The Rev. Loren J. Werth came to Manhattan on July 1, 1981 as the first pastor of St. Thomas More Parish, assigned to serve the city’s expanding western neighborhoods. The following Sunday, 190 founding-families gathered for their first Mass in the meadow that would become the site of St. Thomas More Church.
"We are the church" noted Pastoral Associate Sr. Paulette Hake, "we only lack a building!" In the busy months that followed, Mass was celebrated at four Manhattan locations while parishioners got to know each other by serving on steering committees and fund drives. Supporting ministries and organizations were initiated and the future rectory decorated. Fr. Werth insisted that each stage of church development involve its congregation and urged parish members to recite the ‘Memorare’ each morning as work progressed.
The first Parish Center, ‘Werth Hall’ was dedicated by Bishop Daniel Kucera on Jan 9, 1983. Mass was celebrated in its auditorium for seven years until the new Sanctuary was dedicated by Bishop George K. Fitzsimons on Sept. 30, 1990. In the ground beneath its altar is earth from hundreds of gardens, brought by parishioners to better plant their roots in a new faith community. Dedicated that same year, the Hake Education Wing provided classrooms for a parish numbering 530 families.
With 970 families now registered, building programs have continued to better meet the educational and social needs. The Werth Office Complex, an expanded administrative center, and the St. Thomas More Parish Commons were dedicated by Bishop Paul Coakley on Oct. 26, 2008. The Commons area includes a gym/auditorium, professional kitchen, meeting room, and library. A new rectory was built to accommodate the priests of the parish in 2015.
In addition to Fr. Werth, three priests have shepherded the parish through its growing years: Rev. Kerry Ninemire, 1991-1995; Rev. Mel Long, 1995-2002; Rev. Don Zimmerman, 2002-2015. Retired Pastor Fr. Werth, Deacons Buzz Harris and Larry Erpelding, and a professional support staff insure that the energies of this church continue undiminished.