Eustace Families Association

Bartholomew J. Eustace, Bishop



Bishop Bartholomew Eustace of Camden,NJ

On December 99 1937 the six southern counties of New Jersey (Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Salem, and Gloucester)became a new diocese of the Catholic Church. The announcement wasmet with a variety of responses. When the Camden daily newspaperreported the event the next morning, many priests did not believethe report to be accurate.

The major apprehension was that a new diocese in southern NewJersey was neither feasible nor possible because of the area'spoor financial condition, the small Catholic population, thesmall number of priests and the financial position of theexisting parishes. There were relatively few Catholics and theparishes that did exist were weak financially. The new diocesecontained about 2700 square miles and included a Catholicpopulation of about 100, 000. There were 49 parishes served by atotal of 86 priests. The new diocese also had 31 mission churchesand 35 parochial schools.

A week went by before Catholics in the Diocese of Camden learnedthat their first bishop would be Father Bartholomew J. Eustace ofNew York. Father Eustace was born on Manhattan's lower east sideOctober 9,1887. His parents Bartholomew and Elizabeth Eustace hadleft Ireland shortly before his birth . He received elementaryeducation in New York City public schools, completed four yearsof high school and two years of college at St. Francis XavierCollege on sixteenth Street in New York City and began seminarystudies at St. Joseph Seminary in Dunwoodie, NY and completedtheological studies at North American College in Rome. He wasordained a priest November 12, 1914 and remained there tocomplete his doctoral thesis in theology before returning to NewYork in the summer of 1915.

Father Eustace served as assistant pastor of Blessed SacramentChurch, New Rochelle for one year before being appointed to thefaculty of St. Joseph's Seminary in Dunwoodie. He remained at theseminary where he became Professor of Philosophy and Liturgyuntil he returned to New Rochelle as pastor of Blessed SacramentChurch. At St.Joseph's Seminary, Father Eustace wrote numeroustexts on the rubrics of public worship, the rites of baptism,marriage and funerals and became a recognized authority on theliturgy of the Catholic Church. Father Eustace often arrangedordinations and other ceremonial occasions for New York's PatrickCardinal Hayes.

It was Cardinal Hayes who officiated at Father Eustace'sordination as bishop at St. Patrick's Cathedral on March 25,1938. Three archbishops, twenty-six bishops and 700 priests werein attendance-

The bishop's elderly mother, Elizabeth Eustace, proudly sat inthe front row with her younger son, Arthur Eustace. The bishop'sfather, who became an accountant after coming to America had diedin 1917.

Bishop Eustace arrived in Camden late in the afternoon on May 3,1938 by train from New York. After a formal welcome by the mayorof Camden, he was escorted by motorcade to the rectory ofImmaculate Conception Church, his cathedral. The new diocesecontained, nearly 2700 square miles and had a Catholic populationof about 100,000. There were 49 parishes, 75 diocesan priests and11 priests of religious communities. There were 31 missionchurches and 35 parochial schools. The Great Depression stillcast a shadow over the economy of the area, yet in the 6 countyarea there was not a single Catholic welfare institution orschool of higher learning.

Bishop Eustace led the Diocese of Camden from May 1938 until hisdeath December 11,1956. Monsignor Charles Giglio in"BUILDING GOD'S KINGDOM".... A history of the Dioceseof Camden states : (Bishop Eustace) demonstrated a unique andextraordinary ability to lead his priests and in turn, hispeople, to build a Catholic community in South Jersey that wouldgreatly satisfy the needs at hand. Bishop Eustace's own courage,founded upon confidence in the Lord, became a contagious spiritamong the clergy and the facilities and ministries began to growrapidly.

The Bishop Among His People

From the beginning, Bishop Eustace made strenuous efforts tobecome acquainted with each priest in the diocese and toparticipate in parish activities. This surprised and delightedthe faithful, many of whom had rarely seen a bishop from one yearto the next. Just 4 days after his installation in May 1938, thenew bishop surprised about 15,000 attending Mass in the hugemilitary field in Cold Springs Park, Gloucester City. Althoughthe printed program for the ceremony included the bishop's photo,no one anticipated his attendance. Shortly before the processionfrom St. Mary's Church to the field began, Bishop Eustace and hisvicar general arrived by car, completely unannounced.Arrangements were hurriedly made for the bishop's participationin the ceremonies.

Bishop Eustace heard confessions regularly at the Cathedral. Heoften walked through the aisles of the churches to meet theparishioners. He considered himself primarily a pastor whosework, was chiefly to lead priests and the people.

Bishop Eustace led the Diocese of Camden from 1938 until December1956. Under his leadership 31 new parishes were founded; 25missions were opened, 16 of which became parishes during his timeand 9 later. Four new Catholic high schools were opened and 6existing high schools expanded. 22 elementary schools were openedand 11 existing ones were expanded. In addition, the bishopwitnessed the erection of 50 churches, 30 rectories and 20convents.

Bishop Eustace made evangelisation in the Black and Hispaniccommunities a priority. He established St. Monica’s inAtlantic City as a separate parish for Blacks. Camden had a largeBlack population and a parish was erected there also. After WorldWar II, a large number of Puerto Rican migrant workers came towork on farms in southern New Jersey. Our Lady of Fatima parishwas established in Camden and a Spanish-speaking priest wasassigned as pastor.

The Bishop’s Health Fails

Despite frail health, except for his the last three or four yearsof life, Bishop Eustace worked ceaselessly in his pastoralendeavors. He was stricken with diabetes in 1941 and in 1950suffered the first of 3 heart attacks. After his third heartattack, in February 1955, the Bishop was confined to the rectory.

Around mid-November 1956, Bishop Eustace could not leave his bed,however he continued to conduct diocesan business and hadMonsignor Mozier review the work in the evenings. During NovemberCardinal James McIntyre of Los Angeles came to see the Bishop.When the Cardinal left the Bishop's room, he was weeping and saidto Monsignor Mozier, “The church is about to lose one of itsgreat minds and you should deem it a privilege that you livedwith him all these years."

Bishop Eustace died in his bedroom December 11, 1956 at the ageof 69. He was survived by a brother Arthur and several relativesin Ireland. Cardinal McIntyre offered the funeral Mass onDecember 15th. Archbishop (later Cardinal) O'Hara delivered theeulogy.

Words of Praise and grief poured in from many sources. TheVatican's L'Osservatore Romano, pointed to the increase ofCatholic population in the diocese from 100,O00 to 200,000 andthe increase in priests from 86 to 195 during BishopEustace’s tenure.

Adapted from BUILDING GOD'S KINGDOM. A History of TheDiocese of Camden, Seton Hall University Press, Charles Giglio,Editor (1987).