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John L. Allen, Jr., senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, speaks at the 10th Justice for ALL dinner sponsored by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Camden. The event was held April 25 at the Adelphia Ballroom in Deptford.
DEPTFORD — “You are the superstars of the Catholic Church. You make the church present to the marginalized, abandoned, and forgotten.”
These were the words of journalist John L. Allen, Jr., keynote speaker, to the 400-plus in attendance at the 10th annual Justice for ALL Awards Dinner here at the Adelphia Grand Ballroom on April 25.
Organized by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Camden, the evening raised more than $100,000 for the faith-based agency’s work in providing social services and advocating for the poor, oppressed and vulnerable.
Leading off the evening was Bishop Dennis Sullivan, who echoed the words of Pope Francis and encouraged his listeners to “be the protectors of the poorest, weakest, and least important.”
Calling Catholic social teaching “the hidden Gospel,” Bishop Sullivan reflected on his time as a priest on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, helping immigrants build their lives.
“The agenda is set” for us, Bishop Sullivan said.
Camden Emeritus Bishop Joseph Galante was honored for his work in promoting charity and justice, and being a champion for such causes as immigration reform, abolishment of the death penalty and affordable housing.
Accepting the award to a standing ovation, Bishop Galante spoke of his formative years as a young priest in the diocese of Brownsville, Texas, a poor border town, and learning Spanish, while under the leadership of Bishop (later Boston Cardinal) Humberto Medeiros.
Seeing Bishop Medeiros, a Portuguese immigrant, fight for the rights of Mexican-American workers, he said, inspired him to do the same, and advocate for immigrant’s rights.
“I learned, from (Bishop Medeiros’) example, to have a heart for the poor and powerless, marginalized, suffering, and forgotten,” Bishop Galante said.
Among those in attendance to support the work of Catholic Charities was Audubon native, and Super Bowl-wining MVP for the Baltimore Ravens, Joe Flacco, with his wife, Dana.
Guest speaker John Allen is senior correspondent for the lay Catholic newspaper the National Catholic Reporter and serves as senior Vatican analyst for CNN. He has authored several books, including two on Joseph Ratzinger, one when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and one after he became Pope Benedict XVI.
Remarking that the church is “in a season of change, both exhilarating and unsettling, with new possibilities and challenges,” Allen urged the audience to “face these challenges with humor,” calling it a “winning strategy for Catholic life.”
He recalled his recent visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis ministered. Since his election, the Holy Father has urged Catholics to not forget the poor and vulnerable.
Allen met poor residents surviving in the slums and shanties. For almost all of these residents, he said, Cardinal Bergoglio had interacted with them personally and tended to their needs.
Caring for the poor will be “the spirit of his pontificate,” Allen predicted.
Serving as master of ceremonies for the evening was Father Thomas A. Newton, pastor of the Catholic Community of Christ Our Light, Cherry Hill.