Bishop Sullivan speaks on ministry, immigration and vocations


The following are excerpts from an interview Bishop Dennis Sullivan conducted with Nelva Paraison of Perfil Latino. The interview was conducted in Spanish; below are excerpts translated into English. Perfil Latino regularly airs a public affairs program in both English and Spanish on Sundays, 7:30 a.m. on Univision, channel 65 on most cable outlets in South Jersey.

The bishop on his ministry:
The ministry of the Bishop in the Church is the same whether in New York or here in Southern New Jersey in this Diocese. I have already visited 51 parishes in six months and my goal is to visit every parish before I get to my first anniversary as Bishop because that is an opportunity for me to meet the different communities. One thing I can definitely say is that I feel very at home in the Diocese, very, very welcome.

Immigration reform:
Well, it’s a struggle, clearly it’s a struggle, but we have to keep fighting and keep our brothers and sisters with hope that this system that is not working will change, the Church wants to accompany you, to be by your side and to keep in the fight. …
The Church is in favor of changing the law because the law is unjust and the system is broken. Sincerely, I believe that little by little if we keep with the eyes fixed on the goal, this will change.

The need for more priests for Hispanic Catholics in the diocese
We need prepared priests to work for the ministry with our Hispanic Community.
We are going to search for them … because the numbers (of Hispanics) are growing very much in Southern New Jersey. I think that there are now more than 20 parishes, for example, where Spanish Masses are held and there are other parishes where they want Masses in Spanish but the pastors say, “I don’t have a priest that can do it.” My second Sunday in the Diocese, I went to one of the parishes and the church was full of Salvadoran people and people from Guatemala … I don’t have much experience in those cultures, but the church was full, full, full.
So it’s very important, that we have to look for priests and prepare vocations for this Church … There are vocations because Christ continues to call and through programs that we are already planning and we are slowly making these programs in the parishes, the youth vocations will increase because I’m personally interested in the vocations to the priesthood in the Diocese. Yes, we need nuns and religious but, my obligation is for this local Church. I already have a director of vocations for the Diocese and he is working hard with the seminarians … all parishes are having prayers, pleadings for vocations for the Diocese of Camden.
I sent a letter to the pastors saying I want the priests to talk about the vocations to the priesthood for the Diocese in every pulpit and we will send some of our seminarians to speak in the parishes, because that really helps a young man if he sees another young man dedicating his life.

About Pope Francis:
Yes, the Pope is what the Church needs; never forget that the Pope is chosen by the Holy Spirit, the decision is the decision of the Holy Spirit, knowing that the Church needs Francis now, as our guide. He is saying things that we have to listen to, using words, idioms and expressions different than the Popes of the past. One thing is that he is Hispanic and therefore he speaks very much like a Hispanic. To understand the Pope’s character and his vision, you have to understand that first … (seen in) his interest for communicating especially with the poor, with those who feel alienated, those that were hurt, oppressed, this Pope is accompanying them with phone calls and he is awesome.
The Pope preaches exactly what the Church says, that we cannot judge anyone, all were created by God, have the image of God and we have to respect them and always call them to holiness and to the knowledge of God no matter if they are gay, homosexual or whatever.
I had the opportunity to introduce myself to the Pope in September. I went to Rome for four days and well, I had maybe 15 seconds with him. I spoke to him in Spanish and he looked at me and I said, “I’m Bishop Sullivan of Southern New Jersey and I’m present with the prayers and wishes of the Catholic community of Camden.” He responded, “tell them to pray for me.” Those were his words – “tell them to pray for me” – and that is what we have to do, always pray for the Holy Father.