Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio

dimarzioIt was announced on June 8, 1999 that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, 54, Auxiliary Bishop of Newark, had been appointed sixth bishop of Camden by Pope John Paul II.  The canonical possession would be on July 21 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and the installation at St. Agnes Church on July 22.

Bishop DiMarzio assumed a high-profile role in speaking out for immigrants and refugees.  As chairman of the Bishops Committee on Migration, he testified before Congress about the effects of mandatory deportation and mandatory detention provisions of a 1996 immigration law. While he was director of the USCC Migration and Refugee Services Office, he created the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, known as CLINIC, a legal services corporation through which dioceses offer new immigrants help in resettling.

He also turned his attention to the needs of the local church in South Jersey. In response to the rapid growth in Catholic population in Atlantic County, Bishop DiMarzio established St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Egg Harbor Township.  A new parish for all Hispanics in Vineland, Immaculate Heart of Mary (Immaculada Corazon de Maria), was founded in December at the former site of the Spanish Catholic Center.

In addition, the Vicariate for Pastoral Planning, with the collaboration of the Vicariate for Pastoral Life, developed a pastoral plan for meeting the needs of the approximately 110,000 Hispanics in the South Jersey area.  To meet the needs of Hispanic workers who come to the United States on a temporary basis to work in the agricultural industry, an annual ‘œMass in the Fields is celebrated for the workers.

The Korean communities of the diocese benefited from the establishment of two missions to serve their spiritual needs and established individual missions at Holy Rosary Parish in Cherry Hill, and St. Andrew Kim Korean Catholic Mission in Pleasantville.  Vietnamese, Haitian, Filipino and Polish apostolates were also established. Indeed, the high participation in the dioceses Pentecost multi-cultural events is a joyful tribute and celebration of the richness in diversity of the diocese, and a sign of the dioceses openness to welcoming the stranger.

Pastoral Planning and Research

Under Bishop DiMarzio’s leadership, new emphasis was placed on pastoral planning at the parish and diocesan levels, revitalizing structures of colloboration, including parish and diocesan pastoral councils. In his third pastoral letter, Laity in the New Millennium, Bishop DiMarzio noted that these structures of collaboration exist so the laity may ‘œtake their rightful place not only in the world, their primary calling, but also in the Church community where they can bring lay experience to bear on the Church’s mission of evangelization.

Citing the importance of Catholic schools as “value-centered education,” which not only strives for academic excellence, but also excellence in virtue, Bishop DiMarzio established a scholarship fund for low-income families who wish to send their children to Catholic schools.  He also oversaw the dedication of new elementary schools, Bishop McHugh Regional Catholic School of Dennis Township, which opened in September 2000, and Guardian Angels Regional School in Gibbstown, which opened in September 2001. Regionalization plans also helped to alleviate situations of declining enrollment at several elementary schools.

Permanent Deacons

The last four years also saw a reorganization and strengthening of the Permanent Diaconate with new emphasis placed on recruitment and training of candidates for future ministry.  Currently there are 124 permanent deacons (eight of which are in ministry outside the diocese) and 51 in formation.

Programs to encourage vocations to priesthood and religious life also received major attention.  Nazareth House at the former convent at Camden Catholic High School was founded by Bishop DiMarzio as a place for young men to consider a priestly or religious vocation.  The residents receive support and spiritual direction, and engage in common prayer.

Bishop’s Pastoral Letter for Social Mission

In March 2001,  Bishop DiMarzio published his pastoral letter, ‘œThe Church’s Social Mission in the New Century.  In it, he called for a clearer communication of the Church’s social mission as a response to common human dignity elevated by the Incarnation; the development of a culture of life to upgrade respect for human life from conception to natural death and to promote human rights; a restoration of family as the fundamental cell of society and as the ‘œdomestic church; firm adherence to the sanctity of the marriage bond between husband and wife as the foundation for family; sustenance, housing and health care, especially for the needy; job opportunities for the unemployed, for permanent residents and immigrants; welcome of the newcomers and protection of their rights, especially reunification of family; substance abuse, emotional disturbance and mental illness; racism and the oppression of minorities; moral indifference of a large segment of the U.S. population; the suburban/urban divide in our Church with the obstacle and opportunities inherent in that situation.

Enhancement of the dignity of women as a constitutive element of justice and their special role in the Church and society; encouragement and utilization of government support of faith-based initiatives and advocacy of government responsibility in the struggle against poverty.

Human Services

Under Bishop DiMarzio, the Vicariate for Human Services was created and now incorporates Catholic Charities, the Division of Health Services and the Division of Housing Services.  A new Human Services Center, housing the offices of the Vicariate, was blessed and dedicated on September 16, 2003 at the renovated site of the former diocesan offices on Haddon Avenue.  Meanwhile, renovations at St. Pius X Retreat House and a new Newman Center at Stockton State College were completed under Bishop DiMarzio.

The parishes of the diocese also initiated a major Stewardship program which celebrates the universal call to holiness amongst the people of God in Camden by being generous with one’s time, talent and treasures.

Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs

The Bishop’s spiritual concerns, however, reached beyond the diocese’s own parishes and schools to include other faith communities. Joining in the celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Bishop addressed the local Jewish community of Temple Emmanuel in Cherry Hill, calling both faith communities to mutual respect and understanding.  The Bishop presided at an ecumenical prayer service with the Lutheran community to celebrate the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification which was signed by Catholics and Lutherans in Augsburg, Germany.

He also participated in services at Temple Beth El Synagogue in Margate City with the local Jewish community.  The establishment of the Catholic-Jewish Commission was a real sign of growth in interreligious affairs.  It allows both faiths to speak at once on any issue where religious leaders must speak with one voice. The Catholic-Jewish Institute continues, and participants increase in the courses. Bishop DiMarzio was installed as seventh bishop of Brooklyn on October 3, 2003.