Beloved priest, teacher, chaplain was 61
Reverend Joseph P. Capella. (Courtesy picture)
HAMMONTON—The Reverend Joseph P. Capella, a beloved Catholic priest who served as a pastor, teacher, chaplain and principal at Bishop Eustace Preparatory School, principal of Camden Catholic High School, and a member and chaplain of the ‘Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Society and as a former chaplain to the New Jersey Sons of Italy and Sons of Italy’s National Chaplain, St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and Washington Theological Union in Washington, DC Capella was ordained a Pallottine priest in St. Joseph’s Parish in Hammonton on June 2, 1990, by Bishop James McHugh.
He served at Our Lady of Pompeii Parish in Brooklyn, NY from 1990 to 1996. Father Capella was a teacher, chaplain, and rector of Bishop Eustace Preparatory School in Pennsauken from 1996 to 2003. In 2006, Capella was incardinated in the diocese of Camden. and served at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Mays Landing.
He was Pastor of Saint Luke Parish in Stratford from 2006 to 2009. From 2009 to 2016 he was Pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Lindenwold. In 2016, Capella was assigned to Camden Catholic High School as the Director of Catholic Identity. In 2018, he was appointed Rector of CCHS by Bishop Dennis Sullivan. He was also a member of the Episcopal College of Consultors and of the Presbyteral Council.
“I, my brother priests, deacons, religious and Catholic faithful of the Diocese of Camden, mourn the death of Father Joseph Capella whose priestly ministry was exemplary. As a pastor, he was a good shepherd to the flocks entrusted to his care and a committed father to the poor, especially to the growing immigrant communities in South Jersey. At our recent priesthood ordination ceremony, Father Capella robed one of the newly ordained to whom he was an inspiration. Not only was he a respected and sought-after spiritual advisor, but also a gifted educator. I appointed him rector of Camden Catholic High School where the students, faculty and administration loved him. For me, Father Capella was a trusted advisor as a member of the Diocesan Council of Consultors, a group that advises the bishop on diocesan matters. May he rest in well-deserved peace from his priestly labors,” Sullivan said. The Gazette June 22. Sullivan said Capella’s funeral mass with other clergy on June 25. The funeral filled St. Joseph’s Church in St. Mary’s Parish of Mt. Carmel.
Capella was a member and chaplain of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Society in Hammonton. He previously served as a chaplain for the New Jersey State Sons of Italy and also served as a national chaplain.
He is predeceased by his parents, Anthony and Nina Capella and his niece, Heather. He is survived by his brothers, Anthony Capella Jr. (Lisa), Paul Capella (Colleen); his sister, Annlouise Capella (Frank Kralick); six nieces; one nephew and 15 great-nieces and great-nephews.
The president of the Society of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Louis Pantalone, spoke with The Gazette about Capella on June 26. He was asked what allowed Capella to connect with so many people at all levels.
“I think it was his ability to understand and listen to people. He invested himself in others. When you spoke to him, he heard you. Sometimes people’s attention is diverted to something else. Father was never like this. When you were with him, you had his full attention,” Pantalone said.
Pantalone said that in addition to Capella’s father, his brothers were also members of the company.
“Father Joe, unlike other organizations, he was a member before he was a priest. Thus, the blessing was granted to us when he became a priest. For us, it was so meaningful that Father Joe was a part of it, because of what he meant to so many people. But selfishly, not in a bad way, we were proud that he was ours,” said Pantalone.
Capella has kept the company grounded in his faith, Pantalone said.
“We had the privilege of having him nurture our spirituality with the Blessed Mother. People don’t know what we do around mass and family. People see the carnival, but that’s not the main thing for us. We would have masses for Memorial Day, and before the holiday week kicked off, and before our banquet. Our Society has been here for 147 years and the festival has lasted so long because of our devotion to the Blessed Mother through people like Father Joe. If you don’t have that dedication, that tradition will die out,” Pantalone said.
Pantalone said members of the Society of Our Lady of Mount Carmel were working on a memorial to their late member and chaplain.
“We want to do something appropriate. We want to think about it and do the right thing, but something will be done in recognition of it. We are very privileged to have had this man in our lives,” said Pantalone.
Even in his grief, Pantalone said he remembers humorous stories about Capella. One happened last year. Each year, members of the Society of Our Lady of Mount Carmel leave their hall on Mt. Carmel Lane (on Tilton Street) to gather at a monument on Pine Road marking the location of the original feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the 1870s.
“Last year we all went to Pine Road. I said to Father Joe, ‘We’ll take you.’ There was a misunderstanding and we got to Pine Road, we said, ‘Oh my God, we forgot Father Joe! I asked Kevin [Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel] if he could return for it. He did, and when he came to pick it up he said they could run the sirens and lights all the way. When Father Joe got out of the car, he said, ‘Louie, you left me like a dog,’” Pantalone said, laughing at the memory.
Last year, Capella said Mass at St. Joseph Church in St. Mary of Mount Carmel Parish on July 16, a Mass said for living and deceased members of the Society of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the day of the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. During Mass, he delivered a homily that included these words:
“As a father [David] Rivera mentioned, for those who may not know, that this is my home parish. I received all my sacraments here and I was so honored to always come back, no matter where I am stationed, to come back and be with you on this day… And so today we start this day of honor and celebration, we begin it here in prayer as it should be. But we do it because we want to stay close to the cross of Christ, as Mary did. Never run away from crosses in your life. Because running away from a Good Friday is never realizing an Easter Sunday,” Capella said on July 16, 2021.
Memorial donations may be made in Capella’s name to Camden Catholic High School For Christian Ministry, 300 Cuthbert Blvd., Cherry Hill, NJ 08002.
Arrangements were made by Carnesale Funeral Home.