Oldest Archdiocese of Newark priest, a Jersey City native, celebrates 102nd birthday


James C. Turro, the oldest Archdiocese of Newark priest and a Jersey City native, celebrated his 102nd birthday last week at his church.

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, (left) with Monsignor James C. Turro, who just turned 102. Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Newark.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“It seems unreal.Being a priest-teacher has been very gratifying … I’ve never felt let down. I’ve never wondered if there was a better career that I might have had. It never even crossed my mind. I couldn’t imagine a more satisfying experience,” Turro said in a statement.

“I have no regrets. Looking back, there’s nothing in my priesthood that I would live out differently than I did.”

His home parish, Our Lady of Mercy Church in Park Ridge, marked the special occasion by singing “Happy Birthday” at the 11 a.m. Mass on January 28th, two days after his actual birthday.

Father Stanley Gomes, one of the monsignor’s former students, also paid him a surprise visit at the Mass, joining a long list of friends who called or visited throughout the week.

Faith was always at the center of Monsignor Turro’s life while growing up in Jersey City, where he attended St. Paul of the Cross Elementary School and St. Peter’s Prep.

Partially inspired by his two aunts, who were Sisters of Charity, the monsignor entered the priesthood in 1948 and began serving at Hackensack’s Holy Trinity Church.

After two years, he enrolled in the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., so he could earn a licentiate in sacred theology, which was followed by a licentiate in sacred scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.

He was then assigned to teach at the Archdiocesan Immaculate Conception Seminary.

Monsignor Turro made his most significant impact as a teacher, shaping the vocations of thousands of priests over 60 years.

The seminary’s library at Seton Hall University now bears his name. But the monsignor never strayed far from the pulpit, beginning work as Our Lady of Mercy’s weekend assistant at roughly the same time he started teaching.

In this role, he became known for his short homilies, which were no longer than a page. Today, Turro is a bona fide institution of Park Ridge.

People from all over the country visit him at the rectory, and local schoolchildren stop to hear him speak during the town’s annual historic walking tours.

He is also still active in ministry, from concelebrating Mass to hearing confessions to occasionally counseling those in need.

During the spring, the monsignor is a weekly visitor to the nearby Our Lady of Mercy Academy, where he helps prepare second graders for their first reconciliation and Communion. He has also presided over 900 baptisms and 400 weddings.

Birthday cards for Monsignor Turro may be sent to Our Lady of Mercy Rectory, 2 Fremont Ave., Park Ridge, NJ 07656.

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