Bishop Justin J. McCarthy

Total Catholic Education

mccarthyBishop Justin J. McCarthy, Auxiliary Bishop of Newark, 56 years old, was installed as the second bishop of Camden at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on March 19, 1957.  The history of Bishop McCarthy in Camden is often glossed over quickly because of the brevity of his tenure.  Camden’s second bishop died after a fatal heart attack on December 26, 1959.  Yet, the shortness of time did not curtail the great impact this prelate made on the diocese.

His chief historical legacy was his commitment to total Catholic education.  The new schools that were opened and the additions made to the existing ones made room for an increase of over 5,000 students at the elementary level and 1,000 students at the high school level.

A major effort was also undertaken to upgrade the teaching of religion to youth in public schools.  The renewal began with intensive training for religious education teachers.  At the time of Bishop McCarthy’s death, some 20,000 youth were enrolled in the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine classes, an increase of almost 100 percent from the time of his installation.

Hispanic Ministry

The Bishop’s second major priority was ministry to the rapidly growing Hispanic population in the Diocese.  There were at the time some 20,000 Hispanics, mostly from Puerto Rico, many of whom had come to work on the farms and then remained as permanent residents.

As early as June 1957, the Bishop displayed serious concern for the large number of Spanish-speaking immigrants in the diocese, the difficulties experienced by the migrant farm workers, and their need to be served by the Church in their native language.

A Mobile Chapel for migrants, named Capilla Rodante Santa Ana, was dedicated in 1957 by Bishop McCarthy.  Following a request from the Bishop, four sisters of the Oblates of the Sacred Heart arrived in Camden in December 1959 from El Salvador to teach religion and to do social work among parishioners of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Camden.  They helped train girls to teach catechism in the homes of the Hispanic Our Lady of Fatima Parish.

Another priority of Camden’s second bishop was encouragement of the laity to participate actively in civic affairs.  In addition, various lay groups were of special concern to Bishop McCarthy, including the Friends of the Sacred Heart, the Camden County Bar Association, the Medical Guild, the St. Joseph’s Guild, the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Daughters of America, Our Lady of Lourdes Auxiliary, and the Bishop’s Committee for Charity.