Celebrating 50 years as a priest, one might find it difficult to decide which of the many ministries inherent in that role is most important. Father Edward J. Griswold, a retired priest of the Diocese, is crystal clear about his choice.
“I feel strongly that preaching is the primary ministerial responsibility of priests and deacons,” he said. “Continuing growth in preaching skills should be a lifelong goal of every preacher.”
Father Griswold was born in Newark in 1946 to Edward and Dolores Griswold; six years later, the family moved to Union Beach, where they joined the congregation of Holy Family Parish, and young Edward was an altar server. His Catholic education in St. Joseph School, Keyport, followed by Red Bank Catholic High, led him to be inspired by the priests he encountered there, and he set his sights on joining the seminary upon his high school graduation.
The future priest attended St. Charles College, Catonsville, Md., then St. Mary Seminary and University, Baltimore, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1968 and a licentiate in sacred theology in 1972. Father Griswold was ordained for the Diocese of Trenton by Bishop George W. Ahr April 7, 1973.
While serving seven years as a parochial vicar in St. Matthias Parish, Somerset (now the Diocese of Metuchen), Father Griswold was assigned part time with the diocesan Office of Vocations. In 1979, he was named director of the program. He earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Rutgers University, New Brunswick, in 1983.
Father Griswold reflected upon his time counseling those discerning the priesthood, recalling, “I found that young men … should be advised to work with a spiritual director in discerning God’s will for them. It is important they and their faith are mature enough to make a solid commitment to Christ and the Church. A deepening of faith is what they should be striving for.”
In addition to his work with the Diocese of Trenton, Father Griswold served as parochial vicar, then temporary administrator of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown, then as temporary administrator of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Cinnaminson.
In 1987, Father Griswold became executive director of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors in Chicago, then associate dean of formation at Mundelein Seminary, Chicago, for four years.
In 1995, he returned to the Diocese of Trenton to serve as pastor of St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck; diocesan director of continuing education and formation of priests; and president of the Priest Presbyteral Council. Twelve years later, Father Griswold became pastor of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square.
The priest’s study of homiletics led him to earn a doctorate degree in preaching in 2008 from the Aquinas Institute of Theology at St. Louis University, St. Louis, Mo., and serve as president of the Catholic Association of Teachers of Homiletics. Father Griswold also pursued studies in the U.S. and around the world in such fields as the Spanish language, Church management, the Bible and spiritual direction. He is a skilled presenter and published author.
Father Griswold greets Massgoers at St. Barnabas Parish July 2.
Upon his 2009 retirement from pastoral duties in St. Gregory the Great Parish, Father Griswold was invited to join the faculty of St. Mary Seminary and University, Baltimore, as a homiletics professor. Later, he was named the Catholic institution’s vice rector and director of pastoral formation, concluding his duties there in May 2020. Father Griswold moved to St. Barnabas Parish, Bayville, as senior priest in residence, where he assists in parish ministries while teaching homiletics on the team of the Institute of Homiletics at the University of Dallas.
The homiletics course, a hybrid continuing education program for priests and deacons, is an integral part of a priest or deacon’s repertoire, he stressed.
“Preaching preparation should receive the highest priority in their weekly schedules. The people of God deserve the best we are capable of providing as preachers,” Father Griswold said. “They look to us to facilitate the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in their lives. That is the reason why they continue to gather to celebrate the Eucharist. This is a great responsibility for priests and deacons.”