Category Archives: Best Practices Articles

Families Traveling the Trail to Sainthood

On two evenings in early November, the families of the children in Religious Education grades 1-6 at St. Joseph, Somers Point, came together for an interactive, intergenerational learning experience called the Trail to Sainthood. The religious education program at St. Joseph is a traditional classroom based program, but Jackie Baum, CRE, occasionally providing some new intergenerational programs for the families of the religious education students.

Each of the families came on just one night- their regular night for religious ed. classes. Families were notified well in advance so that parents knew and were prepared to stay for the whole event with their children. Instead of a regular class session, the families stayed for about 3 hours for this special event. There were approximately 35 people volunteers who played saints or took other parts in the 4 different sections of the event. Each event took place in a different room. Families spent about 30 minutes in each of the four sections. 

During the Living Tour of the Saints families took a tour through the church visiting about 16 saints. Each saint, dressed accordingly, spent two minutes talking about their lives and then handed out a small token for the families to remember them. St. Peter gave each person a Swedish fish, and St. Bernadette gave out bandaids to represent healing. The one exception was St. Vincent de Paul, who collected canned goods from his visitors.

In another room, a reporter from I Witness News, a production of station WCOS (Communion of Saints) conducted Interviews with the Saints. After the reporter finished interviewing the 8 or 9 saints present, the kids had a chance to ask some of their own questions.


Everybody needs a snack break, so why not Dine with the Saints? In an excellent show of hospitality, St. Julian greeted families as St. Martha and St. Elizabeth of Hungary served up refreshments.

Sr. Dot Urban, SSJ, Pastoral Associate at St. Katharine Drexel parish, was the featured guest speaker of the night. Her talk on the Trail to Sainthood emphasized that we are all living saints, but that these special people we call “Saint” have led extraordinary lives. As a result of the lives they led, these people were recommended for sainthood. Sr. Dot explained to the families present the steps in the canonization process.

In the past, there have been Advent and Lent events for religious education families at St. Joseph. For those events, the parents only participated in the first half, and came back after the second half to pick up their children. This is the first time parents were asked to participate through the whole event. The Trail to Sainthood is new this year and because of all the positive feedback, Jackie says there will likely be a similar event planned next year. St. Joseph’s Religious Education program is working on making a transition from the traditional classroom model to an intergenerational model.

If you are interested in planning a similar event, you can contact Jackie for more information at or 609.927.3302×24.

Families clap as Saints Juan Diego, Peter, Vincent de Paul, Cecilia and others process into the church.

Ministry to Young Families at Our Lady of Peace

During the Encuentro Pastoral visit to Deanery 6 in June, members of the pastoral team from Our Lady of Peace Parish in Williamstown shared the fact that Elizabeth Ministry is “new and flourishing” in their parish.   We contacted Elaina Judge who was encouraged by her pastor to look into Elizabeth Ministry after she moved into the parish and missed the MOMS group she left behind. Surfing the website of Elizabeth Ministry International, their mission can be viewed:  “We respect life, cherish children, encourage families, enrich marriages, and build communities.”   On the website one can also find a brief history of this wonderful outreach. “Elizabeth Ministry began in 1991 at St. Bernard Parish in Appleton, Wisconsin, where Jeannie Hannemann was a pastoral and family life minister… Today, over 700 Elizabeth Ministry Chapters have been registered with our headquarters and exist on six continents.  Although Elizabeth Ministry is Roman Catholic in origin and outlook, we are ecumenical in our outreach.” Elaina emailed young families in the parish,  put notices in the parish bulletin and in the “cry room” and by April, they gathered for the first time.  Now the fledgling group meets on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays from 10 to 12 at the parish and have Family Fun Night with a potluck supper on the 3rd Wednesday of the month.  There is always an activity – often based on an upcoming feast or holiday.   For example, the craft for the children near the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel was making scapulars.  July was a perfect time for an ice cream social, and in August, the children will have a Toy Swap, in which the value of sharing will be highlighted. No doubt, with the dedication of Elaina and those who join her, the “flourishing” will continue as a new year begins.  If you would like to learn more about Elizabeth Ministry at Our Lady of Peace, contact Elaina Judge at 677-7180 or email her at or

Our Cathedral Parish Witnesses to God’s Love

The scriptures tell us of God’s preferential option for the poor and Jesus himself vividly made this the very hallmark of gospel living when he said, “What you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do for me!” 
Here in Camden, charity is a work of compassion at our Cathedral Hall almost every day, but most especially on Tuesdays.  The Cathedral staff works lovingly to mobilize food donations and volunteers who help by making sandwiches to distribute and packing bags of groceries to alleviate the hungry families who come.  The poor are our hungry neighbors and they come eager for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a bag of food. 
On a Tuesday in August, Sr. Antoine visited the Cathedral and Susan Mackey shared their story.  This outreach began in the rectory basement about 2 years ago as a ministry of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales who staff our Cathedral.  Last year the kitchen in the Hall was renovated through the dedicated carpentry of Bob Cavanaugh, and their outreach expanded dramatically.  During the month of July, 1,577 sandwiches were distributed.  On average, 200 to 350 are in daily demand at the hall window.   On my visit I met up with Fr. Mike McCue, OSFS, who leads De Sales Service Works, and  had a group of young volunteers from Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, Virginia.  All the De Sales groups who come to Camden share in making sandwiches for this outreach.  Three of the young visitors said, “I just want to help.  I can do little things as St. Francis de Sales said.  I appreciate this experience!” 
Several years ago the Cathedral Kitchen moved from the Cathedral Hall to an offsite location on Federal St.  Although their outreach is similar, they are different entities and the Cathedral Kitchen is separately incorporated and funded. Susan Mackey shared that there are no grants for the Cathedral Hall ministry; they rely on donations of food, money or time.  Throughout the diocese and beyond, senior parish groups have begun to stop by with sandwiches they have prepared.  The Santo Nino Prayer Group, Filipino parishioners from Camden County
parishes, is very active with food, money and time.  New volunteers from the Cathedral parish and around the diocese are helping to meet the needs of the poor. 
The South Jersey Food Bank provides food at 17¢ a lb.  Brown’s ShopRite in Bellmawr provides bags and day old bread; fruit cups and jars were donated by Dole foods, JJ Snacks in Pennsauken makes it possible for the volunteers to put together snack bags for the homeless.   For more information or if you wish to join us and help with food, funds, or volunteer your time, contact Susan Mackey at the Cathedral Rectory,  856-964-1580. 
     S. Antoine T. Lawlor, IHM

We Knocked and were invited in!

We Knocked…and were invited in!

In June, we published the Evangelization toolkit called “Here I Am! I Stand at the Door and Knock…” Sr. Claire Sullivan, who has been leading a parish home visitation group consisting of parishioners and IHM sisters in home visits for the Parish of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, has written this article on the experiences of the group this summer. You can see that toolkit by clicking here: Here I Am! I Stand at the Door and Knock…

Walking the streets of North Camden, conversing with families on their front porch or steps, entering the sanctuary of so many homes and hearts has been a joy for each member of the Cathedral Home Visits Team.

We visited about 200 families blessing their homes, sharing high and low moments of their faith journeys, and hopefully giving encouragement, a kind word, a listening ear…

We met many families that wish their children and/or other family members to receive the sacraments. As we prayed and blessed the homes we discovered the deep faith life of many. At each home we left a beautiful picture of Jesus, the Shepherd and in so doing we discovered that many grandparents recite psalms 23 and 91 every night.

In entering the homes of our parishioners we were able to pinpoint really needy families that we need to be aware of now and at special times during the year.

One highpoint was the hospitality given as we prayed the rosary and sang songs at the corner of 7th and York Sts., a prayer service that was  repeated a week later at Front and State Sts. Of course all this was followed by refreshments and good conversation.

To express appreciation of a garden, to ask about the family photos, to laugh with the joyful and cry with the broken-hearted has been indeed a rich spiritual experience and brings to mind the words of St. Francis de Sales : “God has imprinted on all things his traces, trails and footsteps”.

Surely God was walking with us.

It is hoped that our invitations to be aware of God in their lives, to begin or continue to pray for guidance, strength, healing has been helpful. We have sown. We leave the harvesting to our loving providential Father.


Dr. Charles Zech was Keynote Speaker at “Harvesting Gifts for the Church of Camden” Event

Dr. Charles Zech was Keynote Speaker at “Harvesting Gifts for the Church of Camden” Event

Dr. Charles Zech, director of the Center for the Study of Church Management at Villanova University, was our keynote speaker on September 18 for Harvesting Gifts for the Church of Camden. This is the PowerPoint he used for his talk:   
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