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
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.