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Services Held for Father Joseph P. Capella, age 61, Rector of Camden Catholic High School

Father Joseph P. Capella, Rector of Camden Catholic High School, died June 21 after a long illness. He had ministered there as an educator, administrator, and Screen Shot 2022-07-01 at 11.16.46 friend to all, exemplifying the love of God and each other, since 2016.

Camden Catholic High School president, Mary Whipkey, issued a statement to students, faculty, and friends in which she expressed sorrow at the priest’s passing.

“We were blessed with his leadership, companionship, and guidance in all matters of school administration and Catholic identity. His daily presence in the classroom, the hallways, and welcoming students into his office was a gift to our student body,” Whipkey wrote. “Father Capella built relationships by helping our students to open their hearts to Christ, something which is not always easy to do with teenagers, but he did it. He truly made an impact.”

Noting the priest’s last visit to the Catholic high school he had served since 2016 was to celebrate the commencement of the Class of 2022, Whipkey continued, “During his benediction, he told the students, ‘You are now called, as alumni of CCHS, not to live in the same world as others, but to live in the same world differently. … You are loved. … Be men and women who share Calvary love with others. And when you may have a dark day, a difficult situation, or a tragedy, know that love is with you but also know that it is within you. And you can live in this world in such a different way that others will know, positively, that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior.” 

Father Capella, 61, was born in Philadelphia. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business management and marketing from that city’s Saint Joseph University, and a master’s degree in divinity from Washington Theological Union, Washington.

He was ordained as a priest of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate, also known as the Pallottines, on June 2, 1990, at Saint Joseph Parish, Hammonton, by Bishop James McHugh. As a Pallottine priest, Father Capella served at Our Lady of Pompeii Parish, Brooklyn, N.Y., from 1990-1996, followed by acting as teacher, chaplain and Rector of Bishop Eustace Preparatory School, Cherry Hill, from 1996 to 2003.

Father Capella served as parochial vicar in Saint Vincent de Paul Parish, Mays Landing, and Our Lady of Grace Parish, Somerdale, before his incardination into the Diocese of Camden on April 19, 2006. He served as pastor in Saint Luke Parish, Stratford, from 2006-2009, and Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Lindenwold, from 2009-2016. In addition to his work in parishes and schools, Father Capella served as a member of the Bishop’s College of Consulters and on the Presbyteral Council.

His tenure in Camden Catholic High School began with his appointment as Director of Catholic Identity in 2016; upon his appointment as Rector in 2018, Bishop Dennis Sullivan called Father Capella “a shining example of the priesthood and one of the most dedicated and pastoral priests in our Diocese.”

Msgr. Andrew Martin, Camden Catholic High School president emeritus, called Father Capella’s passing “a big loss” to the Diocese and the high school.

“The first thing that comes to mind is what a holy priest he was,” Msgr. Martin said. “His deep faith in God was obvious, as was his commitment to all asked of him, especially in his ministry in Catholic education.”

“Today is the feast of St. Aloysius [Gonzaga], the patron saint of youth, so I think it is no coincidence that he died today,” Msgr. Martin continued. “His love of education was a gift to the school. The students were well aware of the love he had for them; the kids saw him as someone who could love them and connect with them spiritually.”

Msgr. Martin recalled the last event Father Capella attended at the high school: its June 3 Baccalaureate Mass and commencement exercises.

“It was less than three weeks ago, and it was obvious [Father Capella] was not in good health, but it was important for him to deliver that powerful address to the graduates,” he said. “His message was that we must live in the world differently because of our love for God.”

Sister Jerilyn Einstein, FMIJ, recalled how the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Infant Jesus came to know Father Capella.

“His mother came to the door of our convent and asked for prayers for her son, who was having some medical challenges,” she explained. “When his first crisis was over, Father came and asked what he could do for us. We said, ‘How about coming on Saturdays and celebrating Mass in our chapel?’

“From that day in 2005 until May 27, 2022, he faithfully became our chaplain. He became the advisor, confessor, and spiritual director of many of our sisters, helping us in the difficulties and struggles of life; but most of all, he immediately became our friend and brother in Christ.

“Like the ‘Giving Tree,’ he gave his all … and then some more. He was truly a part of our family who will be missed greatly,” said Sister Jerilyn, who serves as principal of Guardian Angels Regional School, Gibbstown.

In a Catholic Star Herald article from December 2021, Father Capella reflected upon his devotion to his heavenly namesake: the head of the Holy Family, Saint Joseph.

“My grandmother gave me a Saint Joseph medal. My parish was Saint Joseph’s in Hammonton,” he recalled, explaining where his appreciation for the Patron of the Universal Church began, as he learned about “this faithful man of God.” Still today, “there’s a closeness I feel to him,” Father Capella said. “I pray to God, through Saint Joseph, all the time.”

Interment was in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, First Road, Hammonton.


source The Catholic Star Herald