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Catholic Star Herald column by Bishop Galante: " Exploring grace, renewal and conversion in Lent"

We are approaching Lent, that most spiritual and graced time.

Many of us think about what we should give up this year. But this season of Lent is so much more powerful than just giving up something. It is a time of grace, renewal and conversion. But what does that all mean?

Renewal and conversion are terms that can be easily misunderstood. Conversion is not only avoiding sin and evil to embrace Jesus and his saving action. Conversion is a lifelong turning toward a deeper and fuller relationship with Jesus, his Father and the Holy Spirit.

Conversion is not a one-time event. It is, rather, a lifetime of deepening our relationship with the Trinity and growing more and more into a faithful follower of Jesus.  

Just as family life needs to be celebrated by gathering for holidays and birthdays to strengthen those ties, so it is in our family of grace we need those opportunities as well. Certainly weekday participation in Eucharist is the most obvious and necessary way to do this. At a time like Lent we are invited to go beyond the ordinary.

For some, daily participation in Eucharist is a wonderful opportunity for growth and development.

Praying over the Scriptures at home can also be a rich source of growth. Many families practice giving to the Rice Bowl program, where they can take what they would have spent for a meal during the week, instead donating that money to the poor and contenting themselves with a simple meal of soup and bread. Lent is a wonderful time for parental examples and words, by letting children see their parents’ faith and trust in Jesus and praying with them at the dinner table.

Everyone is busy and can find it difficult to set aside time for prayer and reflection. One of the opportunities we have is quiet reflection in our cars. Often we get into a car and turn on the ignition and the radio. Lent can be an opportunity to turn the radio off and spend the time in prayer and reflection while driving safely as well.

Lent is a wonderful time to look at the daily routines of our lives. We get used to a routine. We can fill it without thinking. Perhaps in Lent we can step back and look at our routine, and ask: Does it help us be better persons? Does it strengthen our relationship with those we love?

The daily readings in the liturgy of Lent are wonderful opportunities for us to reflect and pray about in our daily lives (available at, click on “Readings”).  If you are able to attend daily Mass, take some time and reflect on the Scripture for the day. If you are unable to go to Mass, look at these readings and pray about them.

It’s important to listen to the readings as today’s word to me from God. It’s not just about what happened in the past. It is about what God is telling me today. If I can listen with that sense of the immediacy of God’s word, I can discover meaning in it.

Lent is a time of grace, of new life. I would pray that all of us take advantage of Lent as the spring sun shines more warmly and flowers begin to bloom, as we find the time to enjoy and embrace that warmth and new life that is budding forth. So too Lent is a time of new life, a time to experience the love and the warmth of the Son.


Protecting children

Sexual abuse of children has again been an issue in our area in recent weeks.

There are no excuses or defense when we are faced with the despicable crime and sin of having children abused.

I have spoken to too many victims and the parents of victims to know that unless I have suffered the horror of abuse, I can never fully understand the pain and the havoc it causes.

I wonder, along with you, what causes a man who professes to be a disciple of Jesus to so betray the trust that has been inherent in the priesthood. I helped to craft the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, approved by the U.S. bishops in 2002. I was spokesman for the U.S. bishops’ conference in those difficult months. I have a passionate concern that we keep our children safe and secure. I feel strongly that one proven allegation of abuse should mean permanent removal from functioning as a priest, since the damage done to a victim is often continued for a lifetime. To leave a priest in ministry who has been proven to have molested a child is in my mind to perpetuate the harm done.

I have met more than 30 victim survivors from the Diocese of Camden and have apologized to each of them for the harm done to them. But an apology does not fully take away the pain and trauma of abuse. I continually pray that those who have suffered will be healed.

In the Diocese of Camden we continuously act to keep our children safe in any and all situations as far as is humanly possible and we report all abuse accusations to the proper public authorities.

We must never forget that, as the body of Christ, when one member suffers, so do we all.





Bishop to Celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass

Most Reverend Joseph A. Galante, D.D., J.C.D., Bishop of Camden, will be the principal celebrant at a Mass for Ash Wednesday: 

March 9, 2011
12:05 PM
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
642 Market Street
Camden, NJ 08102 

The season of Lent, which has been observed since the fourth century, begins on Ash Wednesday, March 9, and lasts until the Mass of the Lord's Supper (Holy Thursday), April 21.  Lent has six Sundays, with the sixth Sunday of Lent [Passion (Palm) Sunday] marking the beginning of Holy Week.

Lent is the primary penitential season in the Church's liturgical year, reflecting the forty days Jesus spent in the desert in fasting and prayer.  On Ash Wednesday, ashes are blessed after the homily of the Mass and placed on the forehead as a sign of the penitential character of the season.  The ashes come from the burning of palm branches used on Passion (Palm) Sunday of the previous year. 

In accord with the penitential character of the season, Catholics aged 18 to 59 are obliged to fast (having only one full meal each day) on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  Fasting is an act of faith, humility and complete dependence on God.  On Ash Wednesday, as well as on Fridays during Lent, Catholics aged 14 and older are also obliged to abstain from eating meat.  Works of charity, prayer and almsgiving are also encouraged during the Lenten season.

Catholic Star Herald column by Bishop Galante: "Faith lessons from our immigrants"

Just about a year ago, I issued a pastoral statement on immigration concerns, challenging Catholics to consider immigrants as our neighbors in faith. Citing the Gospel parable of the Good Samaritan, I urged reflection upon the question, “Who is my neighbor?”

In a year’s time the rhetoric from some political commentators and political leaders has grown even more heated. Needed legislation like the Dream Act, intended to offer young immigrants an equitable pathway to education, failed to pass in Congress in large part because of anger directed towards immigrants.

I want to reaffirm that the way we treat immigrants to our country says much about ourselves, both as Catholics and as Americans. What is now driving the debate on immigration are legal and economic considerations, yet as Catholic Christians we need to address a third element, namely our moral principles.

As Americans, we believe that every person has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as articulated in our Declaration of Independence. As Catholics, we have a belief that everyone has a God-given right to live with dignity and men and women should be able to provide a decent home, opportunity and education for their children.

Immigration concerns have been a part of my life since I can remember. Growing up in Philadelphia I was strongly influenced by my Italian-born grandparents. They came to this country at a time when, at least for many European immigrants, the only barrier to admittance was if you were unfortunate enough to have a communicable disease.

Still, my immigrant grandparents did not have it easy. They never were entirely comfortable in communicating in English. My grandfathers worked hard at gardening jobs. My parents, of course, grew up learning English. Yet I am told that the first words I ever publicly uttered were in Italian, as a two-year-old, at my grandmother’s wake.

Wake up, play with me, I told my grandmother in her native tongue.

As a young priest, I was sent to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas, a poor border area where Mexican culture was strong. There, while serving under bishop (later Boston Cardinal) Humberto Medeiros, I was able to learn Spanish. We regularly visited parishes where Mexicans worshiped. I can still remember hearing the bishop, who was himself a Portuguese immigrant, strongly asserting that Mexican-American workers deserved a decent wage. It wasn’t always a popular message among those who employed them.

Now as bishop of Camden, I’m finding that I’m using my Spanish as much as ever. My family’s story of immigrant life is now repeated throughout South Jersey. These new immigrants come from all over Latin America, and also Vietnam, Korea, the Philippines, Africa and the Caribbean as well.

They have gifts to offer, not the least of which is their hard work, filling needed jobs and paying taxes and contributing to programs such as Social Security, even in cases where they will never collect.

As Catholics, we need to recognize their spiritual gifts as well. For just one example, I have been impressed by the example of Mexican-Americans.

They live aware of God’s Providence and reliance on family. They often have little else. Our American credo of rugged individualism, in the context of their lives, means little. North Americans are familiar with the grinding poverty that afflicts much of Mexico, but what is less known is how Mexican Catholics embrace their faith despite a history of persecution.

During the 1920s the Church in Mexico suffered severe persecution. The blood of martyrs flowed. But that never stopped the Mexican devotion to the person of Jesus and his mother, celebrated in Our Lady of Guadalupe. That faith is the gift of Mexican Americans to our diocese and the Church in the United States. Other immigrant groups bring their own stories of faith as well, enriching our Church immeasurably.

It remains my hope that immigration reform will result in a simpler, more efficient way for people to come here legally. But whatever happens legislatively, as Catholics we need to be reminded that these new immigrants are still children of a loving God, no matter how they got here. They are still part of our Catholic family, members whose faith and trust in God have overcome all kinds of barriers.


Decree issued on March 4 establishing St. Joachim Parish

Bishop Galante formally announces the establishment of St. Joachim Parish, formed through the consolidation of Annunciation, Bellmawr; St. Ann, Westville; and St. Maurice, Brooklawn effective on April 6, 2011.

The announcement establishing the new parish was made in a formal decree, which is published in the March 4 edition of the Catholic Star Herald (see pages 14-15).

Father Piotr Szamocki has been named pastor of the new parish, for a six-year term.

The present Annunciation Church will be the worship site and seat of the new parish, serving the pastoral needs of the 1,685 families from Bellmawr, Westville, and Brooklawn.  The parish boundaries will be those of the three merging church communities.

It is the 32nd decree issued by Bishop Joseph Galante in a diocesan-wide reconfiguration of parishes announced two years ago to strengthen parishes and improve pastoral care to the people of the diocese. The reconfigurations are a result of more than a year of study by parish and deanery planners, who considered population and demographic trends, the number of diocesan priests available for ministry, Mass attendance and trends in religious practice.

Decree issued on Feb. 18 establishing St. Damien Parish, Ocean City

Bishop Joseph Galante formally announces the establishment of St. Damien Parish, formed through the consolidation of St. Augustine, Ocean City; St. Frances Cabrini, Ocean City; and Our Lady of Good Counsel, Ocean City on March 23, 2011.

The announcement establishing the new parish was made in a formal decree, which is published in the February 18 edition of the Catholic Star Herald (see pages 14-15).

Fr. Michael P. Rush has been named pastor of the new parish, for a six-year term. The parish of St. Damien, whose boundaries will be those of the existing parishes, will serve approximately 2300 families in Ocean City.

St. Augustine Church will be the primary worship site, with St. Frances Cabrini and Our Lady of Good Counsel being maintained as worship sites.

It is the 31st decree issued by Bishop Joseph Galante in a diocesan-wide reconfiguration of parishes announced two years ago to strengthen parishes and improve pastoral care to the people of the diocese. The reconfigurations are a result of more than a year of study by parish and deanery planners, who considered population and demographic trends, the number of diocesan priests available for ministry, Mass attendance and trends in religious practice.