New NJCC director of social concerns begins work
A resident of the Trenton Diocese with expertise in a wide range of issues before the Church and the legislature began his tenure as the newly appointed director of social concerns for the New Jersey Catholic Conference Nov. 28 at a presentation emphasizing one particular issue: the need for affordable housing.
James J. King, 34, listened intently throughout the two-hour plus, multi-faceted presentation and used the time following the session in the NJ State House Annex to network with scores of advocates connected with “Fighting Poverty with Faith,” a national organization with a goal of halving domestic poverty by 2020.
The organization has a tradition of coming together around the nation each November to emphasize one of its priorities. Last year, for instance, homelessness was emphasized. This year, the spotlight was on affordable housing.
After the presentation, King said the event, convened by the NJCC, the Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministry and the N.J. State Association of Jewish Federations, offered “a good amount of encouragement” to those working for more plentiful housing options for people of low and moderate means.
The interfaith nature of the session, he said, echoed the call almost a year earlier to the day by New Jersey’s Catholic bishops for the development of an agenda for action on critical issues impacting poverty including: the weakening of family life; failing education systems; unemployment and low paying jobs, and unavailable affordable housing.
“It reflected the bishop’s statement as an issue that needs to be addressed,” King said. “It was good to see so many people come to the presentation and be willing to help bring about effective change,” he said. “A lot of avenues for hope and collaboration were put forth.”
At the NJCC, King will serve as the liaison to federal, state and local agencies in support of the Church’s social justice mission. He will monitor state and federal legislation and programs that could impact the poor and those in need, and work closely with diocesan Catholic Charities agencies, social concerns offices and other Catholic, secular and ecumenical organizations.
King resides in West Trenton with his wife, Sarah, and their children, Brendan, 3, and Meghan 2. He and his family are members of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish there, where King is also a reader at liturgies. He said it was good to begin his “new ministry” at the NJCC in such an atmosphere of faith inspired advocacy.
King graduated from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia, with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 2001 and completed a master’s degree in moral theology there this year.
He worked for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 2007 to 2012 where he was the first layperson to serve as director for the office of pastoral care for migrants and refugees. In that capacity, he coordinated pastoral care for Catholic immigrants, including a justice for immigrants pilot program to increase grassroots lobbying efforts for comprehensive immigration reform within the archdiocese.
While with the archdiocese, he also collaborated with the city of Philadelphia to promote free HIV testing and high blood pressure and diabetes screenings within the Caribbean and African American communities.
King also spent two years as an aid in the Hamilton district office of U.S. Congressman Chris Smith, working there from 2005 to 2007. While there he said he appreciated being able to “work directly with people affected by critical issues such as housing, as opposed to them just being statistics.
“Having that experience and knowing how people are struggling is what attracted me to (this position). I want to be a voice for them… I want to generate awareness on how these issues affect society.”
King can be reached at 609-989-1120 x 15 or by email at [email protected] [[In-content Ad]]