Pope Francis appoints Father James Ruggieri as bishop of Portland, Maine

JamesRuggieriPortland Portland Bishop-elect James Ruggieri. | Credit: Diocese of Providence

Pope Francis on Tuesday appointed Father James Ruggieri as the new bishop of Portland, Maine.

The Vatican announced Feb. 13 that the 56-year-old priest from Providence, Rhode Island, will be ordained as the bishop of Maine’s only diocese.

He succeeds Bishop Robert Deeley, who has led the Portland Diocese for the past decade. Deeley will turn 78 years old in June. 

Ruggieri is a native of Providence, where he is known for feeding the homeless each week from an old food truck decorated with images of Mother Teresa and St. John Paul II. 

He was recently honored with the 2024 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Vision Award by his alma mater, Providence College, for founding St. Patrick’s Academy, a Catholic preparatory high school for students unable to enroll in other Catholic schools for financial reasons. The school has no set tuition, but families pay what they can afford. 

Father Bernard Healey, a fellow priest in the Rhode Island diocese, has described Ruggieri as a “model priest” who provides a “voice for justice on behalf of the unborn, the immigrant, the refugee, and the poorest of the poor.”

“Father James’ priestly ministry is courageous, humble, and holy. He is tireless in working and serving the many poor and immigrant parishioners who make up his Providence inner-city parishes of St. Patrick and St. Michael. He lives humbly and simply among the people he serves, tirelessly serving the hungry, the homeless, the immigrant, and the marginalized,” he said in an editorial in the Rhode Island Catholic last year.

“Father James has been a loyal ally in advocating for the sanctity of all human life and the dignity of every human person,” Healey added.

“While others clamor from ivory towers about public policies and political platforms, Father James routinely performs the corporal and spiritual works of mercy with dedication and love, provides comfort and peace to the sick and dying, absolves sinners, and lovingly welcomes the lost sheep of his flock.”

Bishop Richard Henning of Providence also commented on the “wide-reaching effects” of Ruggieri’s ministry in Rhode Island and offered prayers and support for the priest in his new mission.

Ruggieri has served as the pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Providence for more than 20 years and also serves as the pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Church. His appointment at St. Michael’s Parish in 2020 sparked an op-ed in The Providence Journal bemoaning that a sign outside the parish that said “Welcome” in a dozen languages had been replaced with a sign that says, “Pregnant? Need Help?” 

“In my brief time in Providence, I have come to appreciate and admire Father Ruggieri’s personal humility, authenticity, and remarkably fruitful priestly ministry,” Henning said after his appointment.

“For these reasons, among others, I see the wisdom of the Holy Father’s choice even as I feel the pang of the loss to us,” he added.

Ruggieri will be consecrated and installed as the 13th bishop of Portland in a Mass on May 7 in Maine’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

The Diocese of Portland spans the entire state of Maine and has a population of about 279,000 Catholics. The diocese was established by Pope Pius IX in 1853.

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