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    From MLB All-Stars to rookie-ball newbies, N.J. alums are all over pro ball

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    Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad apologized on Thursday, a day after a dash cam video of her insulting the South Orange Police Chief went viral. Watch video

    The school board member caught on camera calling a police chief a "skinhead" after she was pulled over for speeding, apologized on Thursday for what she called her "irrational response" and "uncharacteristic behavior."

    Stephanie Lawson MuhammadSouth Orange-Maplewood School Board member Stephanie Lawson Muhammad during a public meeting.

    Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad, a South Orange-Maplewood School Board member, can be heard in an April 27 dash cam video using profanity and arguing about having to go to court when she was ticketed by a South Orange police officer as she dropped off her kid at school.

    "I had an irrational response to being stopped for a traffic violation. I allowed my emotions to overwhelm me that morning, and I fell short of the standards to which I hold myself," Lawson-Muhammad said in a statement. 

    "Like many parents, I was trying to get my children to their schools on time. When the police officer stopped me, I was upset, frustrated, and uncharacteristically out of sorts. And to my benefit, the officer did not react to my behavior. The officer kept an even tone in our interaction and performed his job well under the circumstances. I thank him for his patience."

    Lawson-Muhammad said she personally apologized to South Orange Police Chief Kyle Kroll. 

    On the video, obtained from police by NJ Advance Media, Lawson-Muhammad is heard telling the officer she will "call Sheena ... and your skinhead cop chief, too," apparently referencing South Orange Village President Sheena Collum and Chief Kroll. 

    "He is not the person I made him out to be," Lawson-Muhammad, who is black, said of Kroll. "He sincerely accepted my apology and agrees that we will work together to help heal our community. We have begun plans to work with community stakeholders to build stronger bonds and greater trust for the entire community."

    Kroll previously declined to comment. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday after Lawson-Muhammad issued her statement. 

    Lawson-Muhammad has also served on the Board of Trustees for Bloomfield College since 2013. The college declined to comment. 

    Board president Elizabeth Baker said she encouraged Lawson-Muhammad to work with Kroll to "repair the harms that her statements caused."

    "This meeting reflects the beginning of a difficult, restorative dialogue. Such a dialogue takes personal courage and a shared commitment to our community," Baker said in a statement.

    Walter Fields, chairman of the Black Parents Workshop that filed a federal lawsuit against the district for segregating students, has called for Lawson-Muhammad's resignation. Fields said the board member had used her "civic privilege" during a routine traffic stop. 

    "The officer should be commended for his professionalism, demeanor and the respect he showed a citizen who immediately attempted to use her position to intimidate him," Fields wrote in a letter to Baker on May 16. "There are real incidents of police misconduct. This was not one of them."

    He also called for the resignation of any board member who was aware of the April incident and withheld the information from the public. 

    In her statement, Baker said she was notified of the traffic stop by the village administrator and "acted in consultation with the school district's counsel to ensure adherence to all legal and ethical obligations." It's not clear when Baker learned of the traffic stop. 

    Staff writer Jessica Mazzola contributed to this report. 

    Karen Yi may be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or on Facebook

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    Keep those umbrellas and rain coats handy. More rain is on the way, and it could be heavy the next few days, with most of New Jersey under a flood watch.

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    Edwin Hernandez's next court appearance is scheduled for June

    A Newark man has been charged with multiple crimes following his escape from police custody Monday. He was later captured at Newark Penn Station.

    According to the Essex County Prosecutor's Office, Edwin Hernandez, 26, faces  new charges third-degree escape, fourth-degree hindering apprehension, obstruction, resisting and contempt of court as a result of his attempted getaway.

    edwin-hernandez.jpgEdwin Hernandez 

    Hernandez entered a not guilty plea to the charges on Wednesday and his next court appearance is scheduled for June 12. 

    Newark police continue to decline to elaborate on how Hernandez escaped from their custody. 

    Originally, Hernandez was in court on charges of selling drugs on school property, drug possession, resisting arrest and for several outstanding warrants, police said.

    Taylor Tiamoyo Harris may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ladytiamoyoFind on Facebook 

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    Lange was due to be sentenced in Superior Court after pleading guilty to heroin possession. The comedian, who has long struggled with drug addiction, is being treated for complications of diabetes, his lawyer says.

    Artie Lange's sentencing on drug charges has been pushed back again because the comedian is still in the hospital getting treatment for diabetes. 

    Lange, 50, pleaded guilty to heroin possession in December and was due to appear in state Superior Court in Essex County on Friday, but his lawyer requested an adjournment because of his condition. 

    "He is still dealing with sinus infection and diabetes issues," says Lange's lawyer, Frank Arleo. 

    Lange, a Livingston native who grew up in Union Township and lives in Hoboken, has been in the hospital since at least May 10, when he canceled a show at Scotty's Pub and Comedy Cove in Springfield. On Monday, the executive producer of "The Artie and Anthony Show," his podcast with Anthony Cumia, tweeted that Lange would no longer be a part of the show.

    The comedian was charged with drug possession after State Police stopped him on the Garden State Parkway during a plainclothes surveillance operation in May of 2017.

    Police said they saw Lange drive erratically away from a McDonald's parking lot in Bloomfield and found a bag of heroin and straw in his lap. Lange was charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance and drug paraphernalia.

    After he was arrested for missing a court date, Lange pleaded guilty to possession of 81 decks of heroin (bags worth about $10 each).

    This is not the first time he planned to show up in court and had to cancel because he was in the hospital. Lange had said he would appear in Superior Court on Feb. 23, but didn't make it because he had to be hospitalized for blood sugar and blood pressure issues. He had a pre-sentence interview on March 23. 

    "I saw the judge who is very fair," he tweeted at the time. "She said I looked better! The interview went well. So I'm praying for probation but I will respectfully do what they tell me to do!"

    Lange, who completed a stint in drug rehab earlier this year, has long struggled with drug addiction

    In March of 2017, just two months before police stopped him on the Parkway, police allegedly found Lange with heroin, cocaine and drug paraphernalia in his building's parking garage. 

    The comedian's battles with addiction were the subject of an episode of the latest season of the HBO series "Crashing," in which Lange plays a crotchety sidekick and veteran stand-up comic opposite an amateur comedian played by Pete Holmes.

    Lange, who should also be appearing in the show's third season, has said that the episode was being considered for submission to the Emmys. 

    Keith Maresca, program director for Compound Media, tweeted on Monday that Lange's show with network founder Anthony Cumia, "The Artie and Anthony Show," of which he is an executive producer, would be reverting back to "The Cumia Show," ostensibly because Lange hasn't been able to show up to carry out his hosting duties. 

    He said he had visited Lange and that he was "in good spirits and is going to work on his health and getting better." 

    Maresca tweeted more about Lange on Wednesday, saying he was at a loss for how to help the comedian.

    "I don't know what it's going to take to pull him out of this horrible tailspin he's in," he said. "It's been so hard watching it get worse everyday."

    Like his history with drugs, Lange's health problems often figure in his act. He once joked that his blood sugar was "Babe Ruth's lifetime slugging percentage."

    On May 6, Lange, who canceled a show in Ohio last year because of blood sugar spikes, tweeted a photo of a plate of pizza and what appeared to be a cup of Coca-Cola:

    "You sent Yoga videos to a guy who's currently calling this breakfast," he said. 

    Lange is next scheduled to perform at Scotty's Pub in Springfield on May 31 and at the Stress Factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut on June 14, 15 and 16. 

    "He's got to get his health in order," said Laurielle Nagel, manager at Comedy Cove, after the comedian canceled his show there last week. 

    Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @AmyKup or on Facebook.


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    Calling the chief a skinhead? Probably not a good idea. Flashing your business cards and name dropping? Not so smart either.

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    Cindy jumped into her rescuer's car and started to purr.

    ex0520pet.jpgCindy Lou Who 

    BELLEVILLE -- Cindy Lou Who is an adult female cat in the care of Dap's Animals.

    Found as a stray in East Orange, she jumped into her rescuer's car and started to purr.

    Cindy has been described by volunteers as a "mellow, very sweet girl who likes to be held." She has been spayed, is FIV/FeLV negative and up-to-date on shots.

    For more information on Cindy Lou Who and other adoptable pets, call 973-902-4763 or email Dap's Animals is a volunteer foster/rescue organization currently caring for 45 animals. For information on other animals adoptable through Dap's, go to

    Shelters interested in placing a pet in the Paw Print adoption column or submitting news should call 973-836-4922 or email

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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    These luxury homes include amenities such as indoor pools, 4,000-bottle wine cellars and banquet-sized dining halls.

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    BLOOMFIELD -- On May 22, the Historical Society of Bloomfield will present a program titled "The International Arms & Fuze Company" by lifetime Bloomfield resident Dean Cole at the Bloomfield Civic Center. At its peak, the company employed 10,000 workers, including more than 4,000 women, who worked day and night to produce millions of artillery shells and fuses for the...

    BLOOMFIELD -- On May 22, the Historical Society of Bloomfield will present a program titled "The International Arms & Fuze Company" by lifetime Bloomfield resident Dean Cole at the Bloomfield Civic Center.

    At its peak, the company employed 10,000 workers, including more than 4,000 women, who worked day and night to produce millions of artillery shells and fuses for the allied war effort in World War I.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    The free program will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the civic center located at 84 Broad St. For more information, email or call 973-743-8844.

    If you would like to share a photo that provides a glimpse of history in your community, please call 973-836-4922 or send an email to And, check out more glimpses of history in our online galleries on

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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    Why Devils goalie Cory Schneider listed his Short Hills home on the market on Wednesday. Watch video

    Cory Schneider isn't going anywhere.

    The Devils goalie listed his Short Hills home on the market on Wednesday, but he and his family are moving to another house in the area, according to a source familiar with the move.

    Schneider, and his wife, Jill, bought their current home in 2015 for just over $2.8 million. The house is currently on the market for $2.875 million.

    According to property records, Schneider's current home was last assessed at $2.98 million. Property taxes for the home were $47,560 in 2017.

    Schneider selling N.J. home (PHOTOS)

    Schneider and his family typically spend their summers in his native Massachusetts. They have two children.

    The goalie still has four years left on the seven-year, $42 million contract he signed with the Devils during July of 2014. The deal pays him $6 million annually through the 2021-22 season and includes a no-trade clause.

    Through his five seasons with the Devils, Schneider has a 106-114-44 record with a 2.41 GAA and a .917 save percentage.

    He struggled in 2017-18, going 17-6-6 with a 2.93 GAA and .907 save percentage, but following the season, he underwent surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left hip. The injury lingered throughout the season. He could miss part of training camp and the start of the 2018-19 season as a result of the surgery.

    He did save some of his best play for his first postseason games in a Devils uniform. In four postseason games, Schneider posted a 1.78 GAA and .950 save percentage. He did go 1-2 in his three starts, and the Devils were eliminated in five games by the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

    Chris Ryan may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ChrisRyan_NJ. Find Devils on Facebook.


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    More than 150 county seniors attended the event.

    ex0527senior.jpgSeated, Joe Swiney and, from left, Dawn Romano, Michael Maiorano, Ann Petti, Freeholder Patricia Sebold and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr. at the 43rd annual Senior Citizen Luncheon in Belleville on May 10. 

    BELLEVILLE -- Six Essex County residents were presented with Outstanding Senior Citizen awards at the 43rd annual Essex County Senior Citizens Luncheon at the Chandelier in Belleville on May 10.

    More than 150 county seniors attended the event where members of Essex County's various senior clubs were recognized for their dedication and commitment.

    The honorees were: Peter Sabio of the Branch Brook Cherry Blossom Club, Dawn Romano and Ann Petti of the Independence Park Monday Club, Michael Swiney of the North Ward Center's Casa Israel, Michael Maiorano of the Watsessing Park Senior Cluub and Sr. Anne Marie Crowley, who was named the Roseland Senior Citizen of the Year.

    The annual awards program is sponsored by the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs. For more information, go to

    To submit news for the Senior Spotlight column, please call 973-836-4922 or email

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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    A Bergen County Superior Court judge sentenced Peter Live to five years in prison.

    A real estate agent who pocketed clients' down payments has been sent to prison and was ordered to pay the money.

    Screen Shot 2017-10-07 at 3.19.02 PM.pngPeter Live 

    According to court documents, Peter Live, 42, of Newark was convicted on second-degree theft and was sentenced to five years in prison on May 4. He pleaded guilty in February. 

    In addition to jail time, Live was ordered to pay back approximately $348,000 in restitution.

    Live was caught in his scheme after five of his clients from his Fort Lee-based real estate company made complaints with the Fort Lee Police between Dec. 2016 and June 2017.

    The clients said they made down payments for real estate purchases to Live.

    Instead of putting the money in escrow, he kept it and and never completing any of the real estate transactions, authorities said.

    Taylor Tiamoyo Harris may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ladytiamoyo.

    Find on Facebook  


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    Who moves on to the next round of the 2018 state tournament.

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    The suspects fled on foot, and there's no evidence any were hit by the gunfire, officials said.

    An off-duty Newark police officer trying to get a bite to eat at a Burger King in Newark Thursday ended up foiling a carjacking and shooting his gun at several suspects, who remain at large.

    Essex County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Fennelly said there is no evidence that any of the males were hit by the gunfire, and no one was injured in the incident.

    Fennelly said the officer was waiting in the drive-through line at the Burger King at the intersection of Broadway, Broad and Clay streets just after 10 p.m. when he observed what he believed was an attempted carjacking in the parking lot.

    He got out of his vehicle, identified himself as a police officer and tried to intervene, Fennelly said.

    "In the course of trying to stop the carjacking and apprehend the suspects, he discharged his firearm," Fennelly said. 

    The males fled on foot and despite a police search of the area, they were not found. There were at least three involved, he said.

    Fennelly said that among the things that remain under investigation is whether the suspects were armed and if there was any kind of struggle with the officer.

    Under the Attorney General's Office's guidelines on use of force, officers can fire at a suspect to protect others or themselves from "imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm."

    Deadly force can only be used on a fleeing suspect when it won't endanger bystanders and when the officer believes the person attempted to or did cause bodily harm, or would if he or she escaped.

    Also in accordance with that policy, the Essex County Prosecutor's Office is investigating the officer's use of deadly force, even though no one was harmed. 

    Officers are also generally placed on paid leave during such investigations, but Fennelly said he did not know if the unnamed officer was on leave.

    Newark Police Spokeswoman Catherine Adams said she also did not have that information Friday.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find on Facebook.

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    Michael P. Knight must also register as a sex offender and will be on parole supervision for the rest of his life.

    A man who admitted to beating and attempting to rape a Rutgers University student was sentenced to 22 years in prison on Friday.

    Michael P. Knight, 40, of Newark, pleaded guilty to kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault in December 2017. 

    michael-knight-d7f2aaca37bab2d9.jpgMichael P. Knight. 

    On May 4, 2016, around 3:30 a.m., Knight followed a female student and attacked her on the New Brunswick campus, near College Avenue and Seminary Place, the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office said.

    He hit the woman in the head, and dragged her to the side of a building before sexually assaulting her. A group intervened and Knight fled, saying he had a gun and would shoot a man in the group who tried to chase him.

    Knight turned himself in after a photo of him was released to the public.

    Under the No Early Release Act, Knight will have to serve 85-percent of his term before he can be released on parole. Superior Court Judge Joseph Paone, who sentenced Knight, also ordered that Knight register as a sex offender and be subjected to parole supervision for life.

    Joe Brandt can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. 


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    A new documentary contains allegations that soul singer Dee Dee Warwick abused both Whitney Houston and her brother. Dee Dee, who died in 2008, performed in a group with her sister, Dionne Warwick, and had hits of her own as a solo artist.

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    Four finalists are vying to lead Newark public schools as its new superintendent.

    The four candidates seeking to lead Newark's public schools made their pitch to the public on Friday night, each angling to become the first schools superintendent picked by the local school board in 22 years. 

    Earlier this year, the state ended its control of Newark schools, returning the power to hire and fire the schools chief back to the locally-elected board. A national search netted four finalists, including two Newarkers who work in the school district. 

    The finalists include Newark Interim Superintendent Robert Gregory, Assistant Superintendent Roger Leon, Chief of Schools for Nashville Public Schools Sito Narcisse and former CEO of Baltimore Schools Andres A. Alonso.

    "The future is here and Newark's renaissance is before us," Gregory said during the forum at Science Park High School. "We must move from admiring problems to solving them. Our vision for our schools must be inclusive and remain grounded in reality."

    Each of the candidates was allowed 30 minutes to speak. Members of the audience were not allowed to ask questions but it was clear which way the crowd leaned. 

    Both Gregory and Assistant Superintendent Roger Leon were welcomed with loud cheers and several nods in agreement throughout their speeches. Gregory and Leon emphasized their roots in the community -- and commitment to the city's children.

    Leon was greeted with a roar even before he took to the podium. 

    "The journey of Newark has been my journey," Leon, a 25-year veteran of the district, said. "From birth until now, I have had the privilege of experiencing Newark through its many transitions and moments of strengths as well as challenges."

    The district hired Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates (HYA) as the search firm that created a profile for the type of superintendent the community wanted. The firm gathered information from interviews with stakeholders and community survey responses before presenting a list of candidates to a search committee. 

    Three board members, three Newark leaders jointly selected by the mayor and education commissioner, and one member appointed by the commissioner sat on the search committee and paired down the list of applicants to four. 

    "If I become the superintendent of Newark, my goal is to make sure we are tapping into people from Newark," said Sito Narcisse, Chief of Schools for Nashville Schools. "I tell folks all the time I will not be coming to Newark and bringing 14,000 people with me."

    The son of Haitian immigrants, Narcisse is the second in command in Nashville, helping oversee all 169 schools in the district. 

    "I understand that there is a lot of pain and hurt but we will get over it and we will build together on the work," Narcisse said.

    Former CEO of Baltimore Schools Andres A. Alonso previously taught in Newark for 12 years.

    "I want to come full circle, this I feel is the job for me and I think that I could help the system immensely," Alonso said. "I will not be a superintendent that comes and leaves. This is family for me. And it will be about the kids of Newark."

    The School Board will interview each of the candidates on Saturday before making a final selection by May 31. 

    The new superintendent will lead the city's 64 public schools starting July 1.

    More on the candidates:

    Sito Narcisse has worked as a teacher, principal, assistant superintendent and helped open schools. As the chief of schools in Nashville, Narcisse said he helped engage parents at the district's 169 schools. 

    "One of the things I can assure you is family involvement will be very, very important and one of the reasons why is that you cannot do this work without parents," he said. 

    Narcisse said it was also important for the community to understand where the district was spending its money. "Community matters, you cannot do anything without the community," he said. 

    Andres A. Alonso was born in Cuba and arrived in the U.S. when he was 12 years old. He attended middle and high school in Union City. He served as a deputy chancellor at New York City public schools and for six years led the Baltimore school district. But Alonso credits his 12 years teaching in Newark as the most influential.

    "This is the job I've always wanted," he said. "I say that Newark changed my moral compass."

    Alonso said he met twice with then-mayor Cory Booker in 2012 about the possibility of becoming the superintendent but ultimately walked away. He said he knew of "the extraordinary distrust I experienced while teaching" and didn't want to just implement a blueprint.

    "The work of improving schools in Newark has to be of Newark, communities need to believe in what happens in the process of change," Alonso said. 

    Robert Gregory is a third generation Newarker who followed in the footsteps of his father -- also an educator. Gregory said he still carries the words a district leader told him when he was a first-year teacher trying to get his class under control. 

    Robert Gregory.JPGDeputy Superintendent Robert Gregory in Broad Street in Newark on January 24, 2018. (Alexandra Pais | For NJ Advance Media)

    "'Young Gregory, no one rises to low expectations,'" Gregory recalled the administrator telling him. "When we invest in people and show them we care, and organize them around clear goals and high expectations, we get results."

    Gregory was the founding principal of American History High School and later worked as the district's assistant superintendent overseeing high schools. He was appointed Interim Superintendent on Feb. 1 after state-appointed Superintendent Christopher Cerf resigned. 

    "I have been preparing my entire life for this moment to arrive," Gregory said. 

    Roger Leon graduated from Science Park High and Hawkins Elementary School and has worked in the district for 25 years. 

    "I have lived the full spectrum of the city ... I have lived through what it was, struggled and fought through it became and will continue to implement what it has the potential to become," Leon said. 

    He's served as the assistant superintendent for 10 years. During his presentation Friday, Leon broke at times into Spanish and even sign language. 

    "I will be a proficient and influential agent of change because anything short of that is unacceptable," Leon said. 

    Karen Yi may be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or on Facebook

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    Just how segregated are New Jersey's schools? Irvington's study body is 0.3 percent white.

    A lawsuit filed last week calls for the desegregation of New Jersey schools, a potentially game-changing legal challenge for minority students across the state. 

    But how segregated are the state's schools?

    Just 0.3 percent of the more than 6,700 students in Irvington Public Schools are white, making it the most non-white school district in the state, according to data from the nonprofit Center on Diversity and Equality in Education

    And that's far from the only example of students of color being isolated. 

    About 66 percent of New Jersey's African American students and 62 percent of its Latino students attend schools that are more than 75 percent non-white, according to the lawsuit.

    While the segregation is not mandatory -- it stems from affordable housing issues and the high correlation between race and socioeconomic status -- the lawsuit argues de facto segregation is unconstitutional in New Jersey based on prior state Supreme Court rulings. 

    The suit asks for the state to come up with desegregation plans for districts like Irvington and others. The goal isn't to move white students into existing urban districts but to create new integrated schools or districts and help more minority students move into suburban districts. 

    To see the 25 schools districts with the fewest white students, check out the graphic below. These are just a few of the examples of segregated schools and do not include charter schools, vocational-technical schools or other non-traditional districts. 

    Carla Astudillo may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @carla_astudi. Find her on Facebook.

    Adam Clark may be reached at Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClarkFind on Facebook


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    Life in monastery that runs prep school hasn't changed in 150 years Watch video

    As he walked through the halls of St. Benedict's Prep, Fr. Augustine Curley shook hands with almost every young man coming from the opposite direction. Most times, they extended their hands first. Sometimes, words were exchanged. Sometimes not.

    Everyone was hurrying somewhere, and some of the boys were not in uniform, as they were drilling for the annual hike along the Appalachian Trail.

    Standing in line at a water fountain was a little African-American girl with braids and beads in her hair. She was wearing the colors of the school, a maroon sweater with a gray and maroon plaid, pleated skirt.

    Her school badge didn't say St. Benedict's. It said St. Mary's School, which was absorbed by the St. Benedict's several years ago, then more recently moved into the main school building on Martin Luther King Boulevard.

    She looked inquisitively at Curley, a man with a round, happy red face, long white beard and a uniform of his own. Santa doesn't wear a long black gown, she might have been thinking.

    Curley, one of the Benedictine monks that run the school, looked at the girl with the same glancing curiosity.

    "I just can't get used to it," he said, with a laugh. "The other night at our gala, the girls were there greeting our visitors and I had to take a second to remember they were here."

    In some ways, this small anecdote captures the story of St. Benedict's Prep as it celebrates its 150th anniversary. It's a story of adaptation and connectivity - and it's been that way from the start.

    "The first monks were sent here to make connections between the German and Irish immigrants, who weren't getting along," said Fr. Edwin Leahy, the headmaster. 

    MORE: Recent Mark Di Ionno columns 

    The story of Leahy and St. Benedict's has been well-documented in newspaper features (including this space), a book (Thomas McCabe's "Miracle on High Street"), an award-winning documentary ("The Rule," by Newark filmmakers Marylou and Jerome Bongiorno, which aired nationally on PBS) and a "60 Minutes" segment.

    After the 1967 riots, the dramatic shift in Newark's demographics put the school on the ropes. It closed for the 1972-73 school year, but Leahy, a 1963 graduate, re-opened it for 1973-74. He and the other monks in the abbey embraced the shift from a predominately affluent Irish-Catholic student base to the poorer African-American non-Catholic students that surrounded them - all without sacrificing academic and disciplinary standards.

    That is the modern public story.

    The modern private story is the same as when those German monks first arrived in 1857 - 11 years before they opened the school. Today, 17 monks live in the Newark Abbey much as they did then: immersing themselves in prayer and study, finding peace and serenity in their relationship with God and one another.

    Who the Benedictines are and why they remained in Newark all these years takes a little explaining.

    Saint Benedict was the son of Roman aristocrats who spent years in prayerful solitude before establishing a dozen monasteries in Southern Italy.

    His writings - "The Rules of St. Benedict" -- are integral doctrine of Western Europe's Catholic expansion and served as a blueprint for religious life.

    "One of the rules is that we take vows of stability," Leahy said. "We stay put."

    During the Newark's most tumultuous years, some of the monks opted to go to a satellite abbey at Delbarton, but the Benedictine presence in Newark only diminished in number, never spirit.

    "We weren't sure what to make of the community or what they would make of us," said Curley. "Frankly, some of the guys were unnerved. But we stayed and adapted, and the community adapted to us."

    The monks embraced the African-American community, and a new immigrant population of Catholics from Central America and West Africa. Thankfully, their affluent and successful alumni remained on board.

    There is so much respect for, and confidence in, St. Benedict's mission, the school announced a $100 million capital campaign called "Forever Benedict's" at it's gala two weeks ago.

    "It's a big number," Leahy admitted. "We'll see if we make it; but some of our big donors are already very committed."

    In the irony and tumult of American history, it was another violent clash of cultures that brought the Benedictines to Newark in the first place.   

    "In 1854, the original St. Mary's Church (which served the Germans) was attacked and burned by anti-Catholic Americans and Irish Protestants," Curley said.

    Desiring Catholic unity, the bishop of Newark, James Roosevelt Bailey, asked Boniface Wimmer, who came from Bavaria to establish the first Benedictine monastery in the United States in Latrobe, Pa., to send monks from there to Newark.

    "The monks arrived in 1857, the same year the new St. Mary's Church was completed on what was then High Street," Curley said. "When the monks opened St. Benedict's College, the first two students were Irish brothers."

    True to those earliest times, whatever social upheaval or civic chaos is going on outside the walls of the monastery, the monks reserve much of their day to calm and quiet reflection.

    They live simply, taking modest communal meals. They gather three times a day to pray together, before dawn, at noon and before dinner. There is a public daily Mass, said by one of the monks.

    In the group now are five young men who have not yet taken their solemn vows, the last step in becoming a Benedictine "father."

    Brother Pius Lodato is 28 and began living full time in the monastery just after Christmas. He is from Union, a graduate of the combined history program at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers-Newark.

    "I always considered a religious life, with teaching," he said.

    In 2012, he began doing volunteer work in the St. Benedict's archives, which has theological books dating back to 1475. It gave him a taste of the continuity and stability he wanted out of life.

    "It is just a choice," he said. "My family was worried they would never see me again. But it's pretty much a regular life, where your main job is to pray and love God."

    Brother Asiel Rodriguez, at 26, is the youngest man in the monastery. He is from Union City and, too, had a passion for teaching and the desire for a stable life.

    "I was a normal guy," he said. "I was dating. I had my family. I still have them, but also this family."

    Rodriguez admitted it "gets lonely at times but the community will always lift you up."

    During a retreat to St. John's Benedictine Abbey in Minnesota recently, Rodriguez said one Newark monk got up at 3:30 a.m. to make him breakfast and drive him to the airport, and he got six calls from the Newark monks while he was away.

    "I'm a man that needs a community," he said. "This is home."

    In the monks' garden that is surrounded by the brick buildings of the school, church and monastery, Leahy spoke of the significance of being "walled off."

    "It's not to isolate ourselves," he said. "It is to mark what we feel is holy ground. And when people come onto that holy ground, we hope they see what is possible. We hope they see people living in community, believing in something greater than themselves, which is God's love. I think that's it, that's what we stand for. That God is love, and love is unity."

    Curley described the monastery as "a place apart" but just as he said it, sirens could be heard from the city streets outside.

    "It is 'a place apart' yet we are very connected to city, and we have adapted to it," he said. "This is where God put us, so this is where we belong."

    Mark Di Ionno may be reached at Follow The Star-Ledger on Twitter @StarLedger and find us on Facebook. 

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    There were big changes in our first edition of the Top 20 team rankings for championship season.

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