This week, the Diocese of Camden is entering its 75th year, and the upcoming celebratory year will be filled with events showcasing its past and future and looking ahead to a diocesan Mass on Dec. 9, 2012 — 75 years to the day the six-county diocese was established by Pope Pius XI.
The theme of the anniversary year is “Full of Grace,” taken from the Hail Mary prayer.
At his installation as the first bishop of the Diocese of Camden, on May 4, 1938, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Bishop Bartholomew J. Eustace said, “I command that as long as this Church of Camden exists it will show by its devotion and love … its undying fealty to the Mother of God.”
The anniversary logo, created by Tom O’Shea, graphic designer for the Catholic Star Herald, includes the diocesan coat of arms, the number 75, and the crescent moon, present as well in the coat of arms, and signifying the Immaculate Conception, the “full of grace” Mary captured by the upturned crescent horns.
Events planned for the anniversary include the Triduum Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Lindenwold, Friday, Dec. 9-Sunday, Dec. 12; a diocesan youth conference; and pilgrimages to the National Basilica in Washington, D.C., and the Holy Land.
In his Nov. 4 column published in the Catholic Star Herald, commenting on the anniversary, Bishop Joseph A. Galante called the faithful to “embrace the priorities of the diocese in our time: the development of priestly and religious vocations; lay ministry; outreach to youth and young adults; prayerful liturgy, and compassionate outreach to the needy.”
“We know, by celebrating our history, how much has been accomplished despite great odds. We pray to be up to the challenge of our time as those who began our diocese were 75 years ago.”
In 1937, the six southern counties of South Jersey, as part of the Trenton Diocese, were in poor financial condition, with a small Catholic population, a small number of priests, and fiscally weak parishes.
On Dec. 9 of that year, Pope Pius IX declared that Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem would be a new diocese of the Catholic Church, breaking away from the Trenton Diocese.
At the same time, the two previous dioceses in the state (Trenton and Newark) would no longer be a part of the ecclesiastical province of New York; instead, Newark was now to be the metropolitan see of the New Jersey ecclesiastical province. Also, the Diocese of Paterson was created, out of three counties in the diocese of Newark.
The new Diocese of Camden in 1937, contained a Catholic population of approximately 100,000; 49 parishes; 75 diocesan priests; 11 religious community priests; five men religious communities; 15 women religious communities; and 35 parochial schools, 30 elementary and fivc secondary.
As the year progresses, more details on anniversary events can be obtained through the Catholic Star Herald, and the diocesan website at www.camdendiocese.org