A priest who gave 60 years of his life to the Church in the Diocese of Camden continues to serve even after death. Msgr. Thomas Sharkey died over a year ago last September and left a large part of his estate to the Diocese of Camden, including his car.
His 2011 Hyundai Accent will now be used by a veteran through Catholic Charities’ “Ready, Vet, Go” program for veterans in need.
“This is something that belonged to a priest who served so many people in the diocese throughout his priesthood. Even now it’s part of a continuation of his legacy,” said Father James Bartoloma, chancellor of the diocese.
The veteran, who preferred not to be named, said owning a car will have a major impact on her life. She currently relies on public transportation to get to and from work, a commute that can take one to two hours depending on traffic. To get to work on time, she wakes up each day at 4:30 a.m. and takes two to three different buses, depending on the time of day.
Having a car will cut that commute time down to half an hour, and it will mean she won’t have to rely on her grandmother for other important events, like medical appointments at the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs).
“This was so unexpected, but it was welcomed,” she said. “Having gone through the experience of being homeless, it’s amazing how Catholic Charities has been there for me. I never thought this would be possible.”
The donation came as a surprise not only to the veteran herself, but to Catholic Charities’ senior case manager, Randall Clark and program director, Mark Taylor. The staff had seen the client’s need for a car but doubted that they would be able to provide her with one. Not long after, the phone call came that a car would be available.
“So many of our clients really need help with transportation, but having a car to give like this is not a situation we find ourselves in very often. This car opens up a whole new world for her,” Taylor said of the car’s recipient, who served in Iraq.
“She has been through many struggles, but never lost hope,” Clark said. He noted how she found herself a job and an apartment within months of arriving in New Jersey “with little more than the clothes on her back.” This car will leverage that resilience and bring her one step closer to independence.
“She is one of the kindest, most courageous veterans I have come across. She served her country bravely and I am honored to have the opportunity to serve her now.”
Catholic Charities’ program serves veterans who are currently homeless or at risk of becoming homeless because of eviction. Last year, the program served about 350 veteran households across the six southern counties of the Diocese of Camden.
Recently, Catholic Charities was again selected to receive a large grant from the VA to serve homeless veterans for the fifth year in a row. The VA has set a goal for the program to serve 285 veteran households this coming year, more than last year’s goal of 265. The program expects to exceed this number as they did last year.
Part of that is made possible through additional funding sources from community partners that help the program serve more clients each year in more ways. The car donation is an example of the kind of generosity that helps the program enrich clients’ lives beyond the federal funding it receives, Taylor said.
“Having a car really can change someone’s life. We serve individuals who are struggling to pay bills in the day to day. Having a car lets them expand their job possibilities, get to interviews, keep all of their appointments, not have to rely on public transportation. It makes it that much easier for them to get back on their feet,” Taylor said.
Much of Msgr. Sharkey’s estate will go towards supporting other ministries in the Diocese of Camden. To learn more about planned and estate giving, visit CamdenGiftLegacy.org.
To learn more about Catholic Charities car donation program, visit CatholicCharitiesCamden-CarDonations.org. More information about their veteran services program is available at CatholicCharitiesCamden.org/Veteran-Services.