A Message from the Bishop – Working for racial justice in the Diocese of Camden


Patrick Cashio, a member of the Racial Justice Commission, presents the Many Faces in God’s House Award to Joan Geraci and Maria Mendoza of Gloucester County Special Services School District at the commission’s awards dinner, held Sept. 4 at Adelphia Restaurant, Deptford. The Racial Justice Award was presented to Fair Share Housing Center, and the Racial Justice Lifetime Achievement Award went to Father Kenneth P. Hallahan. Photo by James A. McBride

By Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan

Our diocese is blessed to have a group named the Racial Justice Commission which was established in 2000 by Bishop DiMarzio as the Racial Justice Committee. Their work was continued and encouraged by Bishop Galante. I am grateful for the wisdom of my predecessors to put together and support the work of this group. Its competence is to address from the guidance of church teaching and the perspective of our Catholic tradition racial issues that emerge in the diocese.

Since its establishment the Commission has conducted workshops on racism in our schools and in our parishes, just to mention two of the areas in which they have been consulted and offered advice. Annually, the Commission gathers for a dinner at which a person or a group who have worked on behalf of social justice issues in South Jersey is honored.

I was delighted to join them last week for the annual dinner and award presentation. As I listened to the speeches given by those whose work was recognized, I was both humbled and proud. I felt pride because of the presence of our church in the activities of the groups who received an award. For example, the Gloucester County Special Services School District, represented by Joan Geraci and Maria Mendoza, glowingly described the response they received from our parishes when their need for basic supplies and clothing for the summer education program for the children of the farm workers was made known to some of our parishes. Items such as bathing suits, notebooks, towels, pens were donated in abundance.

The Gloucester Special Services District offers a summer education and recreation program for the children of the migrant workers who labor in the fields of South Jersey during the summer. Our parishioners, when made aware of the needs of these children, responded abundantly with all sorts of supplies. Their generosity knew no limits. They gave without inquiring about the ethnicity, skin color or race of the children. How proud all of us should be of our people to whom the racial differences of these children made no difference to their exercise of Christian charity.

Our church’s teaching on race is very clear. The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses this issue and teaches us that the differences among persons belong to God’s plan and that everyone should look upon his neighbor as another self. At the dinner I was humbled to listen to the stories of those who were recognized by the Racial Justice Commission because they reminded me that I too should work for Racial Justice. Their conviction and commitment made me consider that differences among us open us up to a wider world of peoples with whom we have, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, solidarity.

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