Bishop-elect Ruggieri has left an indelible mark on my priesthood through his fraternal support


Everyone needs a role model. Having had the privilege of living and serving with Bishop-elect Ruggieri for almost four years while co-ministering to the parishioners of St. Patrick and St. Michael parishes, having been a seminarian at St. Patrick before that and having watched him closely during most of my adult life has granted me a unique opportunity to learn from one of the most dedicated, hardworking, commonly uncommon, beautiful and simple priests I know.
As a newly ordained priest, I thought preaching was the most important aspect of the priesthood, especially given how uncatechized our culture is. Notwithstanding this, from the bishop-elect, I learned being an apt representative of our Lord in all simplicity and surrender is more effective and holds primacy. Though I knew this intellectually, watching him living it in close quarters brought it to light in ways beyond what the mind can comprehend.
A core value I learned from “Father James” that will mark me for the rest of my priesthood is his unconventional approach to ministry. He’s a priest for our time. It can be said that he knows how best to adjust to cultural change. He’s very mission minded. He invents new ways of reaching out to those on the peripheries. As I see it, our parish includes not only those who frequent our liturgies regularly, but also those on street corners, the homeless, non-Catholics, etc., that he seeks to meet weekly. Although some of these endeavors started before him, he cherished them and took them to the next level. It was a joy for me to witness his joy doing them. It is with fear and trembling that I try to walk in his footsteps.
One of the most important aspects of the man I know, and that I will miss probably the most is Bishop-elect Ruggieri’s fraternal support and trust in me. As a young priest, I needed a pastor who believed in me, someone open to what I had to say, someone who gave me room to grow and mature into ministry, and someone who wouldn’t control every decision I make. I had found that in Father James. For this, I will always be grateful. That’s a quality that I will seek to emulate.
Father Jean Joseph Brice is the pastor of St. Patrick Parish, Providence.