In order to minister to the spiritual needs of the Catholic Community in Princeton, missionaries journeyed from New York, New Brunswick and Philadelphia for religious services which formed the first chapter in the history of St. Paul Parish. Early records reveal that the Reverend Anthony Schmidt celebrated Mass in the home of one of the faithful as early as 1795, followed by Father LaGrange, who made his last visit to this town in 1799. After the death of Father Schmidt in 1807, Father Malou, a missionary, and Father Hugh McGuire, Pastor of St. Peter Parish in New Brunswick, frequently visited Catholics in Princeton. Father John Rogers later offered Mass in an old farm house occupied by James Boyle, and this location may be called the first Mission Church in Princeton.
In 1850 the Catholic Community in Princeton assumed a more definite form, when the Reverend John Scollard was appointed by Archbishop John J. Hughes of New York as the first resident Pastor of Saint Paul Parish. Since Boyle’s farm house proved too small for his growing congregation, Father Scollard immediately rented Cook’s Hall on Nassau Street for services, and later acquired land on what was known as Campbell’s Tract. On this tract, he oversaw the construction of a modest church building with a school in the basement and a small rectory at 182 Nassau Street.
Father Scollard continued the establishment of the new parish until 1857, when the Reverend Alfred Young, a graduate of Princeton College, Class of 1848, was appointed by Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley of Newark. The new pastor sold the old property and acquired the present site of Saint Paul Parish at 214 Nassau Street, where he erected a small frame church and plotted the cemetery. When he joined the Paulist Fathers in 1861, he was succeeded by the Reverend James John Joseph O’Donnell, who began to lay plans for a new church building.
In 1867, Father Thomas R. Moran began a thirty-year tenure as pastor. Under his guidance the old church and rectory were constructed of brick. He also provided a school and convent, and in 1878 he brought the Sisters of Mercy to Princeton. In recognition of his work, Father Moran was named monsignor in 1892 and appointed Vicar General of the Diocese of Trenton in 1895.
From 1900 to 1925, five pastors, the Reverends Robert Emmet Burke, Walter T. Leahy, William J. Fitzgerald, Dennis S. Kelly and Michael H. Callahan, served St. Paul’s and each made his own additions to the church building. In 1925, the Reverend Patrick J. Clune was appointed pastor of St. Paul Parish. He made the next significant physical addition to parish grounds when he constructed the present school building before his retirement in 1935. Father Edward A. McAndrews, Reverend John Meerwald and the Reverend John F. Walsh served the parish from Father Clune’s retirement until 1948. In 1945, Fr. Walsh led the community in celebration of St. Paul Parish's 100th Year Anniversary and the 150th Year Anniversary of the Catholic faith in Princeton. He was succeeded by the Reverend Joseph Keenan as Administrator and soon after in 1950, the Reverend Edward C. Henry was appointed pastor. Under his leadership, the present convent, rectory and church were built. The church was formally blessed and dedicated on March 24, 1957. During this period, Father Henry introduced the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. In recognition to his untiring devotion to the Church and St. Paul Parish, he was named Monsignor.
The Right Reverend Monsignor John J. Endebrock was appointed pastor of St. Paul Parish on June 19, 1970. He continued to implement the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and welcomed deacons to serve the parish community. He established the Deacon Internship Program in 1970. Five deacons completed their seminary formation at St. Paul Parish and St. James Mission in Rocky Hill. Four of these men were ordained priests for the Diocese of Trenton. Under Msgr. Endebrock’s guidance, the first Parish Council was formed. He resigned as pastor in 1979 after nine years of service and devotion to the parishioners and societies of St. Paul Parish. He was succeeded by Reverend Evasio DeMarcellis. Like his predecessors, Fr. DeMarcellis strengthened the religious education of our children and greatly encouraged the expansion of parish ministries. He oversaw the establishment of two new parishes, st. DAvid the King Parish in West Windsor and Queenship of Mary Parish in Plainsboro, which together with St. James Mission in Rocky Hill were transeferred to the newly-formed Diocese of Metuchen. He also began work on an addition to St. Paul’s School.
In 1995, the parish celebrated its 150th Anniversary and the 200th Anniversary of the Catholic Foundation in Princeton. In 1997, our beloved Fr. “D” died and was succeeded by Monsignor Walter E. Nolan. Msgr. Nolan oversaw the completion of the school addition, and set out to expand the parish’s outreach, encouraging new ministries and organizations, rejuvenating existing ones. Msgr. Nolan also initiated and oversaw the renovation of the basement of the church into a multi-use space, with offices, meeting rooms, kitchen and auditorium with AV facilities. Msgr. Nolan retired in June 2011, after 14 years of faithful service to the parish, and was succeeded by our current pastor, Monsignor Joseph N. Rosie.