CAMDEN — Thirty-five years ago, Archbishop Oscar Romero was martyred by an assassin’s bullet while celebrating Mass in El Salvador. The day before the March 24 anniversary, Bishop Dennis Sullivan and Camden Diocesan leaders followed the example of the tireless advocate for the poor, feeding and visiting men and women at the New Visions Homeless Day Shelter here.
Bishop Sullivan, with Father Robert Hughes, Vicar General; Michael Jordan Laskey, diocesan director of Life and Justice; and James T. Plousis, chairman of New Jersey’s Parole Board, served lunches of salad, ziti and bread to the city’s hungry, and heard their stories.
Last month, Pope Francis declared Archbishop Romero a martyr, and his beatification is set for May 23 in San Salvador, the final step before canonization and declaration of sainthood.
In preparation for this fall’s World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, which Pope Francis will be a part of, the World Meeting of Families’ Hunger and Homelessness Committee invited civic, religious, political and business leaders to spend time with the poor at shelters, soup kitchens, and food pantries on Monday.
Bishop Sullivan’s visit was “a wonderful day to commemorate what Oscar Romero stood for, in being a voice for the voiceless,” said Kevin Moran, executive director of New Visions. From Monday through Friday, the shelter feeds between 150 and 200 people.
One of the volunteers at New Visions who greeted Bishop Sullivan was Keith White, or “Detroit,” so nicknamed because of his city of origin.
Twelve and a half years ago, White came to Camden looking for a place to live and found New Visions.
“I was able to do laundry, eat, and take a shower” on his first night, he said.
Now, he has a place in Camden, works on a forklift on Camden’s docks, and volunteers at the place which put him back on his feet.
“It’s God’s blessing that brought me here, and that’s why I’m giving back,” he said.
Later that same evening, next door at Joseph’s House, Camden Mayor Dana Redd and Mimi Box, executive director of the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, were scheduled to meet the homeless at the overnight shelter.
The World Meeting of Families’ Hunger and Homelessness Committee calls “all people of goodwill to spend time in reflection, action and companionship with those living on the margins of society,” said Jordan Laskey.
“These organizations (like New Visions and Joseph’s House) have responded to the Gospel call to journey with, and break bread with the hungry,” he said.