults have increased to over 1000 families of many ethnic backgrounds and this does not reflect our Portuguese Community that has its mission church here at Corpus Christi.
There are many active societies at our parish including: Rosary-Altar Society, St. Vincent de Paul, Adult and Youth Choirs, Corpus Christi Seniors, Fillipino Prayer Group, Altar Servers, Lectors, Eucharistic Ministers and Ushers just to name a few.