Families Who's Whom in Ireland
Bartholomew Eustace, Bishop of Camden, New Jersey
On December 9, 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 was met with a variety of responses. When the
Camden daily newspaper reported the event the next morning, many priests did not
believe the report to be accurate.
The major apprehension was that a new diocese in southern New Jersey was neither
feasible nor possible because of the area's poor financial condition, the small
Catholic population, the small number of priests and the financial position of
the existing parishes. There were relatively few Catholics and the parishes that
did exist were weak financially. The new diocese contained about 2700 square
miles and included a Catholic population of about 100, 000. There were 49
parishes served by a total of 86 priests. The new diocese also had 31 mission
churches and 35 parochial schools.
A week went by before Catholics in the Diocese of Camden learned that their
first bishop would be Father Bartholomew J. Eustace of New York. Father Eustace
was born on Manhattan's lower east side October 9,1887. His parents Bartholomew
and Elizabeth Eustace had left Ireland shortly before his birth. He received
elementary education in New York City public schools, completed four years of
high school and two years of college at St. Francis Xavier College on sixteenth
Street in New York City and began seminary studies at St. Joseph Seminary in
Dunwoodie, NY and completed theological studies at North American College in
Rome. He was ordained a priest November 12, 1914 and remained there to complete
his doctoral thesis in theology before returning to NewYork in the summer of
Father Eustace served as assistant pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church, New
Rochelle for one year before being appointed to the faculty of St. Joseph's
Seminary in Dunwoodie. He remained at the seminary where he became Professor of
Philosophy and Liturgy until he returned to New Rochelle as pastor of Blessed
Sacrament Church. At St. Joseph's Seminary, Father Eustace wrote numerous texts
on the rubrics of public worship, the rites of baptism, marriage and funerals
and became a recognized authority on the liturgy of the Catholic Church. Father
Eustace often arranged ordinations and other ceremonial occasions for New York's
Patrick Cardinal Hayes.
It was Cardinal Hayes who officiated at Father Eustace's ordination as bishop at
St. Patrick's Cathedral on March 25,1938. Three archbishops, twenty-six bishops
and 700 priests were in attendance-
The bishop's elderly mother, Elizabeth Eustace, proudly sat in the front row
with her younger son, Arthur Eustace. The bishop's father, who became an
accountant after coming to America had died in 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 mayor of Camden, he was escorted by
motorcade to the rectory of Immaculate Conception Church, his cathedral. The new
diocese contained, nearly 2700 square miles and had a Catholic population of
about 100,000. There were 49 parishes, 75 diocesan priests and11 priests of
religious communities. There were 31 mission churches and 35 parochial schools.
The Great Depression still cast a shadow over the economy of the area, yet in
the 6 county area there was not a single Catholic welfare institution or school
of higher learning.
Bishop Eustace led the Diocese of Camden from May 1938 until his death December
11,1956. Monsignor Charles Giglio in "BUILDING GOD'S KINGDOM".... A history of
the Diocese of Camden states : (Bishop Eustace) demonstrated a unique and
extraordinary ability to lead his priests and in turn, his people, to build a
Catholic community in South Jersey that would greatly satisfy the needs at hand.
Bishop Eustace's own courage, founded upon confidence in the Lord, became a
contagious spirit among the clergy and the facilities and ministries began to
The Bishop Among His People
From the beginning, Bishop Eustace made strenuous efforts to become acquainted
with each priest in the diocese and to participate in parish activities. This
surprised and delighted the faithful, many of whom had rarely seen a bishop from
one year to the next. Just 4 days after his installation in May 1938, the new
bishop surprised about 15,000 attending Mass in the huge military field in Cold
Springs Park, Gloucester City. Although the printed program for the ceremony
included the bishop's photo, no one anticipated his attendance. Shortly before
the procession from St. Mary's Church to the field began, Bishop Eustace and his
vicar general arrived by car, completely unannounced. Arrangements were
hurriedly made for the bishop's participation in the ceremonies.
Bishop Eustace heard confessions regularly at the Cathedral. He often walked
through the aisles of the churches to meet the parishioners. He considered
himself primarily a pastor whose work, was chiefly to lead priests and the
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 time and 9 later. Four new Catholic high schools were
opened and 6existing high schools expanded. 22 elementary schools were opened
and 11 existing ones were expanded. In addition, the bishop witnessed the
erection of 50 churches, 30 rectories and 20convents.
Bishop Eustace made evangelisation in the Black and Hispanic communities a
priority. He established St. Monica’s in Atlantic City as a separate parish for
Blacks. Camden had a large Black population and a parish was erected there also.
After World War II, a large number of Puerto Rican migrant workers came to work
on farms in southern New Jersey. Our Lady of Fatima parish was established in
Camden and a Spanish-speaking priest was assigned 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 pastoral endeavors. He was stricken with
diabetes in 1941 and in 1950suffered the first of 3 heart attacks. After his
third heart attack, 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 had Monsignor Mozier review the work
in the evenings. During November Cardinal James McIntyre of Los Angeles came to
see the Bishop. When the Cardinal left the Bishop's room, he was weeping and
said to Monsignor Mozier, “The church is about to lose one of its great minds
and you should deem it a privilege that you lived with him all these years."
Bishop Eustace died in his bedroom December 11, 1956 at the age of 69. He was
survived by a brother Arthur and several relatives in Ireland. Cardinal McIntyre
offered the funeral Mass on December 15th. Archbishop (later Cardinal) O'Hara
delivered the eulogy.
Words of Praise and grief poured in from many sources. The Vatican's
L'Osservatore Romano, pointed to the increase of Catholic population in the
diocese from 100,O00 to 200,000 and the increase in priests from 86 to 195
during Bishop Eustace’s tenure.
Adapted from BUILDING GOD'S KINGDOM. A History of The Diocese of
Camden, Seton Hall University Press, Charles Giglio, Editor (1987).
These pages © Ronald Eustice, 2009