The History of the Diocese of Camden

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Catholics who lived in New Jersey were served by the Bishop of Philadelphia (until 1853), the Bishop of Newark (1853-1881) and the Bishop of Trenton (1881-1937). The first church and school were established in 1848 and 1859 respectively, at Saint Mary’s, Gloucester.

St. Mary's Rectory, School & Convent, circa 1865.

The new diocese encompassed the six southernmost counties of New Jersey: Camden, Gloucester, Atlantic, Cape May, Salem and Cumberland. Bartholomew J. Eustace was installed as the first Bishop of Camden on May 4, 1938 in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Camden. During his installation, Bishop Eustace dedicated the new diocese to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

During Bishop Eustace’s tenure, 31 parishes were founded and 25 missions opened. 50 churches, 30 rectories and 20 convents were built. Thee Catholic high schools were opened and six expanded, while two elementary schools were built and 14 expanded. Also built at this time was Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital and St. Mary’s Catholic Home in Cherry Hill.

Bishop Justin J. McCarthy (1957-1959) and Archbishop Celestine J. Damiano (1960-1967) followed Bishop Eustace. In 1964, Archbishop Damiano reached out to the needy and to those of other faiths by establishing the House of Charity, a successful campaign that has been repeated every year since. During his term, five new high schools and 14 elementary schools were built and many others expanded. As a result, Catholic elementary enrollment increased more than 3,000.

The task of implementing the reforms of Vatican II fell to Camden's fourth ordinary, Bishop George H. Guilfoyle, who was installed March 4, 1968. During his term (1968-1989), a diocesan retreat house was established, Catholic nursing homes were acquired and built, and two residential facilities for the elderly were established.

Bishop Guilfoyle’s successor was Bishop James T. McHugh,  who was installed as fifth Bishop of Camden on June 20, 1989. His decade long legacy (1989-1999) included a major reorganization of the diocese’s administrative structure, a push to safeguard Catholic education, including a $6.3 million Catholic Education Endowment Fund for schools and religious education programs. Meanwhile, the Bishop initiated a $30 million Uniting in Faith and Mission capital campaign to fund a priest retirement home, Catholic education, parishes in dire financial straits, and the church’s social outreach. RENEW, which began in October, 1995, has meanwhile revitalized the spiritual life of parishes throughout the Diocese. Bishop McHugh was named coadjutor to Bishop of John R. McGann of Rockville Center, NY effective February, 1999 and succeeded retiring Bishop John R. McGann on January 4, 2000.   Bishop McHugh died  December 10, 2000 at the age of 68 after a year long battle with cancer.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio was installed as sixth Bishop of Camden July 22, 1999.  His appointment by Pope John Paul II was announced June 8, 1999 in Washington by Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, apostolic nuncio to the United States.


The shield consists of a black field with three silver elephant heads (signifying power, fidelity and wisdom from the coat of arms of the first Earl of Camden) each holding a golden cross (honoring the Trinity) and a silver crescent at the top center, signifying the Immaculate Conception, the title of the Cathedral of Camden and patroness of the Diocese.