Alumni Association of The Pontifical North American College

Spring Joseph Shenrock




Msgr. Joseph C. Shenrock, a priest of the Diocese of Trenton for 63 years, and served as pastor, ecumenist, historian, scholar and author, died Feb. 23. He was 90.

Funeral services will be held in the chapel of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, 30 Schoolhouse Rd., Whiting, where he served as pastor from 1987 until his retirement in 2008. The Rite of Reception will be held Feb. 27 starting at noon with visiting hours from noon to 4 p.m. and from 6 to 9 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Feb. 28 at 10:45 a.m. in the chapel.

Born Oct. 4, 1926 in Oxford, Msgr. Shenrock attended Oxford Grammar School and Washington High School. He prepared for the priesthood in St. Charles College, Catonsville, Md., St. Mary Seminary and University, Baltimore, and St. Mary Seminary, Roland Park, Md. He was ordained a priest May 30, 1953, in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, by Bishop George W. Ahr.

As parochial vicar, Msgr. Shenrock served in the parishes of Sacred Heart, Mount Holly; St. Paul, Burlington; St. Mary of the Lake, Lakewood, and St. Joseph, Toms River. He served as administrator of St. Pius X Parish, Forked River, in 1970 and then was named to his first pastorate in St. John Vianney Parish, Colonia, in December of that year. In September, 1971, Bishop Ahr named him pastor of Blessed Sacrament (now Blessed Sacrament-Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd) Parish, Trenton, and director of the diocesan ecumenical commission shortly thereafter.

As commission chairman, he worked tirelessly to foster ecumenical cooperation with major events and grassroots efforts. Examples of those efforts include a Mass in the Princeton University Chapel marking the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism in November, 1974. Closer to home he worked tirelessly to nurture good relations between Lutheran and Catholic congregations in the Ocean County area.

A great believer in lifelong education, Msgr. Shenrock went on to pursue post-graduate studies in Princeton Theological Seminary, the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, and the Ecumenical Institute of Tantur in Jerusalem.

On Sept. 19, 1978, Pope John Paul I named Msgr. Shenrock an Honorary Prelate to His Holiness with the title of Reverend Monsignor.  In 1986, he was named by Bishop John C. Reiss to serve as diocesan vicar for social services, another ministry dear to his heart. In January, 1987, he was named to his third pastorate of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish. In 1992, when Bishop Edward U. Kmiec left the Trenton Diocese to assume the leadership of the Diocese of Nashville, Bishop Reiss asked Msgr. Shenrock to assume Bishop Kmiec’s role as chairman of the diocesan Faith in Service campaign. In 1993, Msgr. Shenrock was honored by Pope John Paul II with the title of Protonotary Apostolic.

Msgr. Shenrock’s desire to help those in need and promote social justice, extended on a global level which led to his having his parish develop a relationship with the largely impoverished Diocese of St. John’s Basseterre in Antigua and its chief shepherd, Bishop Donald J. Reece.

Msgr. Shenrock’s passion for Catholic history led to his 1990 appointment by Bishop Reiss to the New Jersey Catholic Records Commission. He also served as the archivist of the Diocese and edited Upon This Rock, a comprehensive history of the Diocese, in 1993.

As a writer, he has also contributed books on priests who sacrificed their lives in service to the Church. No Greater Love is the story of Father John P. Wessel who was killed while trying to help a distraught Vietnam veteran. Father Wessel was serving with Msgr. Shenrock at St. Joseph Parish, Toms River, at the time of his death.

Another book, Three Good Shepherds, told the stories of Msgr. Richard T. Crean who died along with two housekeepers in the fire that ravaged St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral in 1956; Father Francis X. Donovan, who gave his life while serving as a missionary in South America, and Father Wessel.

Among other honors and privileges bestowed on Msgr. Shenrock included his having an opportunity to greet Mother Teresa of Calcutta at the 1976 Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia, attend an audience with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in Rome in 1979, and being invested as a Knight of the Equestrian of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre in 1999.

Msgr. Shenrock will be buried in St. Joseph Cemetery, Toms River.


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