By Joe Rafferty
GLOUCESTER CITY NJ (May 2007)--(The author is the superintendent of Mt. Ephraim Public Schools. A resident of Gloucester City, he is a former Gloucester City Public School teacher, a former assistant principal at Mary Ethel Costello School and a past Gloucester City councilman.
For many years when someone would ask me where I was from I would tell them that I was from Gloucester City – "The Holy City". As the person would look at me trying to understand what I meant by "The Holy City" I would try to give them a reasonable explanation of why Gloucester City had this classification. Where did it come from, who first applied the label, when should it be used, what are the characteristics that come with the label and how come Gloucester City?
The first time I heard the use of the classification of "Holy City" was many years ago when I was in the company of several senior political leaders the late state senator Walter Rand , the late state assembly Francis Gorman, the late councilwoman Pat McNutt , and the current United States Congressmen Robert Andrews. They would refer to Gloucester City in a respectful and compassionate way as "The Holy City".
A few weeks ago a retired teacher and former political figure of Mt. Ephraim Mr. Al Kershaw had invited me to come to the Mt. Ephraim Rotary, when he introduced me he stated that I was from the "Holy City". It made me fill up with a special pride for all the people of Gloucester City.
They saw in Gloucester City residence unique qualities that allow the city to be recognized as a city that had compassion for the underdog and the needy, respect for the working people and their families and a competitive spirit that would fight for every opportunity for success be it in athletics, academics, economic improvement or helping others.
As a person has physical side, which they are, always trying to improve so has the city tried to improve the infrastructure and physical surroundings. Nevertheless, Gloucester City has something far better than just a pretty face; it has a soul of compassion for others. In addition, I believe that compassionate city soul is why Gloucester City is the "Holy City".
Yes, the city needs many improvements and there are times we act in ways that are not in any terms classifiable holy. But under the outward appearance is one of the greatest treasures in South Jersey. Just as a diamond has physical flaws that bring to it value, so that of Gloucester City. We can sit around and find plenty that we should improve upon. Nevertheless, the diamond only gets its most worth when it is place in a setting that lets it shine and sparkle so that you can see its unique beauty.
There are plenty of people, who look at Gloucester City for only its imperfections and never see the magnificence and its uniqueness. What make this truly a "Holy City" are the everyday heroes who are the role models that make the city so special. The people who make it their personal business to help others. There is truly too long a list to place every name on it those of the past and the current day. But when a person is in need or find themselves in some type of hardship the people of Gloucester City stand tall ready to help and assist without wanting and type of recognition.
Therefore, in the spirit of the "Holy City" as we work through each day let Gloucester City shine so that everyone can see its unique beauty, which is its compassion for others. Mother Teresa stated, "We can do no great things; only small things with great love". Take the time a share with someone a story about the common day heroes so that they themselves can see them as role models to follow.
Remember that next time someone asks you were you are from you tell them Gloucester City the "Holy City" and say it with a smile.
Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.
February 2014 UPDATE : Today, Mr. Rafferty is the superintendent of the Gloucester City School system