NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – After 15 months of succession planning, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) have new leadership in Central New Jersey.
On April 1, Deacons Michael Martini and Peter Barcellona completed the transition to their new roles of director and associate director, respectively, of the Catholic Charities Solidarity Team, the umbrella name for CRS and CCHD in the Diocese of Metuchen.
CRS is the official humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States, while CCHD is the domestic anti-poverty and social justice program of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Deacon Martini, 57, serves at Immaculate Conception Parish in Annandale, where his wife Kathy and their children Christopher, Katie and Andrew have been parishioners for over twenty-five years. He was ordained to the Permanent Diaconate in June of 2010.
Deacon Martini co-chaired the Immaculate Conception Pastoral Council Formation Committee and was the founding President of the Pastoral Council. He was one of the original members of the committee that succeeded in opening a school at Immaculate Conception and he served on the initial School Advisory Committee. He also co-founded the Children’s Liturgy program. He is chaplain to the Men's and Women's Cornerstone retreat teams.
An attorney by profession, Martini represented the parish before the Clinton Township Planning Board, obtaining the necessary approvals for the construction of Immaculate Conception School as well as cemetery and mausoleum. Michael also served on the Catholic Charities Citizen’s Advisory Board for Hunterdon and Warren Counties, and has served on the Diaconate Formation Council. He has been a member of the Catholic Charities Solidarity Team for six years. He is Division Counsel at K. Hovnanian Title. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Pace University, a Juris Doctor from New York Law School and a Certificate in Diaconal Ministry from The College of St. Elizabeth.
Of his new role, Deacon Martini stated, “I hope to continue to raise awareness in the diocese of the valuable work of CRS and CCHD, and provide more opportunities for Catholics in our diocese not only to recognize but encounter the neediest among us and truly embrace the Church's charitable and social justice work.”
Deacon Barcellona, 55, ordained in 2015, works as the senior public health investigator for Woodbridge Township, and serves at St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Port Reading. He has represented CCST on delegation visits to Guatemala and Lebanon.
His hopes for CCST include the desire “to anchor ourselves in service to God and always stand ready to assist and serve where we are called. And that in our service we may lead others to a relationship with Christ.”
The deacons replace longtime CCST director Rev. Msgr. Joseph Kerrigan, who retired after 15 years at the helm. He is the founding pastor of Holy Family Parish, New Brunswick, and continues to serve on the board of Caritas Lebanon.
Msgr. Kerrigan notes that the ministry of CRS and CCHD is unique among diocesan-level ministries. “In general, we are the agents of CRS and CCHD first and foremost; we take our lead from those national offices and their regional teams, and we look to them for direction and guidance. So we are kind of ‘in the diocese but not of the diocese.’
“Here locally, we’re also a self-governing group of volunteers. This has kept us immune from diocesan budget cuts and personnel changes, and allowed us to build a sustainable capacity of talent over the years, from which Peter and Michael have stepped forward. Every year we seem to be able to take on more and more work, with more and more results.”
Of the transition, Msgr. Kerrigan noted, “If this was a 40-hour a week job -- it’s more like 5 to 10 -- we could’ve completed the handover in two weeks. But it was good to go through a calendar year and hit the milestones together, to travel together, and to have Michael and Peter make the rounds, receive training from CRS and participate in the work of CCHD. They are more than ready to run the show, as men of prayer and action, and they are much more equipped than when I started.”
CCST is in the midst of coordinating CRS’ annual Lenten Rice Bowl campaign. Last year $160,091 was raised in the Metuchen Diocese, setting a record for the four-county diocese. Nearly $60,000 of those funds were converted into food security grants in Central New Jersey, with the bulk of the funds going overseas to fund development projects for CRS.
Among other initiatives, the volunteer group also accompanies partners and beneficiaries in development projects in Guatemala, the Philippines, Kenya, along with a joint Lebanon/Cyprus effort. Domestically, CCST promotes the work of Faith in New Jersey, a faith-based congregational organizing group that has received national CCHD funding.
For more information on the Catholic Charities Solidarity Team, visit ccsolidarity.org. To contact Deacon Martini, write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For Deacon Barcellona, his e-mail address is email@example.com.