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.
“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.
Bishop Saltarelli presided over an era of expansion and growth in the Diocese of Wilmington. A three-year capital campaign, Bringing the Vision to Life, addressed the needs of a growing diocesan family to build, renovate and expand churches, schools and other facilities throughout the diocese. With Bishop Saltarelli’s leadership, new schools and parishes were established, existing schools have been expanded and numerous capital projects have been completed in parishes throughout the diocese.
Under Bishop Saltarelli’s leadership, the Global Solidarity Partnership between the Diocese of Wilmington and the Diocese of San Marcos, Guatemala and For the Sake of God’s Children, the diocesan safe environment program to educate on sexual abuse prevention and detection have both been used as examples for other dioceses in the United States.
As Bishop of the Diocese of Wilmington, Bishop Saltarelli ordained 23 men to the diocesan priesthood and 47 men to the permanent diaconate.
Bishop Saltarelli was an active member of the USCCB. He has served on their Education Sub-Committee, Committee on African American Catholics, Advisory Board of the National Religious Retirement Office, Committee on Laity, Nomination Committee and Communications Committee. He was elected Chairman of Region IV Bishops, served on the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Board of Trustees as Chairman of the CRS Finance Committee. Bishop Saltarelli also served on the Board of Saint Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland; Board of Overseers of Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange, New Jersey and on the Board of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
In accordance with Church law, Bishop Saltarelli offered his resignation as Bishop of Wilmington to the Holy Father when he turned 75 years of age. On July 7, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI accepted Bishop Saltarelli’s resignation and appointed Bishop Malooly as his successor. Bishop Saltarelli then served as administrator of the diocese until Bishop Malooly’s installation on September 8, 2008.
During his retirement, Bishop Saltarelli remained active throughout the diocese while being treated for cancer and heart disease. He, along with Bishop Malooly and Philadelphia Archbishop Justin Cardinal Rigali, served as ordaining bishops for Bishop John O. Barres’ ordination and installation as the fourth Bishop of Allentown on July 30, 2009.
The Diocese of Wilmington is planning a series of public services for Bishop Saltarelli. Details will be made public as soon as they are finalized.
The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington was established in 1868 and comprises 58 parishes, 21 missions and 35 schools in the State of Delaware and the nine counties of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. There are over 220,000 Catholics in the diocese.