Date of death: 10/9/2008

Saint Meinrad Class: SB 1994

Pastor of Catholic parishes in Newark and Montclair, leader in outreach to the homeless and youth, Reverend John P. Nickas, 68, passed away in Turkey on Oct. 9, 2008. Visiting is Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008, from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Caggiano Memorial, 62 Grove St., Montclair. There will be a vigil prayer service at 6 p.m. on Sunday at the end of the visitation time. Visiting is Monday, Oct. 20, at 9:30 a.m. at St. Aloysius Church in Caldwell followed by a Funeral Mass celebrated by Archbishop John J. Myers at 10:30 a.m. Interment will be at Maryrest Cemetery, Mahwah. Father Nickas was most recently , in 2005, made pastor emeritus of St. Peter Claver Church in Montclair, where he served as pastor from 1996 to 2004, and founded the Healing Mass and belonged to the Health Ministry, Peace Action and Homecall, which provides housing for the poor. He also continued his work as coordinator of the AIDS Ministry for the County of Essex for the Archdiocese of Newark. He was residing in the Msgr. James Kelley Residence in Caldwell since 2004. Father Nickas became pastor of St Rocco’s Church in Newark on Sept. 16, 1977. As a pastor of the church, he began many community outreach programs. He worked with homeless men and families, founding two shelters in 1981 in the City of Newark to help fill the needs of the homeless. He was the director of the homes in 1986. He was the founder of St Rocco’s children center (1981) and founder and executive director of The Learning Experience Alternative High School in Newark. In 1972, he founded St Joseph’s Day Care Center, in Newark, and, in 1973, he founded St Ann’s Community Day Care Center. During his tenure as pastor, St. Rocco’s Church was designated a national historic landmark. Father Nickas was a founding member, board of trustees of Coalition 6, Newark, a group of six Catholic churches that addressed the problems of the community. He served on the boards of the YM-YWCA, Newark,; the Community Nursing Association, East Orange; Urban Housing Corporation, Newark and Project Live, Newark. He was president of the board of trustees of St Ann’s Community Day Care Center, Newark. Father Nickas served as a member of the Coalition for the Homeless, Newark; the Essex County Council for the Homeless, Mental Health Task Force; the Collaboration Group, Newark, and the Central Ward Coalition of Youth. Born in Newark, Father Nickas was raised in Maplewood and was a graduate of Our Lady of Sorrows School in South Orange, Seton Hall Prep and, in 1962, Seton Hall University. He then studied for the priesthood at Immaculate Conception Seminary, Mahwah. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Newark on May 28, 1966, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. He earned a master of divinity degree on pastoral ministry at Immaculate Conception Seminary in 1975 and studied for a doctorate at Drew University. Father Nickas also did graduate work at Seton Hall University, Kean College, Rutgers University, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Arizona. His first pastoral assignment was to the Blessed Sacrament Church in Franklin Lakes, where he spent a year from 1966-1967, and then was assigned to St. Patrick’s Pro-Cathedral, Newark, until 1969. He then became assistant pastor of St. Rocco’s Church. In September of 1970, he was in residence at St. Ann’s Church, Newark, where he served in various capacities until he became pastor of St. Rocco’s Church. He was predeceased by his parents, John and Helen Nickas; a brother, Harry Nickas, and a sister, Virginia Kuhn. He is survived by his sister, Anne Marie McGovern, and 11 nieces and nephews. Donations, in lieu of flowers, to Msgr James Kelley Residence, 247 Bloomfield Ave. Caldwell, N.J., 07006, in his memory, would be appreciated.Published in Star-Ledger from Oct. 18 to Oct. 19, 2008