Coming back home to serve in Camden

Coming back home to serve in Camden

“The Call to Stewardship” is a periodic series profiling individuals and families throughout the Diocese of Camden who have shown an inspiring response to the call to Christian stewardship highlighted in 1 Peter 4:10. “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

John Moore accepts a drawing of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Camden, from Father John Fisher, rector.
Photo by James A. McBride

John Moore loves Camden, the city where he was born and where he grew up in a row house on Emerald Street. He fondly remembers days gone by, when neighbors brought out their lawn chairs to sit on the sidewalk and chat on warm nights, and kids ran over to a nearby lot to play baseball.

John moved from the city to the suburbs years ago, but more recently returned with his wife, Janice, to participate once more in the Camden community, this time at the Parish of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

When John and Janice first decided to become involved at the cathedral, they were attracted to the community there and to the ministry of the Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales, who have worked in the Diocese of Camden for 10 years, first at the invitation of Bishop Joseph Galante and continuing today with the blessing of Bishop Dennis Sullivan.

“Once we got there,” says John, “we saw their outreach to the community, which is very diverse.” As he describes the parish, “There are several families that are from outside the city, but it’s primarily a Hispanic community … that is very welcoming.”

The city of Camden may have changed a lot in the decades since he grew up there, but John and Janice quickly felt at home, and John found a multitude of ways to serve and exercise good stewardship. “The need is greater than you would imagine,” he says.

First under Father Matthew Hillyard and now under Father John Fisher, assigned to the cathedral as pastor in July of 2016, John has found numerous ways to help, from heading the parish’s Respect Life Committee with Janice, to scheduling lectors and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, while serving in both roles himself. Janice also serves as an extraordinary minister.

John spent many years as an electrician, so he saw some irony in being called upon to offer carpentry expertise on projects at the parish. For the upper sacristy, at the request of Bishop Sullivan and Father Fisher, John crafted two nine-by-six-foot wooden screens with a fleur de lis pattern, a traditional symbol representing the purity of Mary, the mother of the Christ. The screens have “heightened the aesthetic beauty of the sanctuary,” says Father Fisher.

John and Father Fisher also put their heads together to conceive of a giving tree with a twist: Instead of a traditional green Christmas tree, “Father showed me pictures of a tree made of wood,” John says. He made the idea a reality by creating a three-dimensional tree with brass hooks to hold the ornaments, each one to be inscribed with a gift request helping parishioners to give to those in need.

John was surprised by the response of the parish. “People kept asking for ornaments. We ran out!”

For John, coming back to Camden has been a full circle experience, offering him a way to give back to the city after years away and many life changes. He attended Sacred Heart School and on his mother’s advice, he learned a trade at Camden Catholic High School (then located next to the cathedral), ultimately landing him in the electrical workers’ union.

Then there was marriage to wife Janice and the birth of their son, Phillip. With encouragement and support from Janice, John returned to school, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees and beginning a second career in educational administration. He worked for 20 years with the Camden County Technical School District before retiring in 2014. John also poured a lot of time into his work with the Knights of Columbus, serving in state level leadership. Life was busy and rewarding,

But there were also challenges. John and Janice went through two parish mergers in the Camden Diocese, and weathered two church closings, first at the former Saint John Neumann in Sicklerville, then at Saint Gregory in Magnolia. Those changes served as catalysts, and five or six years ago, John and Janice started making the 20- to 30-minute drive northward from their home in Gloucester Township to Camden to be part of the Cathedral Parish.

In a surprising way, for John, it was like coming home. The change also was a natural fit for a man who thrives on finding ways to serve. Father Fisher describes him as “a man who doesn’t want the spotlight,” and one who always looks to help in any way he can.

“When I first arrived, John made a big mistake,” says Father Fisher. “He said, ‘I’m retired, let me do whatever you want me to do.’” And Father Fisher called on him often.

As head of the Respect Life Committee, John’s projects might sound familiar to many—a baby bottle boomerang project to collect change and a diaper drive to help young unmarried mothers. But John went a step further, inspired by speakers he heard who had worked in prison ministry. He spearheaded a letter writing campaign for those who might be led to reach out to inmates on death row. What he learned along the way was humbling. “It made me think, ‘there, but for the grace of God,’” John says. He recognizes it as a quiet outreach, one where it’s impossible to know which parishioners will choose to write and which prisoners will write back. “But you never know who might be touched,” he says.

Today, more change is on the way for John and Janice. With her retirement from a career as a paralegal in early October, the couple will be moving later in the month to Delaware, near the beach and extended family. “I don’t like to talk about leaving the cathedral,” John says. “We’re close to folks there and call many friends.”

For the Cathedral Parish, “It’s a great loss,” says Father Fisher. Recalling the words of Saint Francis De Sales, Father Fisher recognizes John and Janice Moore’s call to make this new move in their life. “Those who go, stay, and those who stay, go.”

Above all, John will be remembered both as a good steward and as a good friend. Father Fisher says, “As a friend, I could call on John to take on any task, and whatever I asked him to do, he did as a willing steward.”

The mission of the Office of Stewardship is to help the disciples of Christ who live in the Diocese of Camden to live out Christian charity in a sacrificial way that “we might understand the grace that comes from giving back from our blessings so that in all things God may be glorified.” For more information, contact Deacon Russell Davis at 856-583-6102.

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