WORCESTER — On March 9, an announcement was made in Rome that Pope John Paul II had appointed Bishop Robert J. McManus, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Providence, the fifth bishop of Worcester. Later that morning, Bishop Daniel P. Reilly introduced his successor during a press conference in the chancery.
"Bishop McManus is a very talented and dedicated bishop who has been blessed with good pastoral experience and tested by challenging administrative assignments," Bishop Reilly said. "His years of service to the Diocese of Providence in education and ministry formation have prepared him well for his new responsibilities among us."
Worcester auxiliary bishop Bishop George E. Rueger recalled the words of the diocese’s first bishop, Bishop John J. Wright, who said the arrival of a new bishop means that “all can be new again.”
"May the years ahead bring fruitful ministry and much happiness," Bishop Rueger said.
Reading a prepared statement, Bishop McManus described it as a “challenging time” to be a bishop or even a Catholic in the United States, especially in New England.
He said the clergy sexual abuse crisis has brought shame and ridicule to the Church in the United States, but the crisis is not the whole story.
"The Catholic Church in the United States has much to be proud of," Bishop McManus said. "While we cannot undo the past, we can chart the course for the future."
The bishop, who is a non-voting member of the Providence diocese’s child protection board, said he was not familiar with the clergy abuse situation in the Diocese of Worcester.
He noted that the Worcester diocese received two commendations in the national audit released in January by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Bishop McManus said he wanted to continue the work of Bishop Reilly and be a strong leader to the faithful so as to help restore trust. A by-product of the abuse crisis, he said, is a hesitation on the part of clergy to work with young adults.
"I think that's tragic," he said. "That is something we need to work on."
He said youth are necessary to the vibrancy of parishes and essential in the search for new vocations.
"How can you cultivate vocations if you are intimidated about approaching young men?" he said.
Bishop McManus also spoke briefly about the possibility of closing parishes, a move he said seemed unnecessary at this time because of the diocese’s clustering plan. Clustering allows parishes to share resources and ministries, he said.
Bishop Reilly agreed, but said closings may become necessary depending on finances and the number of clergy.
If that situation did develop, the closings would not be of the same scope as those occurring in the Archdiocese of Boston, he said.
"These are two different situations," Bishop Reilly said.
When asked if he had any advice for his successor, Bishop Reilly said Bishop McManus need only be himself.
"He is a man of Church--a dedicated priest," he said, adding that the new bishop would be a natural fit in the diocese.
Kevin Luperchio is a staff writer for the Catholic Free Press of Worcester.