Friends and colleagues of Bishop Joseph A. Galante, who died on Saturday, May 25 at the age of 80, recalled a man who was “the best of the church,” a “skilled communicator” who “lovingly and selflessly cared for his flock.”
Dolores Orihel, who worked for Bishop Galante as his secretary, developed a friendship with him beyond the diocesan offices.
“We spoke on the phone every day,” she says, even after his retirement. “His heart was big, and he left an impression with everyone he came into contact with.”
The day Bishop Galante was installed as the Bishop of Camden, was the day he met Deacon Richard Maxwell when the deacon made Galante chuckle.
“I told him he looked like my uncle Joe, and that we would be good friends,” Deacon Richard laughed.
After Bishop Galante’s retirement in 2013, Deacon Maxwell, from Saint Vincent de Paul Parish in Mays Landing, would help him with everyday tasks such as grocery shopping and making dialysis appointments.
“He was compassionate, loving and giving. He loved his faith and the people of Camden. My wife Jackie and I will miss him,” Deacon Maxwell said.
Some reflected on the bishop’s role in school and parish planning for the Diocese of Camden, which included the closing and mergers of institutions.
Andrew Walton, director of communications for the Diocese of Camden from 1999-2010, who called his boss “a skilled communicator,” acknowledged that many found these decisions “understandably painful,” but that Bishop Galante “took decisive action because of his concern for the church, and because he wanted more for the people of the diocese.”
“He will be remembered for all of this as much as for his easy laugh, a groundedness nurtured by Philadelphia roots, his kindness, friendship and support to those around him, and a genuine, pastoral heart.”
Msgr. Roger McGrath, now pastor of Turnersville’s Saint Peter and Paul Parish, served as Vicar General during Bishop Galante’s tenure, handling the behind-the-scenes administrative tasks of the diocese.
During the planning and merger process, Bishop “displayed unusual courage in making the tough, difficult decisions necessary for the long-term good of the people,” he said.
“His actions, taken only after thorough and broad-based consultation and much prayer, and with the realization that he would be criticized unfairly, even by his brother bishops, were those of a shepherd who lovingly and selflessly cared for his flock,” he said.
As Chancellor and Vice Chancellor for Bishop Galante, Msgr. Peter Joyce remembered the bishop’s desire to always “Have the Mind of Jesus,” which was his episcopal motto.
“This desire … found its expression in Bishop’s daily prayer: to know Jesus more intimately, to love Jesus more ardently, and to live Jesus more totally. Often in preaching, particularly at confirmation, Bishop referred to this prayer and this desire for himself and for others. I believe that this prayer, which he prayed daily and lived daily, best expressed his motivation, his efforts, his determination, his will and his desire for all,” said Msgr. Joyce, now pastor of Saint Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Marmora.
Andres Arango, Bishop’s Delegate for Hispanic Ministry, praised Bishop Galante for his “unconditional support” for the laity. “He has a very special place in my heart. There are no words to thank this great man. May our Beloved Jesus have him enjoying in his presence.”
Bishop Galante’s longtime friend, Jim Murray, former General Manager of the Philadelphia Eagles, said he was “heartbroken” at the news of the bishop’s passing. “It’s hard to lose one of your best friends,” he said.
“We first met at Saint Raphaela Center in Haverford (over 40 years ago), when he was chaplain there, and I was going on retreat.”
Throughout the years, the two would travel abroad together, attend Eagles games in Dallas against the Cowboys when Bishop Galante was coadjutor bishop there and, when not attending the games together, would talk on the phone during every Sunday game.
“I was blessed to have him as a friend. He was somebody who changed my life,” Murray said. “He was the best of the church,” he added.