The Sacred Heart Church in Newark's Vailsburg section no longer fills with throngs of Catholic parishioners on Sunday mornings since its closing last year because of a dwindling congregation and expensive repairs.
But officials with the Newark Archdiocese hope the church's history will live on as pieces of it, from the jewel-like stained glass windows to altar pieces, are carted away to other places of worship and mausoleums.
"Patrimony of that parish is being preserved in many different ways," said Jim Goodness, spokesman for the archdiocese, referring to the windows and sacred vessels used during worship.
They have been refurbished and have specifically gone to cemeteries within the archdiocese and mausoleums under construction in Mahwah, East Hanover, Jersey City, and North Arlington, he said.
"Other parishes with interest in particular pieces have an opportunity to purchase those and use them in other churches," said Goodness.
He noted the main altar has gone to a Northern Virginia church under construction, which will bear the name of Sacred Heart, which he noted is a nice continuation of the Newark church. Other items from the old church, built in 1929, have been put in storage, he said.
In the church's heyday, 1,500 people would come for a single Mass, Goodness said. But it dwindled to 150 people by the time it closed.
The church was also faced with pricey repairs. Waterproofing the outside of the building alone costing the archdiocese $1 million, he said.
"The parish could no longer afford to maintain itself," he said.
Sacred Heart was shut down last July. Remaining parishioners were invited to go to Saint Joseph's Church in East Orange.
Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, whose family were members of the church for 50 years, said he has fond memories of Sacred Heart. He served as altar boy there and went to the school on the grounds of the church.
"There's a sadness every time I drive by there," he said about the empty church.
Cryan's brother, Jimmy, ran into some controversy when officials from the archdiocese objected at the placement of a The statue, originally from Sacred Heart, was given to the Cryan family after the church had closed. It has since been moved to Gates of Heaven cemetery.
Joseph Cryan declined to comment on the issue.
Meanwhile, construction workers have been fixing the church to remediate water damage issues, said Goodness. Scaffolding has been erected in front of the church for workers to access the green patina roof made of copper.
Several church organizations from other denominations have expressed interest in using the space for worship, said Goodness.
"That makes a lot of sense," said Goodness. "The highest first use is as a place of worship."
Goodness said the church has been leased by a local Baptist congregation, the Positive Proof Deliverance Church headed by Bishop Frank Garris — as advertised on a banner hanging under the church portico.
Goodness said the Baptist church took the space around Easter time, but they have had sporadic use of it. Efforts to reach Garris were unsuccessful.