PROSPECT HEIGHTS — In many ways, the work that Bishop Emeritus Nicholas DiMarzio has done on behalf of migrants and immigrants in his 50-plus years as a clergyman is so immense, it cannot be measured.
Or perhaps it can — 19½ feet, to be exact. That’s how high his archive of materials would reach if you stacked all his papers.
Bishop DiMarzio, who retired on Nov. 30, donated his personal archives to the Center for Migration Studies (CMS), a think tank and educational institute he has worked with for several years and where he is a member of the board of trustees. He was recently named a fellow of the organization.
The donation, which CMS archivist Mary Brown is currently in the process of organizing and cataloging, includes hundreds of speeches, notes, transcripts, and research materials Bishop DiMarzio used, as well as minutes of meetings he conducted. There are also correspondences he exchanged with individual migrants he helped.
Over the years, the bishop has traveled all over the world, including to sub-Saharan regions of Africa, to focus on migrants.
CMS’s goal is to eventually open up the archives to scholars conducting research into migration issues. The bishop’s papers will be called the Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio Collection.
“My decision to donate my papers, talks, and the other migration materials I collected over the years, was to make these available to a wider audience,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “CMS is the best place to locate my life’s work.”
“It means a great deal to us. This is decades of the bishop’s work that he is graciously allowing people to see,” said CMS Executive Director Donald Kerwin.
Bishop DiMarzio, who was ordained a priest in 1970 and served as Bishop of Brooklyn from 2003-2021, made immigration issues a centerpiece of his episcopacy. Over the years, he worked with various organizations both inside and outside the Catholic Church to promote the rights of immigrants and migrants.
Some of the material dates from Bishop DiMarzio’s days as a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Pastoral Care of Immigrants and Itinerate People, as well as his work as executive director of Migration and Refugee Services for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He also worked with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, the Global Commission on International Migration of the United Nations, and the Migration Policy Institute.
Bishop DiMarzio’s archives are “a collection of an insider,” Kerwin said.
What’s unique about Bishop DiMarzio’s work is its diversity, said Brown, who noted that the bishop is a trained social worker. “He brings a social worker’s expertise to his mission. We think of a bishop as a member of the clergy and someone in a seminary. But he combined that with training that a layperson would relate to,” she said.
Bishop DiMarzio informed CMS in April 2021 that he intended to make the donation.
“Sorting out the materials given for donation to CMS was an experience like going down memory lane,” he said. “Many situations, visits to foreign countries and talks I had given, were sometimes forgotten.”
The materials were delivered to CMS offices in Manhattan in November.
Even though Bishop DiMarzio is retired, the donation to CMS does not signal an end to his work.
“I have no definite plans although I will continue my research on the undocumented population in our country,” he said. “CMS has a trove of statistics and documentation, which will be very useful in trying to explain the problem of undocumented migration, which is basically a labor-related issue, to a wider audience.”