PORTLAND — An auxiliary bishop and canon lawyer in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has been named by Pope Francis to lead Maine’s Catholics. Maine had been without a bishop for a year and a half.

The announcement of Bishop Robert Peter Deeley, 67, to the position was made in Portland on Wednesday morning. Deeley was ordained a priest in July 1973 and consecrated a bishop in January.

“As I prepare to serve the faithful of the Diocese of Portland as their new bishop and shepherd, I wish to offer my gratitude first to our Holy Father Pope Francis for entrusting me with this honor and responsibility and to Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who has taught me much of what it means to be a faithful shepherd through his word and example,” Deeley said in a statement released by the diocese early Wednesday.

“Kindly pray for me and for all God’s holy people that we may be what the Lord calls us to be, the community of the Church showing forth the love that God has shown us in his Son, Jesus,” Deeley said.

He succeeds Bishop Richard Malone, who served from 2004 to 2012. He has since served as the Maine diocese’s apostolic administrator while performing the much bigger job of leading the Buffalo, N.Y., diocese.

Monsignor Marc Caron, who leads Lewiston’s Prince of Peace Parish, expects local Catholics will be comforted by again having full-time leadership.

“We’re kind of back to the way things are meant to be, where the bishop is residential and working in the diocese he’s assigned to,” Caron said. “We know now that someone is here, someone is in charge and someone can provide leadership.”

Caron announced the appointment Wednesday morning to parishioners at a 7 a.m. Mass at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston.

Caron, a Lewiston native, said he’d heard of Deeley but had never met him.

The new bishop will be installed on Feb. 14, the feast day of St. Cyril and St. Methodius, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.

A native of Cambridge, Mass., Deeley was born in 1946 to Irish immigrant parents. Deeley served as a parish priest, then, in various capacities in the Metropolitan Tribunal, the ecclesiastical court in the archdiocese of Boston, for 20 years. In 2000, he assumed the presidency of the Canon Law Society of America.

Deeley went to Rome in September 2004 to assist as an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under the cardinal who became Pope Benedict XVI. He served at the Congregation until being named vicar general and moderator of the Curia of the Archdiocese of Boston in the summer of 2011.

As vicar general, Deeley was responsible for the oversight of nearly 2 million Catholics in approximately 290 parishes across 144 communities in the archdiocese, according to information on its website, www.bostoncatholic.org. As moderator of the curia, his primary duties were to care for and provide coordination of the personnel and efforts of the central ministries of the archdiocese.

Former Maine Bishop Malone and Deeley have known each other since their seminary days.

“While our educational journeys and ministerial assignments took us in different directions, our paths have intersected many times in these nearly 40 years we have known each other,” Malone said in a statement. “And so it is that I can promise the people of our great Diocese of Portland that they will be pastored by a man who is, in St. Timothy’s words, truly ‘strong, loving and wise.’

Deeley’s tenure in Maine likely will last as long Malone’s did. The mandatory retirement age for bishops in the Catholic church is 75.

The Sun Journal contributed to this story.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: