Providence native ordained as Bishop of Portland

byFather Robert M. O'Grady Pilot Staff

Bishop James T. Ruggieri prays during his ordination and installation Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, Maine, May 7, 2024. OSV News photo/McKenney Photography, courtesy Diocese of Portland

Pope Francis announced on Feb. 13, 2024, that he had selected one the most admired, esteemed, and respected priests of the Diocese of Providence to be the 13th bishop of Portland. Boston native Bishop Robert P. Deeley's resignation on having reached the age limit was accepted on the same date. Bishop Deeley was named apostolic administrator of the diocese until Bishop Ruggieri's ordination on May 7, 2024. He will continue to live in Maine during his retirement and has generously made himself available to assist his successor in any way he can.
Father James T. Ruggieri is a Rhode Island native, born in Barrington on Jan. 12, 1968. He is the youngest of the four sons of Irene (Paolini) Ruggieri and the late John. Educated in Barrington public schools and a 1986 graduate of its high school, he attended the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, and then Providence College, from which he graduated in 1990. He was trained as an altar server at his home parish, St. Luke, by then Father Robert E. Evans, now retired auxiliary bishop of Providence.
An alumnus of St. Mary Seminary and University, Baltimore, Maryland, he was ordained a deacon at the seminary chapel on April 23, 1994, by the 10th bishop of Portland, Bishop Joseph J. Gerry, OSB. On June 24, 1995, then Providence Bishop Louis E. Gelineau ordained him to the priesthood at the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul.

During his priestly ministry in Rhode Island, he has served primarily in parish assignments but also served diocesan commissions and boards, as well as vicar forane in the Providence Central City Deanery.
His extensive parish ministry includes assignments as parochial vicar at St. Matthew, Cranston; All Saints, Woonsocket; and Holy Spirit, Central Falls. He was pastor of two parishes: St. Patrick and St. Michael the Archangel, both in Providence.
He is widely known among brother priests for his priestly spirituality and for his personal attention to the poor -- having created a traveling food pantry in a used truck moving around the urban areas, meeting and feeding the street people.
With his parishioners and supporters, he founded St. Patrick Academy, a tuition-free college preparatory high school for youth regardless of financial circumstances. Additionally, he is fluent in Spanish, which was most valuable in the multiple Hispanic communities in and around Providence.
Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Boston was the ordaining bishop of Bishop Ruggieri at Portland's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on May 7. All the 20 bishops present were concelebrants of both the Mass and the ordination, with Bishop Deeley and Providence Bishop Richard G. Henning serving as the principal co-ordaining bishops. Portland's twin New England diocese, Burlington -- both founded in 1853 -- was represented by its new Bishop-Elect John J. McDermott. Named on May 6 by Pope Francis, he will be ordained by Cardinal O'Malley at St. Joseph Cathedral, Burlington, on July 15.
The cathedral was at capacity (900-plus) with 125 priests, 20 deacons, religious, family, including the bishop's mother, his three brothers, and their own families, friends and lay faithful of the Diocese of Portland and Providence. This was the first time that the cathedral has hosted an episcopal ordination since the July 27, 1995, when Maine native son and present bishop of Norwich, Connecticut, Bishop Michael R. Cote was ordained as auxiliary bishop of Portland.
There had been a celebration of Evening Prayer on May 6 at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Scarborough, with over 1,000 people attending and joining the reception following.
In an interesting coincidence, one of the deacons of the Mass, Deacon Matthew Valles, who is completing his seminary formation at St. John's Seminary and will be the first priest ordained for the Diocese of Portland by Bishop Ruggieri, comes from the same home parish and hometown as the bishop, St. Luke in Barrington, Rhode Island.
The two-hour long ordination Mass was joy filled, with music provided by the cathedral and diocesan music ministry. The cathedral parish staff and the chancery personnel were gracious, welcoming, and helpful. The sunny spring weather provided nature's contribution to the historic, happy, and blessed day for the Portland Diocese.