Edward Deliman’s office at Saint Charles Borromeo Rectory in Bensalem is where some of his essential pastoral work takes place: preparing homilies, counseling parishioners, holding meetings, and planning for the future of his congregation’s needs. This space is filled with reminders of his greatest influences and his life as a priest, including his parents’ wedding photograph, a crucifix from a now-closed Spanish-speaking church, a poster from the youth group at a parish where he previously served, and pictures of beloved family and friends.
But in the last six months, something new adorns Deliman’s wall: a framed portrait of his Coat of Arms and Apostolic Lineage, a gift from Archbishop Charles Chaput after consecrating and installing him as Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia on August 18, 2016. In the last half of a year, he has begun a new journey in his priesthood: serving the people of God across the Archdiocese as one of their chief shepherds.
“You know, I am still trying to sort out this ‘Bishop business’” he joked as he pointed to the magenta-lined cassock hanging on the back of his office door. Needless to say, he was very humbled and taken a bit off-guard by his appointment.
A self-described quiet person by nature, the young Edward Deliman saw himself spending his life as a parish priest like the ones he knew at his home parish of Holy Trinity in Morrisville. They were committed, holy, and present to the people that they served. But what inspired him most about them? They were ordinary people, called to do extraordinary things: “My pastor Fr. Gallagher and the priests at my parish were truly uncomplicated men. They were very present at our school and very involved with their people. They were not weighed down by a lot. I looked at them and thought ‘I think I’d like to be like them.’”
The seed of Deliman’s vocation, however, was sown in a family of simple, but deep faith. His parents’ example, without a doubt, taught him some of the most important lessons about being a person of faith through involvement in their parish and helping their pastor however they could. While they did not wear their faith on their sleeve—Deliman recalls—it was his parents who helped him grow in his relationship with God and love for the Church.
After having given serious thought to pursuing a vocation to the priesthood, he first approached his Mom and Dad. They told their son it was wonderful that he wanted to pursue seminary studies and gave him their full support. Nonetheless, they assured him that if he discerned that God was not calling him to be a priest, they would certainly not think any less of him or his decision to leave. They wanted two things: for him to be happy and for him to do God’s Will. With that prayerful encouragement, he contacted his parish priest and began studies the next year at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary.
“All I can say is that I attribute a great deal to them,” Deliman said reflecting on his parents’ impact on his life. “They gave me so much. I truly thank God for them.”
The faith that his family nurtured within him was reinforced and strengthened at the seminary, where he embraced the formation program, frequented visits to Saint Martin’s Chapel, and took an occasional swim in the pool which once functioned in the College Seminary. The lessons he learned at Saint Charles have carried him through his 44 years of priesthood, 38 of which have been in dedicated service to Spanish-speaking people of the Archdiocese. Deliman says that the people of God whom he has served welcomed him with open arms as one of their own, embracing him and teaching him along the way how to be a good priest…as well as “a priest who speaks Spanish.” Such a welcoming and vibrant community is visible at Saint Charles Borromeo Parish and its sister organization the Fatima Catholic Outreach Center, where ESL classes, a food pantry, a free preschool program, and a young men’s soccer league unite the people of Bensalem together in Christ. Some of the greatest moments of Deliman’s priesthood have been experienced in parishes, bringing the sacraments to God’s people and bringing them closer together in faith.
Never did he think that the lessons learned in the seminary and the parish would instruct his heart one day in service to the local Church as one of her bishops. Since his ordination in August, Bishop Deliman has assumed new responsibilities, which include presiding at Confirmations around the Archdiocese, visiting Spanish-speaking parishes and outreach programs, and taking part in the strategic planning of Archdiocesan senior leadership. In his short time as a bishop, he has traveled to Rome for the seminar at the Congregation of Bishops for newly ordained prelates and has attended his first meeting as a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore.
But despite all these new opportunities, the nameplate on his desk at home still reads Monsignor Deliman, and he remains Bensalem’s beloved pastor, the role that has brought him so much happiness.
The bishop remarked: “Yes, I am experiencing the fullness of orders. I may be a high priest—but I am still a priest…called to do the ordinary and extraordinary things that a parish priest does. An old seminary professor of mine would say ‘The priest is called to be a minister of the Word and to offer sacrifice.’ That is still what I am called to do.”
As he reflects on his almost 44 years of priestly ministry, Bishop Deliman offers some very important advice for seminarians: “You are coming to the seminary discerning the call to be a parish priest. You cannot lose sight of that. There is a tendency to fall into what is called careerism, getting trapped into wanting to be noticed for the wrong reasons and focusing on things other than what is most important: being a servant of God’s people…in the field.”
And what a good lesson that is for each one of us.
Every priest hears the words “May God, who has begun the good work in you, bring it to completion” at his ordination. Bishop Deliman, we pray that our God may continue to bless the good work of your priesthood along this journey of ministering to the Church of Philadelphia!