• Gabriel Donio

Mourning Father Joe Capella

Beloved priest, teacher, chaplain was 61


The Reverend Joseph P. Capella. (Courtesy Photo)

HAMMONTON—The Reverend Joseph P. Capella, a beloved Catholic priest who served as pastor, a teacher and a chaplain and rector at Bishop Eustace Preparatory School, the rector of Camden Catholic High School as well as serving as a member and chaplain of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Society and as the former chaplain of the New Jersey Sons of Italy and the Sons of Italy’s National Chaplain, St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and Washington Theological Union in Washington, D.C. Capella was ordained as 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, N.Y. from 1990 to 1996. Father Capella served as a teacher, chaplain and the rector of Bishop Eustace Preparatory School in Pennsauken from 1996 to 2003. In 2006, Capella was incardinated into the Camden Diocese and served at Saint Vincent de Paul Parish in Mays Landing.


He served as 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 Director of Catholic Identity. In 2018 he was appointed as Rector at CCHS by Bishop Dennis Sullivan. He also served as a member of the bishop’s College of Consulters and on 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 has been exemplary. As Pastor, he was a Good Shepherd to the flocks entrusted to his care and a committed Father to the poor, especially to the growing communities of immigrants in South Jersey. At our recent ceremony of Ordination to the Priesthood, Father Capella dressed in priestly robes one of the newly ordained to whom he was an inspiration. Not only was he a respected and sought after spiritual counselor 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 Board of Consultors, a group that advises the bishop on diocesan matters. May he rest in a well-deserved peace from his priestly labors,” Sullivan told The Gazette on June 22. Sullivan said Capella’s funeral Mass along with other clergy on June 25. The funeral filled St. Joseph Church of St. Mary of Mt. Carmel Parish.


Capella was a member and Chaplain of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Society in Hammonton. He formerly served as chaplain for the State of New Jersey Sons of Italy and also served as 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.


Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Society President Louis Pantalone spoke with The Gazette about Capella on June 26. He was asked what made Capella connect with so many people on every level.


“I think it was his ability to understand and listen to people. He invested himself in other people. When you spoke with him, he heard you. Sometimes, people’s attention is diverted to something else. Father was never that way. When you were with him, you had his attention, undivided,” Pantalone said.


Pantalone said that in addition to Capella’s father, his brothers were also members of the society.


“Father Joe, unlike other organizations, he was a member before he was a priest. So the blessing was bestowed upon us when he became a priest. For us, it was so meaningful to have Father Joe be a part of that, because of what he meant to so many. But selfishly, not in a bad way, we were proud of the fact he was ours,” Pantalone said.


Capella kept the society grounded in its faith, Pantalone said.


“We had the privilege of having him maintain our spirituality with the Blessed Mother. People don’t know the things we do that are centered around the Mass and family. People see the carnival, but that’s not what’s the main thing for us. We would have Masses for Memorial Day, and before the kickoff of the Feast Week, and before our banquet. Our Society has been here for 147 years and the festival has gone on for so long because of our devotion to the Blessed Mother through people like Father Joe. If you don’t have that dedication, this tradition will go away,” Pantalone said.


Pantalone said the members of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Society are working on a memorial to their late member and chaplain.


“We want to do something appropriate. We want to think through it and do the proper thing, but something will be done in his recognition. We’re very privileged to have had that man in our life,” Pantalone said.


Even in his grief, Pantalone said he found himself recalling humorous stories about Capella. One happened just last year. Each year, the members of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Society 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 had told Father Joe, ‘We’ll take you.’ There was a miscommunication and we arrived at Pine Road, we said, ‘Oh my God, we forgot Father Joe! I asked Kevin [Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel] if he could go back and get him. He did, and when he picked him up, he said they could run the sirens and lights the whole way over. 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 of St. Mary of Mt. Carmel Parish on July 16, a Mass said for the Living and Deceased Members of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Society on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. During the Mass, he gave a homily that included these words:


“As Father [David] Rivera mentioned, for those who may not know, this is my home parish. I received all of my sacraments here and have been very honored to always come back, no matter where I am stationed, to come back and be with you this day … And so today, we begin this day of honor and celebration, we begin it here in prayer as we should. But we do it because we want to remain close to the cross of Christ, as did Mary. Never run from the crosses of your life. Because to run from a Good Friday, is to never realize 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 handled by the Carnesale Funeral Home.