This is one very special cardinal

Joseph Cardinal Tobin

By Kevin Canessa Jr.

I haven’t met him yet (though I hope to do so soon), but Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the new archbishop of Newark, has been a most-welcome breath of fresh air. From the day he arrived for his introductory press conference to this very day, he’s demonstrated just how much he is a man for the people – Catholic and non-Catholic alike. It’s no wonder Pope Francis likes him so much – the two men seem to be much alike in their desire to be present and among to the flock.

There have been a few examples of just how much Cardinal Tobin is like Pope Francis. The two that stick out the most are the controversy involving youth sports and in something that happened just last week.

Let’s take the latter first.

We got a press release here at The Observer that informed us that the cardinal would be at St. Patrick’s Pro-Cathedral in Newark distributing ashes to commuters on Ash Wednesday, March 1. I have no idea whether his predecessor did the same – but could you even begin to imagine that?

A man, one step away from being the supreme pontiff, made himself available to the people as the Lenten season begins.

St. Patrick’s Pro-Cathedral was the seat of the Archdiocese of Newark before the Cathedral-Basilica of the Sacred Heart began its ministry in 1954. A parish of the archdiocese, it’s a rather small one with a miniscule Catholic population these days. But because of its location, it’s somewhat of an adopted home for those who call Newark their work home.

And there he was – among his people – celebrating Holy Mass on Ash Wednesday, when he could have been anywhere else. It’s pretty remarkable – especially since such intimacy hasn’t exactly been readily available over the last 16 years.

Tobin showed even more incredible leadership a few weeks earlier when he made it clear that the young girl whose parents sued her school, St. Theresa’s of Kenilworth, because she wasn’t allowed to play on the boys’ basketball team, was not to be expelled from the school, even though her dad signed a waiver that clearly stated the expulsion was valid.

For whatever reason, prior to this, parents signed the waiver that says they’d remove their kids – or face expulsion – whenever a student’s parents sued for any reason.

It was quite refreshing to see him order the children not be expelled. And it was even more refreshing that he granted explicit permission for the young girl to play on the St. Theresa’s boys’ team to close out the season.

There’s no way to tell what the future holds, but if the first major crisis he faced is any example, Cardinal Tobin is just what this diverse archdiocese needs. And given that it’s time for the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal (or whatever it’s called these days), it sure looks like brighter days are ahead for the appeal.

Welcome, Cardinal Tobin! The people of the Archdiocese of Newark are very lucky to have you.

Odds & ends

• As if Kearny police Det. John Fabula doesn’t have enough going on between his work as a detective and planning the next PBA Food Truck Festival, now comes an app for the festival. We’ll be doing a full story on the app in an edition of The Observer soon, but we wanted to get the word out quickly. If you own a smartphone, download the app at the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. Search “Kearny Food Truck Festival” and download. The app also works on iPads and Droid tablets.

• This Sunday, March 12, is the West Hudson United Irish St. Patrick’s Day parade. It steps off at 2 p.m. in Harrison and makes its way up FER Boulevard to Kearny Ave. to Kearny Town Hall. (Check sometime after the parade for a full gallery of photos of the parade.)

Because I know I will forget names, allow me to say congratulations to Kevin Quinn, president of the United Irish, and everyone else involved in the parade – including Grand Marshal Alan Doffont and Deputy Grand Marshals Donna McClure and Kevin McGonigal.

People often forget that once the parade ends, the work for the following year’s event begins almost immediately. Now let’s just hope the weather holds up for Sunday. The forecast doesn’t look so good as of now. But when is a weather forecast ever accurate anyway?

• Had a chance to spend last weekend in the mountains of Sussex County at my mom’s as we celebrated her 64th birthday. I love the quietness and beauty of the mountains, etc. Yet there’s something about coming back to Kearny – and the airplanes – that I welcome every time. Nuts isn’t it?

• OK I’ll admit it – I am getting a bit worried that by the time you read this, there will be only one episode left of “This Is Us.” Yes, Carm Antonelli and I watch it every Tuesday night (we were not very happy it was pre-empted last week). And from what I am hearing, even though many might not admit to it, I am hardly the only man who watches the often-sappy show. That said, there are so many unanswered questions with so little time left in the season. Any theories on what happened to Jack? Think we’ll have to wait until September to find out? Haven’t seen it yet? What are you waiting for?

• That’s all for now. Have a great rest of the week. See you back here in three weeks.

The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the writer, Kevin Canessa Jr. Reach Canessa at or on Facebook & Twitter @kevincanessa. Feedback is welcome and encouraged.

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Editor & Broadcaster at 

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.