Remembering Bishop Joseph Galante

Kevin Hickey, executive director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Camden, pays his respects during the viewing at Saint Agnes Church, Our Lady of Hope Parish, Blackwood.

Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Camden had a strong advocate in Bishop Joseph Galante. While ordinary of Beaumont, Texas, Bishop Galante wrote in a newspaper column that Catholic faith and the work of social justice are inseparable.

“Social justice issues are not merely at the fringe of our faith, nor is social justice an option for Catholics,” he wrote. “It is at the center of life issues; the right to life from birth to the right to a dignified death, the right to a living wage, the right to adequate health care, the right to live with dignity that comes with being human.”

His commitment to social justice, and his support for Catholics, didn’t waver in South Jersey. Below are reflections from employees of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Camden.

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“Bishop Galante would amaze people by his recall of one’s name. If you met him at a luncheon and then saw him months later, he would remember your name and whatever you might have shared with him. He was, among other things, a great listener. He attended every Justice for All Dinner since its inception in 2004. He was proud of that record.

“Under his leadership, 600 people from the Diocese of Camden went down to the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. When Hurricane Sandy struck our diocese, Bishop Galante was very supportive of all the response and recovery work, and led efforts to raise funds. He served for many years in Texas, including in the Diocese of Brownsville, which is the diocese which hosts our Share the Journey pilgrims.

“He, like Bishop Sullivan, loved his Catholic Charities agency. He loved the poor and loved the work of charity and justice. He spoke of baptism as grafting us onto Christ. I liked his oft-repeated references to this, and it made me think of Bishop Galante as a farmer of sorts. A simple guy, and that made me think of Pope John XXIII, another simple man.

“One time I was acknowledging to Bishop Galante that a colleague didn’t seem to be growing and developing as I would expect. He said, ‘Your job is to mentor and guide your colleague. That’s your job.’ He said it quietly but forcefully. It was a reminder to me that to be good at something you have to be all in.”

Kevin Hickey – Executive director

“My first exposure to Bishop Galante was at the employee Christmas Mass on Friday, Dec. 21, 2007. I had been an employee for slightly over two months. As the Mass ended Msgr. McGrath approached the pulpit and announced that, in the spirit of the season, the diocesan offices would be closed on Monday, Dec. 24. That was fantastic news, giving us a nice long weekend to enjoy the holiday. Then Bishop Galante chimed in and mentioned that while he was getting ready for bed the prior evening he thought, ‘Why not give the employees the entire following week off as a thank you for their hard work?’ The place went nuts, and I thought, ‘This is going to be a great place to work.’”

Robert Waite – Controller, Catholic Charities and Diocesan Housing Services Corporation

“Bishop Galante was very down to earth. He cared about each and every one of us here at Catholic Charities. He was tireless, and he always made an effort to attend so many of our events, even after his retirement when his health wasn’t the best. He always showed up.”

Moustafa Aldouri – Case manager

“I didn’t know him as well as others, but I recall a special time after my wife Nancy and I returned from the first deployment to the border in McAllen, Texas, to assist Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, Diocese of Brownsville. When we spoke of the work that is being done there, he listened intently, and we saw his true passion for and care for newly-arrived migrants.

“He will truly be missed.”

Brian Wagner – Administration and evaluation officer

“He was truly a people’s person. He was a great listener, and what always stood out to me was his memory. He always remembered my name. He always remembered everyone’s names and what was going on in their lives. He will be missed dearly.”

Vincent Ajuk – Welfare to Work program director

“Not only was Bishop Joseph Galante a great person, he was a great leader, particularly through his ardent support of affordable housing for low-income households. I remember attending a ceremony on arguably the hottest day in New Jersey history at the Ethel Lawrence Homes affordable housing property. Bishop Galante along with Peter O’Connor and then Gov. Corzine formally opposed ‘Regional Contribution Agreements’ — a mechanism that allowed municipalities to circumvent their fair share affordable housing obligation.

“Fortunately for me, my time at the Diocese of Camden always enjoyed bishops who strongly supported affordable housing, first with Bishop DiMarzio, then Bishop Galante and now Bishop Sullivan.

“Rest in peace, Bishop Galante, your courage to fight for affordable housing helped a lot of people.”

Curtis Johnson – Formerly of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Camden, and currently vice president of Housing Strategy, Catholic Charities USA

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