Photo by James A. McBride
Bishop Emeritus Joseph Galante smiles broadly as people sing “Happy Birthday” at the end of a Mass of thanksgiving to mark the bishop’s 75th birthday and retirement. To his right are Deacon Richard Maxwell and Msgr. Roger E. McGrath, vicar general.
More than 300 Catholic faithful wished Bishop Emeritus Joseph A. Galante a happy birthday and thanked him for his 50 years of ordained ministry at Church of the Incarnation, Mantua on Sunday, June 30.
The Mass and reception marked Bishop Galante’s 75th birthday, half-century since his ordination to the priesthood and his retirement.
Bishop Galante was the principal celebrant and the homilist. Concelebrating were Bishop Dennis Sullivan and Bishop Lumen Monteiro of Agartala, India, who was visiting the area, and many priests of the diocese.
Deacons Lawrence Farmer and Richard Maxwell assisted and diocesan employees Dolores Orihel and Carmen Gonzalez served as lectors.
Pope Benedict XVI accepted Bishop Galante’s resignation six months ago, due to health reasons, and he was succeeded by Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan.
Since that time Bishop Galante has frequently said that his time in Camden was the happiest period in his 20 years as a bishop.
The bishop also has often expressed gratitude – as he did again at Sunday’s Mass – to the Catholics of the diocese, especially those who worked with him. A number of those people who helped Bishop Galante implement his vision for the diocese, and have since moved on, travelled to Mantua for the Mass.
Bishop Galante’s tenure in Camden was marked by a large number of parish mergers, which followed a long process of consultation with the Catholics of South Jersey that included the Speak Up sessions he held in every parish.
The process helped yield a vision statement for the diocese; the establishment of six pastoral priorities (liturgy, lay ministry, youth and young adult ministry, priestly vocations, compassionate outreach and lifelong formation); and a statement on the “Vision for the Future of Our Church.”
The restructuring of the diocese was the product of the consultative process, the demographic and financial challenges facing the church, and the bishop’s own thinking about what the church should be. He spoke often of being influenced by the Second Vatican II document Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), which describes the church as a mystery, as a communion of baptized believers, as the people of God, as the body of Christ and as a pilgrim moving toward fulfillment in heaven but marked on earth with a “sanctity that is real, although imperfect.”
While the parish mergers were a bold initiative, many people who worked with Bishop Galante think his real legacy is in his personal qualities. Counting his manner of leadership as important as his accomplishments, they cite his collaborative nature, his approachability and his deep spirituality.
Born in Philadelphia, Bishop Galante attended Lateran University in Rome, receiving a doctorate in canon law; and the University of St. Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome, where he received his Master’s Degree in Spiritual Theology, before being ordained in 1964.
He served in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia until he was named by Pope John Paul II in 1986, to be Undersecretary of the Congregation for Religious in Rome. He was a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Communications.
In 1992, he was named auxiliary bishop of San Antonio, Texas. A year and a half later, he was named Bishop of Beaumont, Texas, and in 2000, he became coadjutor bishop of Dallas. In April 2004, he was installed as the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Camden.
In October 2011 Bishop Galante told Catholics of the diocese that he would soon begin dialysis treatment to combat worsening kidney disease.