Humble Providence Priest Ordained Bishop of Portland

Apostolic Nuncio: ‘Closeness to the poor’ is one of the reasons Pope appoints Bishop Ruggieri as shepherd


PORTLAND, Maine —  For a priest who eschewed the spotlight as he ministered to the poor in myriad ways, Bishop James T. Ruggieri appeared very humbled as he processed into the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Tuesday amid the pageantry for his Mass of his Episcopal Ordination and Installation.

The quaint, neo-Gothic cathedral held 500 people for the ordination, with a large delegation from Rhode Island consisting of Father Ruggieri’s mother and other family members, his former parishioners at St. Patrick’s and St. Michael the Archangel parishes in Providence, along with nearly 30 priests and many from diocesan administration who made the 165-mile trek up north to witness the historic day.

Boston Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, OFM Cap., was principal consecrator, with retiring Portland Bishop Robert P. Deeley, J.C.D., and Providence Bishop Richard G. Henning, S.T.D., co-consecrators.

Cardinal Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, read the official mandate from Pope Francis, which called Bishop-elect Ruggieri to ordination as the Bishop of Portland, before handing him the papal bull to display to all gathered as he made his way up and down the center aisle of the cathedral.

The cardinal began his remarks pronouncing the bishop-elect’s surname with an Italian flourish, jokingly questioning if Ruggieri was an Italian surname.

He thanked retiring Bishop Deeley for his service of 50 years as a priest and 11 years as a bishop, with 10 of those years as the shepherd of the whole Maine diocese.

Then, he spoke of how Bishop Ruggieri’s selfless ministry to the poor was exactly what Pope Francis spoke about how shepherds should serve on World Day of the Poor a couple of years ago.

“Where the poor are concerned, it is not talk that matters; what matters is rolling up our sleeves and putting our faith into practice through a direct involvement, one that cannot be delegated,” Cardinal Pierre said, quoting from Pope Francis’ 2022 message on World Day of the Poor.

“Your closeness to the poor is one of the reasons the Holy Father has decided to make you the shepherd of an even greater number of people. You will remember, of course, in your ministry as bishop, the many faces of poverty … including the poverty that exists where Christ is not.”

Cardinal O’Malley said in his homily that the naming of a bishop by the people is an act of God’s providence.

“God’s loving providence is giving us a new Catholic bishop here … in that sense, he’s not just a priest of providence, but he is also a gift of providence,” the cardinal said.

“Jesus is calling this man to follow him and to be a shepherd after his own heart.”

In the Rite of Ordination that followed, Cardinal O’Malley questioned the bishop-elect about his resolve to fulfill the responsibilities of the episcopal ministry.

During the Litany of Supplication, the bishop-elect lay prostrate on the floor as a sign of humility to all.

Cardinal O’Malley, archbishops, and bishops then laid their hands upon him in silence, invoking the power of the Holy Spirit, before praying the prayer of Ordination.

The cardinal then anointed the head of the new bishop with chrism, signifying the full share in the priesthood of Christ that he has received through the Laying on of Hands and the Prayer of Ordination.

In the Handing on of the Book of the Gospels, Bishop Ruggieri was commissioned to evangelize.

The new bishop was then presented with his episcopal ring, miter and pastoral staff, the signs of his ministry in the Church. The pastoral staff used by Bishop Ruggieri once belonged to Bishop David William Bacon (1815-1874), the first Bishop of Portland.

Cardinal O’Malley then led Bishop Ruggieri to the cathedra, marking his official installation as the thirteenth Bishop of Portland, and received the fraternal sign of peace as he was welcomed into the college of bishops.

In his closing remarks at the end of the Mass, Bishop Ruggieri offered an expression of gratitude to Pope Francis for the privilege of shepherding the Diocese of Portland.

He thanked Bishop Deeley for his “fatherly support” in helping him make the transition as he moved from the Diocese of Providence. 

“Thank you for your counsel and for modeling,” Bishop Ruggieri said. “I’m just so grateful to you for this moment, this opportunity that awaits us,” he continued.

Bishop Ruggieri recalled a conversation he once had with the late Bishop Robert E. Mulvee about advice given to him by Mother Teresa about being open to God’s will.

“She said, ‘Don’t get in God’s way.’”

A large public reception followed at the Italian Heritage Center, Portland.

Bishop Ruggieri’s new diocese in Portland shares some similarities with the Providence diocese.

Like the historic 1878 Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, in Providence, where Bishop Ruggieri was ordained a priest in 1995, the 1866 Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception where he was ordained a bishop was designed by the same architect, Patrick Keely.

And like the Diocese of Providence, the Diocese of Portland extends statewide, albeit more than 300 miles north to south, compared to about 60 miles for Providence.