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Joseph Abel Francis

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The Most Reverend

Joseph A. Francis

Auxiliary Bishop emeritus of Newark
ChurchCatholic Church
SeeTitular See of Valliposita
AppointedMay 3, 1976
In officeJune 25, 1976 – June 30, 1995
OrdinationOctober 7, 1950
ConsecrationJune 25, 1976
by Peter Leo Gerety
Personal details
BornSeptember 30, 1923
DiedSeptember 1, 1997(1997-09-01) (aged 73)

Joseph Abel Francis Jr. SVD (1923–1997) was an American Catholic bishop. He served as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Newark from 1976 to 1995.


Born on September 30, 1923, in Lafayette, Louisiana, Joseph Francis was the brother of the educator and scholar Norman Francis. Educated at St. Augustine Seminary (Bay St. Louis), Joseph was ordained a priest for the Society of the Divine Word on October 7, 1950.

On May 3, 1976, Pope Paul VI appointed him as the Titular Bishop of Valliposita and Auxiliary Bishop of Newark. He was consecrated by Archbishop Peter Gerety on June 25, 1976. The principal co-consecrators were Archbishop Emeritus Thomas Boland of Newark and Auxiliary Bishop Harold Perry of New Orleans. Francis continued to serve as an auxiliary bishop until his resignation was accepted by Pope John Paul II on June 30, 1995. He died at the age of 73 on September 1, 1997.[1][2]

Bishop Joseph Abel Francis was an outspoken Civil Rights Leader and was one of the first in the Catholic church to openly speak out against racism. Bishop Francis broke numerous barriers. When he was ordained in 1950, he become only the 35th African American to gain that stature in the church hierarchy.[3] As only the fourth African American Roman Catholic bishop in the country, and the first in the Northeast region of the United States, in the 1970s he led the Black Catholic Clergy Caucus a fraternal organization dedicated to the spiritual, theological, educational, and ministerial growth of Black Catholic clergy. Bishop Francis noted that his appointment as bishop was "the second great challenge" he faced during his life. The other was his founding of Verbum Dei High School in the Watts section of Los Angeles,[4] a predominantly African American community. One of his other important works was his pastoral letter of racism which was published in 1979.[5] To date, Joseph A. Francis remains the first and only African American bishop in the Newark Archdiocese.[6]


  1. ^ "Bishop Joseph Abel Francis, S.V.D." Catholic-Hierarchy. Retrieved 2013-07-17.
  2. ^ "Bishops who are not Ordinaries of Sees". Giga-Catholic. Archived from the original on 2013-08-23. Retrieved 2013-07-17.
  3. ^ "Bishop J.A. Francis Led Verbum Dei High". LA. Times. September 4, 1997. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  4. ^ "BISHOP JOSEPH FRANCIS, SPOKE AGAINST RACISM". Chicago Times. September 4, 1997. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  5. ^ "Pastoral Letter of Racism, Bishop Joseph A. Francis". United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. March 8, 2023. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  6. ^ "Archdiocese of Newark to Celebrate 40 Years of African American Apostolate, 25th Anniversary of Pioneering Bishop's Death". The Ridgewood Blog. October 5, 2022. Retrieved March 10, 2023.

Resources and Links[edit]

Seton Hall University, Monsignor Noe Field Archives & Special Collections Center, Joseph A. Francis papers, Identifier # ADN 0003-011