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2015: 12 months in the life of the Diocese of Wilmington


Dialog Editor


Diocesan news in 2015 began last January with a happy report on the generosity of parishioners when Bishop Malooly announced that the Sustaining Hope for the Future capital campaign reached $31,074,000 in pledges. That was more than $3 million over its goal.

“I think the people clearly saw the campaign was to re-energize the Diocese of Wilmington, to take care of those doing the work — the priests and the laity who will get the pensions,” the bishop said.

Sustaining Hope for the Future funds are helping to reinforce the diocesan lay pension plan, secure priests’ retirement benefits, and provide for both diocesan ministries and parish needs.

Also in January, the 2014 Annual Catholic Appeal total was reported at $4.7 million pledged, more than $382,000 over its goal.

“I’m elated and humbled once again by the continuing generosity of our people,” the bishop said.


By February, the diocese and its parishes were looking toward the September World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. At St. Ann Parish in Bethany Beach, parishioners discussed family life by studying the final report of the 2014 World Synod of Bishops on family life.

The DialogBishop Malooly, opens the Holy Door at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Easton, Md., Dec. 13, amid the smoke of the incense used in the service he conducted before the parish’s 10:30 a.m. Mass.
Bishop Malooly opens the Holy Door at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Easton, Md., Dec. 13, amid the smoke of the incense used in the service he conducted before the parish’s 10:30 a.m. Mass. (The Dialog)

It was also announced that the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales would begin to minister at the diocese’s St. Thomas More Oratory at the University of Delaware.

On Feb. 21, more than 200 people began a journey to become Catholics at the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, including 37 people from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Bear.



Bishop Malooly wrote members of the Delaware Legislature in March to “strongly urge” them to support repeal of the state’s death penalty.

A bill to repeal of the state’s death penalty failed to make it out of a House committee in May.

Also in March, more than 1,100 young people joined Bishop Malooly for the sixth annual Youth Pilgrimage, marching from city parish to parish and carrying a cross to commemorate Jesus carrying his cross.



Catholic Charities honored Rocco and Mary Abessinio with the Msgr. Thomas J. Reese Award on April 15 at its annual tribute dinner.

Rocco Abessinio is chairman and CEO of Applied Bank and Roch Capital Inc. His wife, Mary, is CEO of the Abessinio Family Foundation.

Also honored in April were trial lawyer Victor Battaglia by the diocese’s St. Thomas More Society, and Alex Handy, a St. Peter and Paul in Easton, Md., parishioner. Handy received an award from the Maryland Controller’s Office for his work aiding the “most vulnerable in society” through the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

The month also saw Richard A. Bayhan named the new principal of St. Mark’s High School to succeed Carol Ripken, who returned to her job as assistant superintendent in the Office of Catholic Schools on July 1.



The superior general of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, Father Aldino Kiesel, visited the order’s Wilmington-Philadelphia province in May.

Also, 47 Spanish-speaking parishioners in the diocese were commissioned lay pastoral agents for 16 parishes during a ceremony led by Msgr. Steven Hurley, vicar general, at St. Paul’s Church in Wilmington. Msgr. Hurley praised the pastoral agents for taking “a brave step to lead your community closer to God.”

The diocese posted an audited financial statement on its website, www.cdow.org, in May, including a 28-page document from Belfint, Lyons and Shurman with statements of assets, liabilities, and net assets.



In June, the funeral rites at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington for former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, a son of Vice President Joe Biden, drew national attention.

Father Leo J. O’Donovan, president emeritus of Georgetown University, eulogized Biden as a devoted husband and father, splendid son, true brother and patriotic public servant at the June 6 funeral Mass. More than 1,000 people attended the funeral that was broadcast on national television.

When Pope Francis published his encyclical “Laudato Si’ — On Care of Our Common Home” on June 18, Bishop Malooly called the 180-page letter a “diverse and important document.”

“This is what God expects of us,” the bishop said. “Much as we have a significant relationship with God the Father, we have one in our humanity with the environment because both are God-given.”



In July, the diocese began the observance of the 200th anniversary of its Cathedral of St. Peter by announcing an annual special collection for the maintenance and preservation of the bishop’s home church.

In his annual Fortnight for Freedom homily on July 5 at the cathedral, Bishop Malooly decried the passage of the Affordable Care Act for its inclusion of “federal funds to pay for elective abortions” and failure to include language to provide conscience protection.

The bishop also helped St. Joseph’s Mission Church in Cordova, Md., celebrate its 250th anniversary on July 12.



The diocese conducted a random drawing in August to distribute tickets to a Mass to be celebrated by Pope Francis in Washington, D.C., Sept. 23, and Bishop Malooly announced that parishes would conduct Holy Hours on Sept. 21 for the success of the pope’s Sept. 22-27 visit to Washington, New York and Philadelphia.

Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi Kenya celebrated Mass in Swahili Aug. 15 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Bear, where he baptized, confirmed, administered first Communions and blessed the marriages of parishioners. While in the United States for the World Meeting of Families, the African cardinal said he was visiting Kenyans “to encourage them in their faith” and to protect their heritage.



By early September, Michele Lennon of Angel Crossing, a Catholic goods shop in Elsmere, reported that anything related to Pope Francis was being bought at the store in anticipation of his U.S. visit.

The back-to-school month saw about 10,000 students in Catholic schools in the diocese, which is celebrating 185 years of Catholic education. “Merciful like the Father” is the theme of this school year, according to Louis De Angelo, head of the Catholic Education Department.

St. Edmond’s Parish celebrated its 75th year in Rehoboth Beach in September and St. Hedwig’s Polish Festival began on the Wilmington riverfront Sept. 21.

Diocesan pilgrims to Philadelphia and Washington flocked to see Pope Francis in both cities. Those with tickets to the Washington Mass at the National Shrine had an easier time of seeing the pontiff than many who braved security check points in Philly to see the pope. Bishop Malooly said he especially appreciated the pope’s frequent references to family life and the dignity of life at all stages.



Ninety-one parishioners received the diocesan Medal of Merit from Bishop Malooly Oct. 4 at St. John the Beloved Church.

“Mary points us to Jesus,” Bishop Malooly told participants at the annual diocesan Marian Pilgrimage at Holy Spirit Church in New Castle Oct. 11.

A two-alarm fire gutted the rectory of St. Mary Refuge of Sinners Parish in Cambridge Md., on Oct. 12. At least the church and parish hall were unscathed, Father Bill Lawlor, the pastor, reported.

In October, the bishop named three priests to diocesan offices: Oblate Father Mark S. Mealey was named judicial vicar; Father David Kelley became Vicar of Clergy; and Father Norman Carroll, pastor of St. Elizabeth in Wilmington, added director of Priestly and Religious Vocations to his duties.

That month St. Hedwig’s in Wilmington closed its 125th anniversary with a Mass celebrated by the bishop.



In November, Bishop Malooly issued a call to men interested in becoming permanent deacons for the diocese. A formation program is slated to begin in June this year.

Hundreds of sixth-grade students attended a Vocations Awareness Day at St. Mark’s High School on Nov. 2.

Also, Our Mother of Sorrows in Centreville, Md., and St. Peter’s in Queenstown, Md., observed 250 years of Catholicism on the Eastern Shore.

And St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Church in Ocean City, Md., was closed temporarily in November for renovations expected to be completed by this coming Easter.

In conjunction with the jubilee Year of Mercy announced by Pope Francis, Bishop Malooly named eight churches in the diocese as the sites of Holy Doors for pilgrims during the year. By crossing the threshold of the Holy Doors, the pope said, “we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.”



On Dec. 13, Bishop Malooly opened the Year of Mercy’s Holy Door at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Easton, Md.

A statue of the Pieta was dedicated outside Corpus Christi Church in Elsmere on Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.