Bishop Coyne, Boston priest, Hartford's coadjutor archbishop
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S., announced that Pope Francis has named Burlington's 10th Bishop Christopher J. Coyne as the first ever coadjutor archbishop of Hartford. The Woburn native's transfer from the Green Mountain State to the Nutmeg State was effective on June 26. Until he arrives in Harford, he will also be the apostolic administrator of Burlington. Following Archbishop Coyne's Mass of Welcome at the Metropolitan Cathedral of St. Joseph on Oct. 9, the Burlington diocesan consultors will meet to choose a diocesan administrator who will then govern the diocese with the consultors until a new bishop is named.
The new archbishop was born in Woburn on June 17, 1958, a son of the late William and Rita (Kelleher) Coyne. The archbishop hails from a large family, he has seven siblings. He attended Woburn Public schools and, on graduation from Woburn High School in 1976, he then entered the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and graduated in 1980 with a degree in business administration. He worked for a few years, including a stint as a bartender, before entering St. John's Seminary, Brighton. He was ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on June 7, 1986.
He served in several pastoral assignments in the archdiocese, including as parochial vicar, St. Mary of the Hills, Milton (1986-1989); faculty of St. John's Seminary (1994-2006); secretary for communications and principal spokesman of the archdiocese (2002-2005); Our Lady Help of Christians, Newton, pastor (2005); and St. Margaret Mary, Westwood, pastor (2006-2011).
Father Coyne was also assigned to graduate work in sacred liturgy at the prestigious Pontifical Faculty of St. Anselm in Rome from which he received both the licentiate and doctoral degrees in Sacred Liturgy in 1992 and 1994, respectively. He was also the director of the archdiocesan Office for Divine Worship (2000-2002).
Pope Benedict XVI named him the titular bishop of Mopta and auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis on Feb. 14, 2011. Indianapolis Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, OSB, ordained him to the episcopate on March 2, 2011, at the historic Church of St. John the Evangelist, Indianapolis. He served as auxiliary until Archbishop Buechlein's resignation, when he was named apostolic administrator of the archdiocese, serving from September 2011 to December 2012. Pope Francis named him bishop of Burlington on Dec. 22, 2014, and he was installed there on Jan. 29, 2015.
An avid skier, the bishop was pleased to be back east and in a state with plentiful opportunity to hone his skills on the slopes. He is also very much present on social media and has served as chair of the USCCB's Communications Committee (2015-2018); and has been a member of the Divine Worship Committee since 2017.
With his appointment to Hartford, and when he eventually succeeds Hartford's current Archbishop Leonard Blair, he will be the 14th bishop and sixth metropolitan archbishop of Hartford. He becomes the second Bostonian to be an archbishop in that metropolitan see. He joins Hartford's former Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin (11th bishop and third metropolitan archbishop). The first bishop was a Boston priest, William Barber Tyler (1843-1849); as were the fifth bishop, Lawrence Stephen McMahon (1879-1893); and the seventh, Newburyport native John Joseph Nilan (1910-1934).
Hartford becomes only the third metropolitan see in the U.S. ever to have four living archbishops, the others being New Orleans and San Francisco.
Bishop Coyne was the second priest of Boston to serve as bishop in Burlington, the other was Bishop Edward F. Ryan (1944-1956). He is the fourth of Burlington's 10 diocesan bishops to be transferred to other dioceses.
The last time there was a coadjutor archbishop in New England was in 1906 when Pope St. Pius X named Lowell native and Portland's then Bishop William Henry O'Connell as titular archbishop of Constantia and coadjutor (with the right to succession) to the aged, venerable, and greatly loved Archbishop John J. Williams. During his time as coadjutor, he was fond of signing off on correspondence as +William, Archbishop of Constantia, giving rise to the question asked by many Boston priests "Where is Constantia?" and some of them wishing that he might take up duties there rather than in Boston.
Archbishop Coyne is not the first archbishop from Woburn. The first was Jesuit Archbishop John J. McEleney who was the first metropolitan archbishop of Kingston in Jamaica (1967-1970).
The "by the numbers" comparison with this story gives a bare bones idea of the two sees. Each of them has a storied history, each has had, has, and will continue to have its own challenges and differences. Burlington is much more rural, while Hartford is a bit more urban/suburban. Burlington is a diocese covering a whole state, while Hartford is one of three in Connecticut. Economics and demographics are very different between them.
What is the same and constant is that in both sees the Gospel will need to be preached, the sacraments celebrated; the faith handed on in formation in families, homes, schools, and parishes; the pastoral ministers ordained and lay, will be answering their call to service continually.