By Steve Sears
When Monsignor Michael Desmond recently retired after 14 years as Pastor of Saint Aloysius Parish in West Caldwell, the Archdiocese of Newark was quick to name a successor who would shepherd the flock.
That man is Reverend Monsignor Robert E. Emery, J.C.L., V.E. His appointment date was February 15, but he will be officially installed on June 1.
He speaks to the challenges he faces. “It’s really just adapting to a new environment, a new set of circumstances, a new way of living and being. Meeting new people, establishing new relationships, coming to understand the history and local traditions of the new parish where you find yourself.”
Entering a new realm, however, means exiting another. Msgr. Emery looks back fondly on his twelve years at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in South Orange. “It was very difficult to leave. It was the longest I had ever served at any one parish in 32 years of priesthood. It was very difficult and emotional to say goodbye to people, to leave an environment where it was very comfortable, but mostly to leave people.”
Msgr. Emery, born in Hoboken but raised in Ocean Township, loves the nature of the beach. “I’m a Monmouth County guy and I’m a beach lover.” He graduated from Kean College in 1983 with a degree in Elementary Education, and then attended Immaculate Conception Seminary for his Priesthood studies and was ordained on November 21, 1987.
His first assignment was with Saint Catharine’s Parish in Glen Rock, where he served from January of 1988 to June of 1990. In June 1990 he was appointed Secretary to Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, and in September of 1992 traveled Catholic University in Washington, D.C. to study Canon Law, eventually receiving his Licentiate in Canon Law in June of 1994. Upon his return to New Jersey he was assigned as parochial vicar at Saint Peter’s Parish in Belleville, staying there until June of 1998. While there, he served for one year as the Kean University Campus Minister and in June of 2000 received an M.A. in Counseling from the university. In June of 1998, he was appointed as Archbishop McCarrick’s Secretary for one year and then was named Pastor of Saint Lawrence Parish in Weehawken. He served there until June of 2004, and from 2002-2004, he also was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the Archdiocese on a part-time basis.
After departing Saint Lawrence Parish, Monsignor Emery was named Vicar General and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Newark. Pope John Paul II conferred Papal Honors on him in May of 2005 with the title “Prelate of Honor”. In February of 2007, he was named Pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows, where he served until early 2019. While at Our Lady of Sorrows, he in September of 2011 was appointed Assistant Judicial Vicar in the Marriage Tribunal on a part-time basis, where he served for two years, and on July 1, 2013 was named Essex County Regional/Episcopal Vicar. Early in 2016, he was also appointed as the Archbishop’s Representative to the Archdiocesan Review Board.
In addition to pastoring Saint Aloysius, Msgr. Emery still remains Regional/Episcopal Vicar for the county.
“He left me a parish that is very well established,” says Msgr. Emery of Msgr. Desmond. “It has its own rich tradition and history. The stability, the richness, it’s a very active, vibrant parish, there are many ministries and programs, and has a very active spiritual and liturgical life. Those are the biggest things that strikes me.” Msgr. Emery in his early days at Saint Aloysius is still an observer, watching and listening, getting to know the parish and the parishioners. “Once I understand the fullness of what’s gong on in the parish, I’ll be able to work together with our Pastoral Council and our staff to work on some goals and a vision for the future.”
“But it seems a lot of good stuff is already going on. I see my first several months as time to observe, to learn, and to evaluate. ” He also plans to continue to help Trinity Academy, the parish’s K-8 school continue to grow.
Msgr. Robert Desmond has accomplished much in his 32 years of being a priest, but none of the titles and accomplishments trump his biggest: serving God. “While I’m very proud of all that I’ve accomplished, what means the most to me is being a priest and serving the people, bringing God to people, and bringing people to God.”
Founded in 1892, Saint Aloysius Parish is located at 219 Bloomfield Avenue in Caldwell. Visit www.stalscaldwell.org for more information.