October 8, 2009 --- (Wilmington, Delaware) --- The Most Rev. Michael A. Saltarelli, D.D., Bishop Emeritus of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, passed away early this morning from cancer. He was 77 years old. Bishop Saltarelli served as the eighth Bishop of the Diocese of Wilmington, which encompasses the State of Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore, from November 21, 1995 until July 7, 2008.Read the entire obituary. Ignatius Insight interviewed Bishop Saltarelli in 2005 about the Litany of Saint Thomas More:
“Bishop Saltarelli loved the Lord, loved the Church and loved the Diocese of Wilmington; and the people of the diocese returned that love,” said the Most Rev. W. Francis Malooly, Bishop of Wilmington. “He was a wonderful shepherd to his flock and a great friend to me. He will be greatly missed by us all, but we are comforted knowing that he is with God whom he served so well throughout his life. His ministry embodied his episcopal motto, ‘Obedience to Jesus Christ.’”
Bishop Saltarelli was born in Jersey City, New Jersey on January 17, 1932 He was one of seven children born to Michael A. and Caroline Marzitello Saltarelli. He attended Holy Rosary Elementary School and Ferris High School in Jersey City. In 1956 he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Seton Hall University and began his study of theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Darlington, New Jersey and later earned a Master’s Degree in Religious Studies from Manhattan College.
Bishop Saltarelli was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Thomas A. Boland in Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark, New Jersey on May 28, 1960. During his ministry in the Archdiocese of Newark, he served as associate pastor at Holy Family Church in Nutley, New Jersey, pastor of Our Lady of Assumption Church in Bayonne, New Jersey and pastor of Saint Catherine of Siena Church in Cedar Grove, New Jersey. He also served as Executive Director for Pastoral Services, Vicar for Priests, Dean of North Essex, Bayonne and West Essex. His service in the Archdiocese of Newark included two terms as a member of the Priests’ Personnel Board, one term as President of that Board and also as a member of the Archdiocesan School Board. In 1984, Pope John Paul II named Bishop Saltarelli a Prelate of Honor with the title of “Monsignor.”
The appointment of Bishop Saltarelli as Titular Bishop of Mesarfelta and Auxiliary Bishop of Newark was announced on June 12, 1990. At that time he became the Rector of Sacred Heart Cathedral while continuing to serve as Vicar for Priests. In 1992, he became the Episcopal Moderator of the National Holy Name Society. He also served as New Jersey State Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus.
On November 21, 1995, Pope John Paul II appointed Bishop Saltarelli to be the Eighth Bishop of the See of Wilmington. After some months of getting to know the Diocese of Wilmington and its people, Bishop Saltarelli established seven priorities for the diocese: promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, the development and implementation of a comprehensive pastoral plan for ministry to Hispanic people, the assessment of diocesan offices and ministries to assure efficiency and effectiveness, the establishment of new parishes and schools, the exploration and examination of the roles of clergy and laity in parish ministry, the evangelization of the unchurched and alienated African American community, and the development and implementation of a comprehensive plan for ministry on college campuses.
Bishop Saltarelli made significant contributions on national Catholic discussions concerning the sanctity of human life in the womb and all its stages, the need to reach out to inactive Catholics, the need for a consistent use of the Catholic funeral rites and the importance of solid Catholic marriage preparation. Bishop Saltarelli’s Pastoral Statement How to Reach Inactive Catholics was the lead contribution in the January 27, 2000 edition of Origins, a national publication of the United States Conference or Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Additional Pastoral Statements include Holiness in the World of Work (2001), The Spiritual Lessons of September 11(2002), Catholic Schools - A Gift of the Church (2002), Contemplating the Face of Christ in Film (2004), Go and Teach: Facing the Challenges of Catechesis Today and, most recently, Celebrating the Year of Saint Paul, June 28, 2008 - June 29, 2009 (2008). Bishop Saltarelli’s Litany of Saint Thomas More, Martyr and Patron Saint of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers, first published in October 2004, gained national and international acclaim.
IgnatiusInsight.com: What do you see as your role as bishop of Wilmington?God give us more men like Bishop Saltarelli! May God grant His servant blessed repose and eternal memory.
Bishop Saltarelli: The thing I try to do is to follow the job description that was given to Peter two thousand years ago. I’m not being flippant–two thousand years ago, Jesus told Peter and his Apostles to go out into the world and proclaim the Good News, to teach what he taught them, and basically, that’s what I try to do. To proclaim to our corner of the world here–that which is our diocese–the Good News, which is that we have a God who loves, who cares, a God who has sent his Son to be Our Redeemer, to deliver us from our sinfulness, and to have us follow a prescribed way of life.
I hope in my teaching that it is the teaching entrusted to us from on high. The sacred deposit of faith given first to the Apostles and handed down to us two thousand years later that we might entrust it to the hearts of the faithful whom we are privileged to serve.
IgnatiusInsight.com: How do you see yourself as a priest? How did you come to discern a vocation?
Bishop Saltarelli: I think my vocation was forced. A parish priest kept insisting that I had a vocation and I fought it every step of the way. I told him finally in frustration–because he kept dogging me–that I wasn’t worthy to be a priest.
And he said to me, "Of course you’re not worthy; that has nothing to do it. Are you willing to serve God’s people?" That little magic word there transformed my life. I think it was the idea–the awesomeness of the priesthood, an awesomeness I still take with me. The reverence for the priesthood, the sacred calling that it was. Certainly, I was not worthy–nobody’s worthy. But the Lord calls us and He calls us to be willing participants in proclaiming the Good News and sharing in His powerful ministry.