This lovely photograph of Mary Mirota making her First Holy Communion in 1924 is so sweet, because she looks solemn and yet pleased to show off her new prayer book and blessed candle. She was one of 40 young children receiving the sacrament that day at a brand new Roman Catholic church called Our Lady of Lourdes, in Whitehouse Station, Readington Township, New Jersey. The parish website has a great section about the history of the church.
Mary was ten years old in this picture since it was taken on June 8th. Groundbreaking for the new church, with about 150 families – at least half of which were Polish – had been the previous year on August 19th, and the church was completed by that Thanksgiving Day. I find it mind boggling that the church was built that fast. It was used until 1991 when a much larger church was dedicated. The old church is used today as a parish hall. Many of the mostly poor parishioners volunteered free labor to build the church.
A great resource for researching photographs, when the date is known, is the local county historical society. Whitehouse Station is in Hunterdon County, and there is a wonderful faculty in the county seat of Flemington, called the Hunterdon County Historical Society. They have been collecting and sharing historical documents since 1885, and if you have roots in Hunterdon County it is well worth the trip. I’ve had great luck looking at old newspaper articles there. My next trip will include searching through microfilm to see if any news was printed about this event. Hopefully the article will include a list of names. They also have a copy of a small book by the county historian, Stephanie B. Stevens, about the Polish-American community of Whitehouse Station, For A Better Life. It was published in 1990, and is about the Polish settlement in Readington Township; the book should also be available through inter-library loans from the Hunterdon County Library.
Our family is very lucky to have the group portrait taken on the same day as the first picture. It can be enlarged by clicking on it. Mary Mirota is the fifth girl from the right, and she looks to be one of the older girls. In the center, sitting, is the first priest assigned to the church, Father Konopka. He remained the pastor until 1935. The children look so proud and happy, and for many of them this would be the only photograph that their families would have, except possibly for a school picture if they could afford to purchase one. A photographer assigned by the diocese would travel from church to church taking these pictures. At that time the parish was in the Diocese of Trenton, but now it is in the Diocese of Metuchen. The children are posed on the front steps of the brick church.