Bishop Sullivan Proclaims ‘Alleluia’ as He Becomes Bishop of Camden


The chorus of Alleluias that Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan proclaimed at his Mass of installation stretched all the way from New York to Camden, N.J.

He became the eighth bishop to lead the southern New Jersey diocese at a lively two-hour afternoon liturgy Feb. 12 filled with masterful preaching, rousing music and a whole lot of New York heart and soul.

Bishop Sullivan, in his homily at the Mass offered the day before Ash Wednesday, noted the absence of the “Alleluia” Gospel acclamation at Lenten Masses.

As if to make up for the impending shortfall, the bishop gave the congregation a full helping of “Alleluias,” beginning with one for the Diocese of Camden, which is marking its 75th anniversary, and then another for the diocese’s priests and one more for newly retired Bishop Joseph Galante, who had served for nearly nine years as Bishop of Camden and was one of the concelebrants.

The Alleluias continued to ring out for several more minutes before concluding with a final one for “all who minister in Camden, and whose ministry proclaims the Kingdom of God.”

“Let the Alleluias echo around this church and around the six counties of the diocese,” Bishop Sullivan said.

An impressive contingent of nearly 100 priests and many other invited guests from New York helped to fill 1,400-seat St. Agnes Church in Blackwood, N.J., where a framed photograph of Bishop Sullivan was already hung near the front door. The New York priests joined more than 150 others from Camden.

The bishop had taken canonical possession of the diocese at vespers in Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Camden the evening before.

The next day, Archbishop John Myers of Newark, N.J., the metropolitan for the dioceses of New Jersey, welcomed Bishop Sullivan after his ceremonial knocking at the church door.

Msgr. Jean-Francois Lantheaume, representing Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, read the letter from Pope Benedict XVI appointing Bishop Sullivan as head of the diocese, home to 475,000 Catholics in 70 parishes.

Cardinal Dolan and Cardinal Egan, Archbishop Emeritus, were among some three dozen prelates at the Mass, as was Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia.

At the start of his homily, the Bronx-born Bishop Sullivan sought to “establish my New Jersey credentials.” In moving to Camden, he became the third son of his family to leave New York for the Garden State. Today, most of the younger members of his extended families call New Jersey home, he said.

Still, he recalled, with a touch of gentle humor, how his late mother, Hanorah, never completely got accustomed to the idea of a member of her family leaving New York. Despite the travails of having emigrated from Ireland by ship, the bishop said his mother seemed more unsettled about the prospect of crossing over to New Jersey by bridge or tunnel.

Bishop Sullivan’s welcome to Camden took several forms. During the Rite of Installation, Archbishop Myers and Msgr. Lantheaume escorted him to his cathedra, or bishop’s seat, where he was presented with his crosier. Representatives of the Church of Camden, as well as leaders of other faith communities and civic officials greeted him in front of the sanctuary.

Later in the liturgy, Bishop Galante presented Bishop Sullivan with a reproduction of Caravaggio’s Call of St. Matthew on behalf of clergy, religious, lay people and himself.

“My brother Dennis,” he said, “I can’t tell you how welcome you are...”

Bishop Sullivan, in remarks after Communion, paid tribute to the two Archbishops of New York, whom he had served as an auxiliary bishop and vicar general since 2004. He referred to Cardinal Dolan and Cardinal Egan, now Archbishop Emeritus, as mentors, teachers, brothers in Christ and fathers in God.

They, in turn, returned the favor. Cardinal Egan touted the bishop’s virtues as a pastor, both in city ministry for 22 years at St. Teresa’s parish on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and in suburban service for two years at SS. John and Paul parish in Larchmont before the cardinal appointed him as vicar general.

“He knew how to handle both with ease, with love, compassion and style,” Cardinal Egan said.

Cardinal Dolan punctuated his remarks by drawing upon Pope John Paul II’s Law of the Gift to describe the “gift” of Bishop Sullivan.

“We are at our best in conformity with what God intended for us when we give away what is best in us,” the cardinal said. “Jesus did that on the cross. We in the Archdiocese of New York have just done that.”

The gift resonated with natives of the Camden Diocese as well. Sister Bonnie McMenanin, S.S.J., who is involved in ministry with the deaf community and other persons with disabilities, said she was struck by “the love of the people of New York to share him with us.”

“We’re embracing that love,” she said.

F. Mark D’Onofrio, a member of St. Padre Pio parish outside Vineland, N.J., said Bishop Sullivan would find his new diocese to be “a community of loving and caring people.”

“We’re ecstatic he’s here, and we happy to grow with him,” he said.