Msgr. Joseph G. Stoerlein, 91, a pastor and shepherd at Sacred Heart Parish in Vineland for over 30 years, died April 13.
Beginning in 1967, he served as pastor at Sacred Heart until his retirement in 1999.
Msgr. Stoerlein was born on March 19, 1924 in Absecon, one of four children to Joseph and Theresa. He attended St. Peter School in Pleasantville; Holy Spirit High School in Atlantic City; and St. Charles College in Catonsville, Md., before entering St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore.
On June 11, 1949, he was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Camden by Bishop Bartholomew J. Eustace, and began a summer assignment as parochial vicar at St. Paul Church in Stone Harbor.
He was also parochial vicar at Holy Savior, Westmont (1949-54); St. Nicholas, Egg Harbor (1954-60); and St. Francis de Sales, Barrington (1960-61), before being named pastor of St. Joseph in Somers Point, where he ministered until being assigned to Sacred Heart.
Msgr. Dominic Bottino, parochial vicar at Divine Mercy Parish in Vineland, was friends with Msgr. Stoerlein for over 35 years. At one point, the two worked together at Sacred Heart.
“This man and priest took what God and his family gave him and modeled to him and brought it to the priesthood and to all of us,” Msgr. Bottino recalled.
As pastor at Sacred Heart for over 30 years, Msgr. Stoerlein developed a close relationship with members of the parish, its grade school, and high school. He could frequently be seen cheering on the elementary or high school sports teams, in the stands.
“His organizational skills matched his pastoral and gentlemanly manner…with his people who all appreciated what they saw in him not just as an administrator but as a man and priest,” Msgr. Bottino remembered.
Noting his friend’s musical talents, he said that “no piano was safe when he was around. Once, when on a two-week tour of Germany with him, he would play the piano each night in each different hotel where our travel group was staying.”
In 1985 on Gaudete Sunday, Msgr. Bottino and Bishop George Guilfoyle visited Msgr. Stoerlein at Sacred Heart Parish for a private Christmas concert.
The pastor “greeted us at the door and then went upstairs to the loft and played for almost an hour on the organ all kinds of Christmas songs. It was like being at the Wanamaker Show for Christmas,” Msgr. Bottino said.
On their way home, Msgr. Bottino recalled, “the bishop described Msgr. Stoerlein to me as a Vir Fidelis — a faithful man of the church.”
“Like the proverbial sanctuary light before the tabernacle, he was constant, faithful, and there for people — for God, his family, his church, his bishops and fellow priests, reflecting the light of Christ he received at his baptism, that he held in his hands on his ordination day and always had in his eyes.”
In addition to his parish work, Msgr. Stoerlein served as a diocesan consultor for 25 years, and as Dean of Cumberland County for 20 years.
The reception of Msgr. Stoerlein’s body will take place at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish (Church of the Assumption), on Sunday, April 19, at 3 p.m. The viewing will follow and continue until 6:45 p.m., and Mass will follow at 7 p.m.
The viewing will continue on Monday, April 20, from 9-10:45 a.m. at Christ the Good Shepherd Parish (Sacred Heart Church), Vineland, where Bishop Dennis Sullivan will celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m.
Burial will take place at Holy Cross Cemetery, Mays Landing.