On October 9, 2008, Reverend John P. Nickas, 68, who was the pastor of Catholic churches in Newark and Montclair and a pioneer in outreach to the homeless and youth, passed suddenly in Turkey. Visitation will take place at the Caggiano Memorial, 62 Grove St., Montclair, on Sunday, October 19, 2008, from 2 to 6 p.m. After the visitation hours on Sunday, there will be a vigil prayer session at 6 o’clock.
On Monday, October 20, there will be visiting beginning at 9:30 a.m. at St. Aloysius Church in Caldwell, followed at 10:30 a.m. by a Funeral Mass officiated by Archbishop John J. Myers. The burial will take place in Mahwah’s Maryrest Cemetery. Father Nickas most recently held the position of pastor emeritus at St. Peter Claver Church in Montclair from 2005 to 2006.
He developed the Healing Mass and was a member of the Health Ministry, Peace Action, and Homecall, which offers homes for the underprivileged. Father Nickas served as the church’s pastor from 1996 to 2004. Additionally, he kept up his duties as the Archdiocese of Newark’s AIDS Ministry Coordinator for the County of Essex. Since 2004, he had been a resident at the Msgr.
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James Kelley Residence in Caldwell. On September 16, 1977, Father Nickas was appointed the pastor of St. Rocco’s Church in Newark. He started numerous initiatives for community engagement as the church’s pastor. To meet the needs of the homeless, he worked with homeless men and families and founded two shelters in the City of Newark in 1981.
In 1986, he served as the homes’ director. In addition to founding and serving as executive director of The Learning Experience Alternative High School in Newark, he founded St. Rocco’s Children Center in 1981. He established St. Joseph’s Day Care Center in Newark in 1972, followed by St. Ann’s Community Day Care Center in 1973. St. Rocco’s Church received the designation of a national historic landmark while he served as a priest.
Father Nickas served on the board of trustees of Coalition 6, Newark, a coalition of six Catholic parishes that worked to address societal issues. He served on the boards of the Urban Housing Corporation, Newark, the YM-YWCA, Newark, the Community Nursing Association, East Orange, and Project Live, Newark. He served as the board chairman of the Newark-based St Ann’s Community Day Care Center.
Father Nickas was a member of the Central Ward Coalition of Youth, the Collaboration Group, Newark, the Coalition for the Homeless, Essex County Council for the Homeless, Mental Health Task Force, and the Coalition for the Homeless, Newark. Father Nickas, who was born in Newark and raised in Maplewood, attended Our Lady of Sorrows School in South Orange before graduating from Seton Hall Prep and Seton Hall University in 1962.
Later, he attended Immaculate Conception Seminary in Mahwah to pursue a career as a priest. On May 28, 1966, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, he was ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of Newark. In 1975, he graduated from Immaculate Conception Seminary with a master of divinity in pastoral ministry. He afterwards attended Drew University to get his PhD.
At Seton Hall University, Kean College, Rutgers University, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Arizona, Father Nickas also pursued graduate studies. From 1966–1967, he served as a pastor for a year at Blessed Sacrament Church in Franklin Lakes. From 1968–1969, he served as a pastor at St. Patrick’s Pro-Cathedral in Newark. Later, he was appointed as St. Rocco’s Church’s associate priest.
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He lived in St. Ann’s Church in Newark in September 1970 and worked there until he was appointed pastor of St. Rocco’s Church. His parents, John and Helen Nickas, brother Harry Nickas, and sister Virginia Kuhn all passed away before him. His sister Anne Marie McGovern and 11 nieces and nephews are his only surviving relatives. Instead of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Msgr. James Kelley’s Residence at 247 Bloomfield Avenue in Caldwell, New Jersey, 07006 in his honour.Published from October 18 to October 19, 2008 in Star-Ledger
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