Another Service to the Church: Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio Deposits His Papers at CMS

Mary Brown, PhD
Center for Migration Studies

Credit: Center for Migration Studies

Another Service to the Church: Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio Deposits His Papers at CMS

The Center for Migration Studies welcomes its newest collection, the papers of Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio. This new collection is an opportunity to examine how the traditions of the Church can meet some of the needs of the modern world. The collection promises to expand CMS’s coverage of immigration in several ways.

Credit: Center for Migration Studies

Bishop DiMarzio kept up with the many points of view on immigration, and so CMS now has both a run of People on the Move, the publication of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, which views these issues through the lens of human needs, and a stack of publications from the Center for Immigration Studies, which opposes most immigration to the United States. The collection reflects the many national and international agencies with which Bishop DiMarzio was associated, including the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC), the Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM), the Migration Policy Institute, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and CMS itself, as the bishop has served on the Board of Trustees and has had connections with our organization since the days of its founders, Cardinal Silvano M. Tomasi and Father Lydio F. Tomasi. The collection also reflects the demographic diversity of migration, with research publications on various sending and receiving countries, on the divergent experiences of woman migrants, and on the different issues facing children and people with disabilities. Finally, Bishop DiMarzio’s papers reflect his interest in the many diplomatic, economic, legal, and social issues shaping the immigrant experience.

The collection includes not only what Bishop DiMarzio read about immigration, but what he wrote about it. He authored pamphlets on the Church’s teaching on migration for the laity and reports for other experts in the field, some of them based on his travels to migrant homelands and refugee camps. He also spoke at diocesan conferences and at world events. Most of the speeches are preserved together with the program and other ephemera from the event at which the speech was delivered, which provides context for the remarks.

Born in Newark, Bishop DiMarzio was ordained a priest of his natal city in 1970. Pope John Paul II named him a monsignor in 1986. He was consecrated a bishop in 1996 and served as an auxiliary in Newark before being made Bishop of Camden in 1999 and Bishop of Brooklyn in 2003. He had a parallel career as a professional in the field of international migration. A licensed social worker with a doctorate in social work research and policy from Rutgers University, Bishop DiMarzio became the Archdiocese of Newark’s Refugee Resettlement Director in 1976 and worked for two years as Director of Newark’s Catholic Community Services. In 1985, he became Executive Director of USCCB Migration and Refugee Services in Washington, DC. Returning to Newark in 1991, he became Associate Director of Catholic Community Services. The next year he advanced to Executive Director. From 1998 to 2000 he chaired the USCCB Migration Committee. In 2000, he became a member of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. From 2003 to 2005 he was a member of the GCIM. This recitation of his priestly and professional lives sounds like a steady movement up, up—and away from the ordinary faithful, and the migrants and refugees whose lives are far removed from the luxuries of scholarship and dialogue.

Bishop DiMarzio’s papers serve as a corrective to that impression. All clergy are called to teach. Bishop DiMarzio preserved how he carried out that responsibility through his many speeches and publications about the moral framework of migrant and refugee care. While canon law requires most episcopal records remain in diocesan archives, Bishop DiMarzio deposited with CMS his personal planning for pastoral care in the multi-ethnic Diocese of Camden: an Office of Black Catholic Ministry, an Office of Hispanic Ministry, a Haitian community apostolate, and missions in the Korean and Vietnamese communities. He also oversaw diocesan programs designed to explain to migrants their legal rights in the United States and what to do if stopped by local police or by immigration authorities.

Credit: Center for Migration Studies

One might argue that such offices create bureaucracies that stifle human response to migrants and refugees. However, without a structure incorporating all voices, humanity is at the mercy of whoever has the money or the power to grab the microphone. Bishop DiMarzio’s work with the GCIM is a case in point. Bishop DiMarzio’s GCIM papers form a block three feet long, a foot high, and a foot deep. One reason is that the GCIM sought to hear from migrants and refugees about their experiences, and in the process planned and carried out visits to Budapest, Cairo, Cape Town, Manila, and Mexico City.

Similarly, one might argue that research turns migrants and refugees into objects to be studied. Bishop DiMarzio’s papers contain many examples of research that instead seek to incorporate migrants and refugees and show the value of their integration for the whole community. For example, his collection contained publications from both the International Labour Organization and the US Department of Labor, which studied foreign-born workers to see if they are clustered in particular jobs and what might be done to bring them into every segment of the job market. This is important not only to avoid the kind of stereotyping that identifies a particular group with a particular job and ignores individual talents and interests. When a particular immigrant group is represented across the job market, individuals have a better chance of economic security, a key factor in social integration.

Bishop DiMarzio’s papers show how the priestly and the professional combine to support appropriate pastoral care for migrants, refugees, and the communities in which they settle. In his ministry, he combined the age-old priestly work of preaching, teaching, administration of the sacraments and acts of charity with modern professional training to strengthen the pastoral care of migrants and refugees in coordination with others working in the fields of social service and social justice.

December 21, 2021