Shortly after Bishop Joseph Galante announced massive parish mergers throughout the Catholic Diocese of Camden Diocese, he was diagnosed with kidney disease.
For the past year, he has been undergoing regular dialysis treatment. He will step down as head of the diocese on Feb. 12, six months shy of his 75th birthday, when most bishops are forced to retire.
His replacement, Bishop Dennis Sullivan, is a native of New York and the vicar general of the New York Archdiocese. He serves on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for the Protection of Children.
Sullivan, 67, had served as pastor at churches in New York City’s Lower East Side, and in the much more wealthy Westchester County area.
The appointment by the Vatican is based in part on a letter Galante wrote, outlining the needs of the diocese.
“The end result has been a bishop who fits a lot of the things people in the diocese were looking for,” said Peter Feuerherd, a spokesman for the diocese. “Bishop Sullivan is fluent in Spanish — that’s very important in our diocese. He’s also been a pastor — a pastor in an urban environment, on the Lower East Side, so he’s familiar with the struggles of what urban people go through.
“He’s also been a pastor in a suburban parish Westchester County. In that capacity, he’s done work on consolidation of parishes there,” Feuerherd. “He knows some of the struggles of what it means to go through the parish merger process.”
Since 2009, the Camden diocese merged 120 parishes into 70, inciting protests by some parishioners and prayer vigils inside churches slated for closure. Feuerherd says there are a few issues remaining in the overhaul, but the “painful part” is over.