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Portland's bishop -- past and present


James Augustine Healy -- Portland's second bishop and first African American bishop in US.

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When Bishop Robert Peter Deeley sat in his cathedra in Portland, Maine last week, a new era in the history of the Diocese of Portland began. Bishop Deeley is the twelfth bishop of the diocese since the episcopal ordination of Bishop David Bacon in 1855. Five of Portland's bishops were ordained as diocesan bishop of the diocese; one as coadjutor bishop; two as auxiliary bishops of Portland; and four were ordained as auxiliary bishops of other dioceses before their transfers to Portland.

In addition to the two auxiliary bishops who later became leaders of the diocese, Portland has had two other auxiliary bishops; one died in office and the other was named to another diocese.

Episcopal origins

Of the 14 men who exercised episcopal ministry in the Diocese of Portland, 12 were natives of New England, one was born in Georgia, and one was a New York native.

Portland's first bishop, David William Bacon, was born in New York in 1815, while the diocese's second bishop, James Augustine Healy, was born in Macon, Georgia in 1830.

Connecticut provided three bishops to Portland, two of whom subsequently became archbishops. The diocese's fifth and sixth bishops, John Gregory Murray, born in 1877, and Joseph Edward McCarthy, born in 1876, were natives of Waterbury. Bishop Murray was Archbishop of St. Paul from 1931 to 1956. Shelton is the birthplace of Portland's eighth bishop, Peter Leo Gerety, Archbishop emeritus of Newark and presently the second oldest bishop in the world. Archbishop Gerety occupied the metropolitan see of Newark from 1974 to 1986.

Portland's third, fourth, eleventh, and twelfth bishops claim cities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as their birthplaces. Lowell is the birthplace of William Henry O'Connell, third bishop of Portland and later Archbishop of Boston and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church. Portland's fourth and eleventh bishops, Louis Sebastian Walsh and Richard Joseph Malone, were born in Salem. Bishop Robert Peter Deeley, twelfth Bishop of Portland, was born in Cambridge.

The Pine Tree State is the birthplace of Portland's seventh, ninth, and tenth bishops as well as the two auxiliary bishops who did not become Portland's diocesan bishop. Bishop Daniel Joseph Feeney was born in Portland in 1894; he was named Auxiliary Bishop of Portland in 1946, Coadjutor Bishop in 1952, and succeeded to the See of Portland in 1955.

Bishop Edward Cornelius O'Leary was born in Bangor in 1920. Prior to his nomination as leader of the diocese in 1974, he had been ordained auxiliary bishop in 1971. Bishop Joseph John Gerry, OSB, was born in Millinocket in 1928. He served as Bishop of Portland from 1988 to 2004. He had previously been Auxiliary Bishop of Manchester from 1986 to 1988, and before his episcopal ordination, he had been Abbot of St. Anselm Abbey in Manchester.

Two Sanford natives served as auxiliary bishops of the Diocese of Portland. Bishop Amedee Wilfrid Proulx was born in 1932 and was Auxiliary Bishop of Portland from 1975 until his death in 1993. Bishop Michael Richard Cote was born in 1949 and served as Auxiliary Bishop of Portland from 1995 until his nomination as Bishop of Norwich in 2003.

Presbyteral service

After the episcopate of Portland's first bishop, who had been ordained a priest for the Diocese of New York, the Holy See chose 12 of his successors from men who had been ordained priests for dioceses in New England and one who had been ordained for a monastic community in New England.

Of the 13 bishops who followed Bishop Bacon in service to the Diocese of Portland, one was ordained for the Order of St. Benedict; Bishop Gerry; three were ordained for the Diocese of Hartford: Archbishop Murray, Bishop McCarthy, and Archbishop Gerety; four were members of the Portland presbyterate: Bishop Feeney, Bishop O'Leary, Bishop Proulx, and Bishop Cote; and five were ordained for Boston: Bishop Healy, Cardinal O'Connell, Bishop Walsh, Bishop Malone, and Bishop Deeley.

Only two of these bishops were ordained priests in Portland: Bishop O'Leary and Bishop Proulx. Bishop Bacon was ordained in Baltimore while Bishop Gerry was ordained in Manchester, and Bishop Feeney was ordained in Montreal, Canada; while Bishop Malone and Bishop Deeley were ordained in Boston and Watertown, respectively.

The remaining seven bishops were ordained priests in Europe: James A. Healy, Joseph E. McCarthy, and Peter L. Gerety were ordained in Paris; John G. Murray received presbyteral ordination in Louvain, Belgium. Cardinal O'Connell, Bishop Walsh, and Bishop Cote were all ordained to the priesthood in Rome; Bishop Cote by Pope Paul VI during the Holy Year of 1975.

Episcopal service

The 11 bishops who preceded Bishop Deeley as Bishop of Portland had episcopates of varying lengths.

Bishop James Augustine Healy, Portland's second bishop, had its longest episcopate, serving two months beyond his silver anniversary of episcopal ordination. Bishop Healy, the first African-American bishop in the United States, was particularly devoted to the furthering of Catholic education in his diocese.

The four shortest episcopates of Portland's ordinaries were of bishops who were either transferred or promoted to other dioceses.

Bishop Healy's immediate successor, Bishop William Henry O'Connell, has the distinction of having had the shortest episcopate of Portland's bishops, serving just under five years before he was named Coadjutor Archbishop of Boston. He subsequently succeeded to the Metropolitan See of Boston and within a few years was created a cardinal. During his Portland episcopate, he was sent on a diplomatic mission to Japan by the Holy See.

Hartford Auxiliary Bishop John G. Murray was named Bishop of Portland in May 1925, serving Maine's Catholics until October 1931, when he was named to the Metropolitan See of St. Paul, Minnesota. The transfer to St. Paul was six years and five months after his transfer to Portland.

Archbishop Peter Leo Gerety had an episcopate of more than seven and one-half years, counting his time as coadjutor bishop of Portland (from 1966) and apostolic administrator (from 1967) until March 1974 when he was named to Newark as its metropolitan archbishop. He succeeded to the see of Portland upon Bishop Feeney's death on Sept. 15, 1969.

The episcopate of Bishop Richard J. Malone spanned just over eight years, but by decision of the Holy See, he was named apostolic administrator of Portland until Bishop Deeley's installation, thus effectively administering the diocese for about a decade.

Bishop Edward C. O'Leary was bishop of Portland for 14 years, while his successor, Bishop Joseph J. Gerry, OSB, had an episcopate of just over 15 years.

The episcopate of Bishop Daniel J. Feeney was 17 and one-half years, which included three and one-half years as coadjutor bishop before he succeeded to the see.

The Diocese of Portland was shepherded by Bishop Louis Sebastian Walsh for almost 18 years, while its first bishop, Bishop David William Bacon, led the diocese for more than 19 years.

The distinction of the second longest episcopate is held by Bishop Joseph E. McCarthy who was ordained Bishop of Portland on Aug. 24, 1932 and remained Maine's bishop until his death on Sept. 8, 1955.

Life before Portland

Six of Portland's bishops were auxiliary bishops prior to their nominations as either bishop or coadjutor bishop of Portland.

Bishop Daniel Feeney was Auxiliary Bishop of Portland for five and one-half years before his nomination as coadjutor bishop, and Bishop Edward O'Leary was Auxiliary Bishop of Portland for more than three and one-half years before being named Bishop of Portland.

Bishop Malone and Bishop Deeley came to Portland after serving as auxiliary bishops of Boston, while Bishop Murray had been Auxiliary Bishop of Hartford prior to his nomination as Portland's bishop. Bishop Gerry had been Auxiliary Bishop of Manchester until his nomination as Bishop of Portland.

Life after Portland

As noted above, four of Portland's bishops received subsequent appointments to other dioceses.

As Cardinal Archbishop of Boston, William Henry O'Connell was well known as a staunch defender of the Church in the public arena. His nickname was "Number One." He was also regarded as a defender of public morals and modesty and was a vocal opponent of state-promoted gambling, birth control, and atheism. During his Boston episcopate, he ordained five bishops, one of whom, Richard James Cushing, was his successor in that see.

Bishop John Gregory Murray was named to the Metropolitan See of St. Paul in 1931. During his Minnesota episcopate, which lasted until 1956, he was known for his compassion and charity for the poor and unemployed and encouraging the laity in the fight against poverty. Archbishop Murray founded dozens of new parishes in his archdiocese and was a proponent of liturgical reform.

On March 25, 1974, Bishop Peter Leo Gerety was named Archbishop of Newark, a position he held until his retirement on June 3, 1986. Archbishop Gerety was a champion for minority causes, both before and after his transfer to Newark. He was keenly interested in adult religious formation and the revitalization of the religious life of parishes. He is well known for his promotion of the Church's social doctrine. As previously noted, he is the second oldest bishop in the Church and he is approaching his 102nd birthday in July of this year.

Bishop Richard Joseph Malone was named Bishop of Buffalo on May 29, 2012 and installed there on August 10 of that year. With the installation of Bishop Deeley, Bishop Malone ended his service to the Church in Portland. His background in education is extensive, having taught on the high school, college, and seminary levels and having been named Director of Religious Education for the Archdiocese of Boston in 1993 and Secretary for Education in 1995.

Portland's Auxiliary Bishops

The Diocese of Portland has had four auxiliary bishops. The first was Bishop Daniel Joseph Feeney who served as Auxiliary Bishop from 1946 to 1952. The second auxiliary bishop was Bishop Edward Cornelius O'Leary, Auxiliary Bishop from 1971 to 1974. These two bishops, who later served as diocesan bishops of Portland, are mentioned elsewhere in this account.

Portland's third auxiliary bishop was Bishop Amedee Wilfrid Proulx. He studied for the priesthood at the diocesan seminary of Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, and at the Seminary of St. Paul in Ottawa. He was ordained a priest in 1958 by Bishop Feeney. He was engaged in pastoral work in the diocese from 1958 to 1966. In from 1966 to 1968, he resided in Washington, D.C., where he studied canon law at the Catholic University of America, receiving a Licentiate in that discipline. Upon return to Portland, he was given several different diocesan assignments including that of vicar general. He was ordained Titular Bishop of Clypia and Auxiliary Bishop of Portland on Nov. 12, 1975. He remained in this position until his death on Nov. 22, 1993 at the age of 61.

On July 27, 1995, Father Michael Richard Cote was ordained Titular Bishop of Cebarades and Auxiliary Bishop of Portland. A Sanford native, as was Bishop Proulx, he attended seminaries in New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Rome and was ordained a priest on June 29, 1975 in Rome by Pope Paul VI. Returning to Maine, he was engaged in parish ministry from 1975 to 1978. From 1979 to 1981, he studied canon law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and was awarded a Licentiate. He then was appointed to a position in the diocesan tribunal. From 1989 to 1994, he served on the staff of the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington. Upon his return to the diocese, he was made pastor of a parish in Auburn and the following year he was named Auxiliary Bishop of Portland. On March 11, 2003, Bishop Cote was named Bishop of Norwich, Connecticut.

Apostolic Succession -- a common episcopal ancestor

At this time in the history of the Church, it can be stated with absolute certainty that ninety-five percent of Catholic bishops alive today trace their succession back to one bishop who received episcopal ordination in the year 1541 -- Scipione Rebiba. The reasons for this common episcopal ancestor involve the practice at that time of a large percentage of bishops being ordained in Rome and the later practice of apostolic nuncios and apostolic delegates conferring a good number of episcopal ordinations in the nations to which they were sent.

What is of greater interest in looking at the bishops who served in the Diocese of Portland is that all 14 also have the same common episcopal ancestor.

Bishop David William Bacon was ordained first Bishop of Portland on Apr. 22, 1855 in New York City, in what is now known as Old St. Patrick's Cathedral on Mott St., the predecessor to the current cathedral of that name, by Archbishop John J. Hughes of New York. Briefly, this line goes from Archbishop Hughes (ordination 1838) to Bishop Dubois of New York (1826), to Archbishop Marechal of Baltimore (1817) to Bishop John de Cheverus of Boston (1810); Archbishop John Carroll of Baltimore (1790); and back another 14 bishops to Scipione Rebiba.

Bishop James Augustine Healy was ordained Bishop of Portland on June 2, 1875 in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Portland, by Archbishop John J. Williams of Boston. Archbishop Williams was ordained bishop by Archbishop McCloskey of New York (1866); Archbishop McCloskey by then Bishop John J. Hughes. This is where his line joins that of Bishop Bacon.

On May 19, 1901, William Henry O'Connell was ordained Bishop of Portland in the Corsini Chapel of the Basilica of St. John Lateran by Francesco Cardinal Satolli, Archpriest of that basilica and former Apostolic Delegate to the United States. The line of Cardinal Satolli includes Blessed Pius IX and Popes Benedict XIV and Benedict XIII, and back another eight bishops to Rebiba.

On Oct. 18, 1906, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, Bishop Louis Sebastian Walsh was ordained Bishop of Portland by Archbishop Williams. His lineage is that of Bishop Healy.

John Gregory Murray was ordained Titular Bishop of Flavias and Auxiliary Bishop of Hartford on April 28, 1920 in the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut, by Archbishop Giovanni Vincenzo Bonzano, Apostolic Delegate to the United States. This lineage goes back nine bishops to Pope Clement XIII and then to Pope Benedict XIV, and from there on it is the same as that of Cardinal O'Connell.

On Aug. 24, 1932, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, Bishop Michael Francis McAuliffe, Titular Bishop of Dercos and Auxiliary Bishop of Hartford, ordained Joseph Edward McCarthy as Bishop of Portland. Bishop McAuliffe had been ordained a bishop in 1926 by Bishop Nilan of Hartford who had been ordained a bishop in 1910 by then Archbishop William Henry O'Connell of Boston. Thus, we have the O'Connell lineage again.

Archbishop Amleto G. Cicognani, Apostolic Delegate to the United States, ordained Daniel J. Feeney as Titular Bishop of Sita and Auxiliary Bishop of Portland on Sept. 12, 1946 in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland. The Cicognani line, which includes Pope St. Pius X, goes back to Pope Clement XIII at which point it joins the line of Archbishop Murray.

Peter Leo Gerety, Titular Bishop of Crepedula and Coadjutor Bishop of Portland, was ordained bishop on June 1, 1966 in the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford by Archbishop Henry J. O'Brien of Hartford. Archbishop O'Brien had been ordained a bishop in 1940 by Archbishop Cicognani and this line is thus joined to the previous line.

On Jan. 25, 1971, Bishop Peter Leo Gerety of Portland ordained Edward Cornelius O'Leary as Titular Bishop of Moglena and Auxiliary Bishop of Portland in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.

Abbot Joseph J. Gerry, OSB, was ordained Titular Bishop of Praecausa and Auxiliary Bishop of Manchester on Apr. 21, 1986 in St. Joseph Cathedral, Manchester, by Bishop Odore J. Gendron of Manchester. This line goes back through five bishops, among this Bishop Ernest Primeau and Albert Cardinal Meyer, to Pope St. Pius X, at which point it joins the Cicognani line.

On March 1, 2000 in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Richard Joseph Malone was ordained Titular Bishop of Aptuca and Auxiliary Bishop of Boston by Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, Archbishop of Boston. This lineage goes through six American bishops, including Cardinal Gibbons, until it reaches Archbishop John Carroll. At that point, it shares the same lineage as Bishop Bacon.

Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley, OFM Cap., Archbishop of Boston, conferred episcopal ordination on Robert Peter Deeley, Titular Bishop of Kearney and Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, on Jan. 4, 2013, in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston. Cardinal O'Malley was ordained bishop in 1984 by Bishop Harper of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands who was ordained bishop in 1960 by Bishop Bryan J. McEntegart of Brooklyn who in turn was ordained bishop in 1943 by Cardinal Amleto G. Cicognani. Once again, we have a lineage joining the Cicognani line.

Amedee Wilfrid Proulx was ordained Titular Bishop of Clypia and Auxiliary Bishop of Portland on Nov. 12, 1975 in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Portland, by Bishop Edward C. O'Leary of Portland.

On July 27, 1995, Michael Richard Cote was ordained Titular Bishop of Cebarades and Auxiliary Bishop of Portland in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Portland, by Bishop Joseph J. Gerry, OSB.

As this new chapter in the history of the Diocese of Portland begins, let us pause and remember in prayer Bishop Deeley and the 13 other bishops whose lives are inextricably linked to the faith journey of the Church in Maine, giving thanks to God for the dedication and hard work of these good men, these successors of the apostles.

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