A Bishop 'Made' in Union City
There are 75 parishes in the archdiocese that directly serve 600,000 Hispanic Catholics, representing the diverse cultures and dialects of Spain, Central and South America and the Caribbean islands. Father Jose I. Gamba, is the coordinator of the archdiocesan Hispanic Apostolate. The Hispanic Pastoral Institute and Retreat House (also known as Centro Guadalupe) is based in Union City.
During the June 9 press conference in Newark that announced the appointment (see The Catholic Advocate, June 18) Archbishop John J. Myers, said Bishopelect Cruz "is well-known and highly regarded by the priests and people of this archdiocese—not only for his extensive involvement in ministry to the Spanishspeaking, but also for his deep and strong commitment to the health and the needs of the poor.
"In leadership roles in chaplain service and hospital ministry, he has served the needs of people in the archdiocese at their most vulnerable moments," Archbishop Myers said. "Throughout his life as a priest, Bishop-elect Cruz has continued to provide the very real presence of Our Lord at a time when it is most needed."
Reaction from the Hispanic community regarding the appointment of Bishop-elect Cruz has been overwhelmingly joyful. "We are blessed that the Church has appointed such a humble yet strong, kind and holy man to be the new auxiliary bishop and vicar for Hispanics for the Archdiocese of Newark." said Liliana Soto-Cabrera, coordinator for the Office of Evangelization. "He is a man full of love and zeal for the Lord and for His people. I am very much looking forward to collaborating with him in the area of evangelization."
One of Bishop-elect Cruz's first assignments after being ordained a priest was serving as parochial vicar of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Newark from 1982 to 1995. Sister Ana Josefa, coordinator of catechetics at the Cathedral Basilica, has known Bishop-elect Cruz for many years.
"He has been such a dedicated priest, especially to the poor and the needy; it is a blessing for the Church and the Hispanic community," Sr. Ana said. "I have known him for many years and I truly believe he is a hope for the Hispanic population. I know that he will be a pastor according to the heart of Jesus Christ. He is a man of faith who will be a true shepherd not only to the Spanishspeaking community of the Archdiocese, but for the whole Church."
Father Juan Luis Calderon, O.A.R., the assistant director of Centro Guadalupe, Union City—the Hispanic Pastoral Center and Pastoral Formation Institute of the Archdiocese of Newark—expressed great pride and admiration for the homegrown ministry of Bishop-elect Cruz.
"I'm an imported priest," Fr. Calderon pointed out, noting he came to the archdiocese from his homeland of Spain seven years ago. "I have grown as an American, but it has been a difficult transition for me. It has been a struggle. Bishop-elect Cruz was born in Cuba, but he is a bishop from Union City. He was 'made' here. He truly knows what it means to be a Hispanic in the archdiocese. I am so happy that the Holy Spirit decided to create a bishop from Union City. I am very proud to say he is my friend. He will help bring the values and traditions of the Hispanic community to the Church of Newark."
Fr. Calderon also admired how the ministry of Bishop-elect Cruz has gained great spiritual depth by confronting the many elements of pain in the archdiocese. "He knows the pain of the Body of Christ," Fr. Calderon said. "He knows the personal pain of what it means to be an exile from your homeland; what it means to be separated from the roots of your country because your family is no longer welcomed there. He knows the spiritual pain felt by parishioners, working parish people in the community as a priest. He also knows the physical pain felt by people through his ministry in healthcare and working in hospitals. His ministry is something that has been wonderful for the archdiocese."
Father Raul Comesanas, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Newark, who also hails from Cuba, described the announcement naming Msgr. Cruz as a new auxiliary bishop as "a gift from Our Lady of Charity to not only the Cuban community in New Jersey, but to all the Cuban communities outside of Cuba."
A friend of Bishop-elect Cruz for many years, Fr. Comesanas stated the archdiocese desperately needs clergy like Bishopelect Cruz who can bridge the language and cultural gap between English-speaking people and Spanish-speaking communities. "Bishop-elect Cruz is going to play an important role in bridging that gap, especially because of his command of both languages," Fr. Comesanas said.
Fr. Gamba, who also serves as pastor of Saint Peter Claver Parish in Montclair, said Bishop-elect Cruz's ministry represents "a long journey of service to all people in the archdiocese. Now, in his new ministry as a bishop, we know he will be a great instrument of the grace of God. He is a kind, compassionate man," he said. With regard to the ongoing mission of the archdiocesan Hispanic Apostolate, Fr. Gamba envisions Bishop-elect Cruz as an "important figure to help lead and inspire our diverse Hispanic community."
Born in Havana on December 2, 1953 to Juan and Caridad Cruz, Bishop-elect Cruz came to the United States in 1966 with his parents. He went to school and grew up in Union City and was ordained a priest for service in the archdiocese on May 31, 1980.
Thirteen years ago Bishop-elect Cruz became a chaplain at Saint Michael's Medical Center and later was named director of the Archdiocese's Office of Pastoral Care. As director of Pastoral Care he managed the full range of Catholic chaplain and pastoral care services at all hospitals and medical centers in the Archdiocese of Newark.
(Editor's note: Junno De Jesus Arocho is the bi-lingual public relations assistant in the Department of Communications of the Archdiocese of Newark and also serves as a coordinator for New Jersey Catolico, the monthly, Spanish-language sister publication of The Catholic Advocate.)