Bishop George H. Guilfoyle

Renewal for Evangelization

guilfoyleIt was announced on Wednesday, January 10, 1968 that Bishop George H. Guilfoyle, 54, Auxiliary to Cardinal Spellman and pastor of St. Peter Parish, Staten Island, had been appointed the fourth Ordinary of the Camden Diocese by Pope Paul VI.

After his installation on March 4, 1968, The Bishop committed himself to ecumenism and inter religious affairs, the work of the community in alleviating; the inequities of society, and the priority need for justice.

Less than a month after Bishop Guilfoyle’s installation, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis.;In his first pastoral letter, in June 1968, Bishop Guilfoyle, called racism in America ‘not a mere myth but an ugly reality’ and urged his people to examine closely their attitudes toward the black community and where applicable, ‘purge every fragment of racism among us.’;

The hardest of the work, and its volume in respect to the renewal of the Church in Camden after the Second Vatican Council to date, took place in the time of Bishop Guilfoyle. He envisioned a renewal of the Church so that it could reach out and improve the spiritual and material well-being of humanity.;He believed strongly that the Church must remain faithful to the Word of God in its teaching of doctrine.;He likewise affirmed that the Church must adapt itself to the needs of the modern world if the Message of Christ was to be communicated more effectively and become more alive.;

Parish Councils in 1968 Less than a month after coming to Camden, the Bishop directed that each pastor in the diocese establish a parish council before the end of 1968.;Renewal simply could not happen, the Bishop felt, without the collaboration of bishops, clergy, religious and laity in pastoral work. He also established a Diocesan Pastoral Council the following year;to assist in the discernment of diocesan needs and to share in fostering a spirit of Christian cooperation among all the people of the diocese.;

Pastoral Planning In October 1971, a new Office of Pastoral Planning was established to chart the purpose and direction for the future of the Church in the diocese and which would ‘take account of all members and all functions which, in one way or another, contribute to the self-realization of the Church’s mission in the world.’

During 1976 the Office of Pastoral Planning coordinated a process of wide consultation about diocesan mission in light of the Exhortation on Evangelization issued by Pope Paul VI in December 1975.;RENEW, a three-year program to foster parish spiritual development, which originated in 1977 in the Archdiocese of Newark, was recommended for the Camden Diocese by the Diocesan Pastoral Council in response to Bishop Guilfoyle’s call for increased evangelization and was in place in many parishes by 1983.

The challenge of personal faith renewal was again directly addressed in early 1984, on the diocesan level, through planning for careful implementation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).

Rites of Seven Sacraments

During Bishop Guilfoyle’s time in Camden, the diocese witnessed the revision of the rites of all seven sacraments.;The Liturgical Commission was charged from the beginning to direct the changes in the rites, forms and methods called for by the Second Vatican Council and subsequent Church documents so that the faithful could participate in them actively and intelligently.;

The work of the commission reached a high point in the establishment of a School of Liturgy which provides a more organized and systematic approach to instruction as well as outreach to greater numbers with its services. Meanwhile, the diocese purchased the St. Pius X Retreat House in Blackwood from the Salvadorian Fathers in April 1969. It quickly became the chief center of spiritual and continuing religious education programs for the clergy, religious and laity of the diocese.

Bishop Guilfoyle, during his 19 years in Camden, invoked the intercession of the Blessed Mother, the patroness of the diocese, in countless addresses, homilies, columns in the Catholic Star Herald, and through events designed to render honor to Our Lady.;On October 24, 1970, the first Camden diocesan pilgrimage to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. took place.;Bishop Guilfoyle also established the diocesan Marian Commission in June 1976.;

Sensitivity to the needs of priests and their growth and development was paramount in Bishop Guilfoyle’s ministry in Camden.;In October 1980, a new vision for priestly development emerged in the beginnings of the Emmaus program in the diocese, a year-long program of spiritual renewal.

The first ordination to the permanent diaconate took place in the diocese on October 4, 1976, at St. Rose of Lima, Haddon Heights. In November 1984, Bishop Guilfoyle spoke of the role of the permanent deacons; the deacons are called to proclaim the good news of God’s saving love for humanity and to bring His love to others, especially in the Eucharist. The deacon’s vocation is also to an ordained ministry of service where he is to apply in public fashion his unique gifts and talents to the struggles for peace, justice, freedom, human rights and human dignity, both within and outside the Church.;

By ordination the deacon is empowered to be a minister of the Word, of the altar, and of charity.’ The range of services for the growth and development of family life also increased during the administration of Bishop Guilfoyle and in September 1973, Father Joseph DiMauro (now Monsignor and pastor of St. Agnes Parish, Blackwood) became the first full-time director of the Family Life Office and made it a well-known model of family life services in the country.

The Catholic Youth Organization Recreation Center (now the Catholic Family Health and Recreation Center) in Blackwood opened in January 1971 and continues to provide an atmosphere of relaxation and an environment for improving in spiritual and physical fitness for all age groups.;

Like his predecessors, Bishop Guilfoyle made Catholic schools and religious education major priorities and in 1980 established the Tuition Assistance Fund to help parents in financial need meet tuition costs for their children’s attendance at Catholic parochial schools.

Evangelization in the Hispanic community, through religious service and social ministry, was accomplished through a newly-established Hispanic Apostolate.;Spanish-language Masses in many South Jersey parishes were instituted, while the diocese worked to obtain Spanish-speaking priests and religious for pastoral work among Hispanics.

Bishop Guilfoyle, who spent almost two decades as a leader of social ministry in the Archdiocese of New York, extensively increased both social services and the revenue to fund them, including the Hispanic Apostolate, the hospital chaplains and prison ministry, Archbishop Damiano School in Westville – Grove and other special education in the elementary and secondary schools, the Apostolate to the Deaf, the works of Catholic Charities,;

St. John the Baptist Pre-Natal Clinic, St. Luke’s Medical Services and Legal Services to the needy, all in Camden, the Visiting Nurse and Home Health program.;

Growing from one resident in 1941 to more than 770 residents in five homes in 2003, the Division of Health Affairs seeks to care for the individual’s spiritual, physical, emotional and social needs at St. Mary’s Catholic Home, Our Lady’s Multi-Care Center, Bishop McCarthy Residence, Mater Dei Nursing Home and The Manor at Saint Mary’s.;

A Department of Housing was established in June 1969 by Bishop Guilfoyle, specifically to look to the needs of the aged and to seek to resolve some of the problems connected with the growing aged population.

Resulting from this work was the dedication of the Victorian Towers in Cape May in September 1973, with the diocese serving as non-profit sponsor.;The facility accommodates hundreds of older individuals in its 205 residential units.;The same type of project was dedicated in Cherry Hill in April 1984 with 150 residential units for the elderly at St. Mary’s Village.;Davenport Village in Hainesport, meanwhile, was established in 2002.

Right to Life

Bishop Guilfoyle first established the Pro-Life Office of the diocese in 1973 after the United States Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.;In a pastoral letter shortly thereafter, the Bishop called for education in the value and meaning of human life, urged the manifestation ‘of our pastoral concern for all who face difficult problems which may lead them to see abortion as a solution,’ spoke of ‘the right to life from conception to old age.’;

Signs of Growth

During Bishop Guilfoyle’s time in Camden, eight new parishes were established, twenty-three churches were built, with many more renovated to meet the changing needs, eleven convents were erected, thirty-seven rectories were built, a recreation center was erected, six new schools were built along with fourteen additions to existing schools, and twenty-four parish halls were erected.

St. Pius X Retreat House was acquired by the diocese, special education facilities were expanded, and a Newman Center was erected at Glassboro State College.;Nursing homes construction and acquisition increased to four. Until 1969, the diocesan offices were housed in separate buildings on Cooper Street in Camden.;When those structures were taken over by the State of New Jersey for new access roads to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, the diocese brought all departments together in a single structure at 1845 Haddon Avenue, Camden.

Bishop Guilfoyle died at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center on June 11, 1991 of complications from a respiratory ailment.;He was 77 years old.;He had been hospitalized for almost a month, but his illness did not seem fatal until almost the end.