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Mount Carmel Parish Gets Approval to Add Second Floor to Church

Spanish-Speaking Congregation Finds Downtown NB House of Worship Too Small
Mt. Carmel Church
Mt. Carmel Church's rear entrance on New Street, in between Rockoff Hall and the site where another highrise is planned. Google Maps

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A humble church located between New and Morris Streets may soon be standing a little taller after the city approved its plans for an expansion on September 28.

The little church  is sandwiched between Rockoff Hall, the city's first downtown dormitory, and a pair of abandoned buildings slated for demolition.

A 22-story residential highrise is planned for that site, as we reported in 2014.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel is only one story tall, with a basement and a ground floor.  The house of worship was built in the 1960's, and the congregation dates back to 1977.

The Diocese of Metuchen plans to build a second floor for offices, which are currently stuck in the cramped basement.  When the expansion is complete, the building's legal occupancy will increase from 339 to 392.

The main floor currently has a sanctuary, or "nave," bathrooms, a kitchen, and a "cafeteria/meeting room."

Entrance is through the lobby, which is on the main floor and has access to the staircase.   The basement has three classrooms, the parish office, a meeting room, a men's room and a women's room, and a boiler room. 

The second floor would be above the catering room, kitchen, and part of the lobby. It would be accessed by two staircases, extensions of the existing stairways.

The floor will be arranged much like a doctor's office, with a reception room, receptionist's office, and four other office rooms.

A prayer room, the same size as the offices, would also be on that floor, along with a meeting room with its own "kitchenette" and a couple of closets. 

Small restrooms would be on the second floor.

Oddly, one of the bathrooms will be designed for wheelchair access, although there would be no elevators to the second floor.

It is unclear how wheelchair users would be able to get up to the second floor, unless others carried them upstairs. 

The low-slung building is a product of the early to mid-1960s, and, were it not for the cross and statue adorning the building, it could easily be taken for a synagogue.

The building was once the address of Congregation Ohav Emeth, as Middlesex County deed records show.  The old Ohav Emeth building was suitable for Our Lady's purposes.

That congregation moved to Rabbi Eliezer Kaminetzky's house in Highland Park in 1973, and bought its current building, also in Highland Park, in 1977.

Fortunately for the Roman Catholic Church, the uses of parish churches are similar to those of shuls: classrooms for education, a sanctuary for the mass, and cafeterias for eating and gathering, much like the catering-rooms of synagogues.

Hebrew letters, presumably representing the Ten Commandments, grace the front, and the entrance continues this motif with its double-arched doorway.

The Catholic parish now occupying the site has one pastor, Rev. Raymond Nacarino, and two parochial vicars, Jose and Manuel Lorente.

Its liturgy is entirely in Spanish, and it celebrates Mass seven days a week. 

On weekdays, Our Lady of Mount Carmel holds mass at 7 am and 7 pm, and on Saturdays, a morning mass is at 8 am and a vigil mass is at 5:30 pm.

Sunday has six masses: 8 am, 9:15 am, 10:30 am, 12 pm, 1:30 pm, and 5:30 pm.  Reconciliations are a half-hour before each mass.

Eucharistic adoration is held at 7 am and 7 pm on Fridays, but the parish does not hold perpetual adoration.