Michael Newell, salesman and worker in Catholic ministries

Michael F. Newell Jr.
Michael F. Newell Jr.
Posted: May 23, 2014

Michael F. Newell Jr., 93, of Westmont, a career salesman in Philadelphia, worked in Catholic ministries in his spare time for decades.

"Four of his sisters were nuns and one of his brothers was a Jesuit priest," Mr. Newell's son, Stephen, said. "His whole family was very involved in serving in the Catholic Church."

On Monday, May 19, Mr. Newell died at Kennedy University Hospital in Stratford.

On Tuesday evening, his passing was marked in an unusual setting, said a friend, Jack Callahan, a member since 1996 of the New Jersey Governor's Advisory Council on Volunteerism and Community Service.

A group of 30 to 35 maximum-security inmates at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton met with Callahan and other outsiders there and "prayed intently for him and his family," he said.

The inmates are ministered to by Kenosis Prison Ministry, an interfaith group that works to increase spirituality in inmates, he said.

Since about 2000, he said, Mr. Newell had been a volunteer with that group.

Mr. Newell's involvement in spiritual movements began in the early 1970s, when he went on a weekend retreat in South Jersey run by the Cursillo Movement, an international Christian group, Callahan said.

From the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, Mr. Newell was a volunteer for such weekend retreats in the Camden Diocese, Callahan said.

"Then Mike and I, we began a prayer group that met every Monday morning," from 7 to 8:30 at diners in Camden County.

"From 1975, for 32 years," he said, five to eight men would sit in a corner booth reserved for them, and work on their spirituality.

In 1978, Callahan led a Cursillo weekend at what is now the Vienna (Ill.) Correctional Center, and with that experience he and Mr. Newell worked with the Kairos Prison Ministry, offering ecumenical retreats at prisons throughout New Jersey from 1980 to 2000.

Then their work with the Kenosis ministry began, Callahan said.

Born in Philadelphia, Mr. Newell graduated in 1938 from what is now West Catholic Preparatory High School and studied accounting at what is now La Salle University before serving as an Army infantryman in the South Pacific from 1941 to 1945.

He used the GI Bill to earn a bachelor's degree in accounting, his son said.

From the 1950s into the 1990s, his son said, Mr. Newell had a 45-year career with the Philadelphia office of Dennison Manufacturing of Framingham, Mass., a maker of adhesive labels.

His father was passionate about social justice and the environment, Stephen said, as well as "the health and relevance of the Catholic Church."

Besides his son, Mr. Newell is survived by sons Michael, Christopher, Mark, Paul, Matthew, and Andrew; daughters Monica Armstrong, Mary Frances Gambino, Patrice La Treche, and Valerie Johnson-Timm; two sisters; 27 grandchildren; and a great-grandson. His wife, Mary, died in 2000.

A memorial gathering was set from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 22, at Holy Savior Church, 50 Emerald Ave. Westmont, with a Memorial Mass there at 11 a.m. Friday, May 23. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery, Cherry Hill.

Donations may be sent to www.sistersofstjosephfederation.org or http://ssjphila.org.

Condolences may be offered to the family at www.inglesbyfuneralhome.com.


wnaedele@phillynews.com

610-313-8134 @WNaedele

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