A Glorious Past,
A Brilliant Future

     Pope Pius XI (pictured above) created the Diocese of Camden on December 9, 1937, and from all appearances, the new ecclesiastical territory hardly seemed able to take care of itself. Aside from a few townships near the See city, the new Camden Diocese was extensively rural. The number of priests was small. Hopeful signs of growth emerged in the railroads, shipyard and some industry, while the seashore from Brigantine to Cape May afforded a significant source of revenue from the summer residents, chiefly from Philadelphia. No one knew at the time that a rather large segment of the Philadelphia population would eventually migrate across the Delaware River.

     The creation of the new Diocese brought uncertainty and adjustment of numerous relationships. Nevertheless, large numbers of clergy and laity alike welcomed the news with pride as they viewed the report in Camden's Morning Post on the morning of December 10.

     Many priests simply could not believe that the news reports were accurate. Some had felt that their assignments to South Jersey, which they termed "Siberia", would eventually end and they could return closer to Trenton. In December 1937, the situation looked rather dismal and insecure to the prophets of doom. It was to change radically. At the time, clergy and laity had little conception of the strength and growth the future would bring.

     The new Diocese of approximately 100,000 Catholics in 49 parishes, 31 mission churches and 35 parochial schools (thirty elementary and five secondary) was served by 75 diocesan priests and 11 priests of religious communities. In the whole area there was not a single Catholic human services institution or school of higher learning.

     South Jersey Catholics awaited the news of their first Bishop. For almost a week, they speculated on local priests who would be tough and hardened to a ministry of building and fundraising to meet the already present burdens of the parishes.