Photos by Alan M. Dumoff
The Racial Justice Commission of the Diocese of Camden honored three individuals for the work they have done to promote social and racial justice.
The awards were presented at the commission’s annual dinner and awards ceremony, held Sept. 5 at Botto’s Italian Restaurant in Swedesboro.
– Father Robert J. Gregorio, who recently retired as senior priest at St. Joseph Parish, Somers Point, received the 2013 Racial Justice Award.
– Sister Veronica Roche of St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral, Camden, received the Many Faces in God’s House Award for her work in immigration reform.
– Deacon William G. Johnson of Holy Cross Parish, Bridgeton, received the Racial Justice Lifetime Achievement Award.
Bishop Dennis Sullivan attended the dinner, giving the invocation, closing remarks and final blessing.
The Racial Justice Commission’s mission is to serve as a catalyst for identifying and eradicating racism, both personal and structural, from the diocese and society. The commission also fosters appreciation for the ethnic and cultural differences within the church.
Deacon William G. Johnson was the founding director for the Office of Black Catholics, Diocese of Camden, and has been engaged in the work of both the Racial Justice Commission and Black Catholic Ministries for many years.
Ordained in 1997, he was the first African-American ordained as a deacon in the Diocese of Camden. While serving as a deacon in his home parish of St. Teresa of Avila in Bridgeton, he served the diocese as an advocate and canonical consultant to the Tribunal and as chair of the former Black Catholic Ministry Board.
In November 1999, he was appointed as the first director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry and later served as chair of the former Racial Justice Committee.
Father Robert Gregorio has been engaged in the work of the Racial Justice Commission for many years, especially in the last year by attending all of the meetings, writing letters to the editor and to government officials in the name of the committee, supporting the work of the RJC in his bi-weekly column in the Star Herald, encouraging new members to join the commission, chairing the clergy subcommittee for many years, and providing a great deal of background information, research on Catholic social teaching and general wisdom that has come from many years of working for social and racial justice through his more than 40 years in the ministry.
Sister Veronica Roche, SSJ was recognized for her work in serving and welcoming Latino communities at St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral and throughout the diocese.
She has has helped lead and coordinate the following initiatives:
– Called meeting of Catholic leaders working with immigrant communities in February 2013, which turned into the working group that successfully organized the Mass in Support of Immigrant Families with Bishop Sullivan in Vineland and the Justice for Immigrants Sunday on May 5. (More than 14,000 postcards to lawmakers collected).
– Oversees parish English as Second Language classes.
– Led an effort to provide parish ID cards to undocumented parishioners, and met with Camden police representatives to familiarize them with the program.
– Partnered with OSHA to organize a job safety and know your rights training workshop for parishioners.
– Was the point person for the Nuns on the Bus visit to Camden, which advocated for comprehensive immigration reform and highlighted the immigration-related work of the parish.
– Participated in PICO legislative advocacy in Washington, D.C., on behalf of immigration reform.
– Translated and transcribed a parishioner’s powerful “immigration story” of family separation, which ran in the Star Herald as the first in the paper’s Immigration Stories series.
– Coordinates faith formation programs for parish children.