New bishop for Maine is 'a gift of God's loving care for us,' says Cardinal O'Malley

PORTLAND, Maine (OSV News) -- With more than 1,000 people watching from pews and seats in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland and many more watching via livestream in parish halls and homes, Bishop James T. Ruggieri, a priest of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, was installed as the 13th bishop of Portland May 7.

"It is an act of God's providence. God's loving providence is giving us a new Catholic bishop here in this local church of Portland. In that sense, he's not just a priest of Providence, but he is a providential bishop, a gift of God's loving care for us, and we receive him with joy," said Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley of Boston, who celebrated the ordination and installation Mass for the new bishop at the cathedral.

The Mass was celebrated in the presence of Cardinal Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, and was concelebrated by nearly 20 archbishops and bishops as well as priests from both the Diocese of Portland and the Diocese of Providence.Following an opening procession that lasted nearly 20 minutes, Msgr. Andrew Dubois, pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Bangor, asked Cardinal O'Malley, on behalf of the Diocese of Portland, to "ordain this priest, James Thomas Ruggieri, to the responsibility of the episcopate."

Cardinal Pierre then read the apostolic mandate from Pope Francis that called then-Father Ruggieri to ordination as the bishop of Portland. In it, the Holy Father wrote, "Our thoughts turn to you, beloved son, whose pastoral experience and character, as well as both Christian and priestly qualities, convince us to entrust to you confidently the care for the aforementioned people of God."

In his remarks, Cardinal Pierre told Bishop-designate Ruggieri that "your closeness to the poor is one of the reasons that the Holy Father has desired to make you the shepherd of an even greater number of people."

The soon-to-be-ordained bishop was known for his outreach to those in need, particularly the hungry, when he served as a pastor in Providence.

Once the apostolic mandate was read, Cardinal Pierre handed it to Bishop-designate Ruggieri who showed it first to those in the sanctuary and then to people throughout the cathedral, walking down the center aisle so they could see it.

After the Liturgy of the Word, the bishop-designate stood before Cardinal O'Malley to make the promises of the elect, resolving, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, to carry out the office entrusted to bishops by the apostles; to proclaim the Gospel of Christ faithfully and unfailingly; to build up the body of Christ, his church, and to remain in unity with the order of bishops; to render obedience to the Holy Father; to encourage and guide the holy people of God; to reach out in kindness to the poor; to seek out the sheep who stray; and to pray without ceasing to God for his holy people.

Bishop-designate Ruggieri then laid prostrate before the altar while the litany of saints was sung, a sign of humility and an opportunity for all to join in praying for him and for the church.

Following the litany, Bishop-designate Ruggieri knelt before Cardinal O'Malley, and he and all the archbishops and bishops present laid hands on the bishop-designate in silence, invoking the power of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit given by Christ to the apostles.

Cardinal O'Malley then pressed the Book of the Gospels briefly upon Bishop-designate Ruggieri's head, after which two deacons held the book over his head while Cardinal O'Malley and all the archbishops and bishops present offered the prayer of ordination, praying "pour forth upon this chosen one the power that is from you, the governing Spirit, whom you gave to your beloved Son Jesus Christ and whom he gave to the holy apostles."

Cardinal O'Malley anointed Bishop Ruggieri's head with the oil of sacred chrism, signifying the full share in the priesthood of Christ that he has received. The cardinal then presented Bishop Ruggieri with the Book of the Gospels, representing his evangelizing mission, followed by the episcopal ring, miter, and staff, signs of a bishop's ministry.

"The whole ordination rite was just so meaningful. Of course, when you lie prostrate, it's a very powerful moment, but I think also when the cardinal anointed my head with the chrism, that was very powerful, and then the laying on of hands by my brothers," Bishop Ruggieri said after the Mass. "It's really overwhelming. The thoughts that are going through my head are ones of lots of gratitude, really all gratitude to God."

After Bishop Ruggieri was presented with the symbols of his office, Cardinal O'Malley escorted him to the cathedra, the bishop's chair, and upon sitting in it, he was installed as the bishop of Portland. At that moment, Bishop Robert P. Deeley became bishop emeritus of the diocese.

During the Mass, Cardinal O'Malley offered his heartfelt thanks to Bishop Deeley for his 10 years of service to the Catholic Church in Maine.

"I know how hard he has worked, and it's so obvious to all of us that it was a labor of love. Bishop Deeley loved being a bishop. He loved his priests, his people. We pray that the Lord will grant him continued health. He certainly enjoys our gratitude, admiration and deep affection," the cardinal said.

The cardinal's words of gratitude were met with extended applause from those in the congregation.

Following the ordination and installation Mass, a public reception was held at the Italian Heritage Center in Portland. Hundreds turned out to meet the new bishop and to take photos with him.