By Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press
WORCESTER – The memories of 30 years as a bishop and many years as a priest before that came in no particular order to Bishop George E. Rueger while talking to a reporter recently. One story would trigger another. And so, sitting in the rectory, he reminisced, as his furry companions came and went – or slept through it all.
Bishop Rueger marked his 30th anniversary of episcopal ordination Feb. 25, and has been officially retired for a number of years. But, like some other retired priests, he hasn’t removed himself from involvement in the diocese – or beyond.
He mentioned upcoming events penciled in his calendar – the Worcester Diocesan Catholic Men’s Conference on April 1 and the reunion for his class from St. John’s Seminary in Brighton on June 2, among them.
He lives in the rectory beside Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church with the pastor, Msgr. F. Stephen Pedone. On Sundays they go to the 10 a.m. Mass at Mount Carmel’s Our Lady of Loreto Church. Sister Mary Joseph Cross, a Carmelite Sister of the Eucharist who helps care for Bishop Rueger, goes too.
Back at the rectory, they enjoy its non-human occupants – Msgr. Pedone’s cats that seem to be an important part of the retired bishop’s daily routine.
He strokes the “red-haired” one, offers her treats and says she just had an anniversary. St. Patrick’s Day has just passed and he claims “she’s Irish,” because she’s named Molly.
He calls Sophia “elegant” and says Patches’ claim to fame is that he is “big.” (The 26-pounder didn’t move from his bed.) Bishop Rueger expresses concern that the cat might experience pain after he’s treated for a lump on his head.
The bishop also shows his support for his fellow human beings.
Told that The Catholic Free Press has just photographed Bishop McManus praying with 40 Days for Life outside the Planned Parenthood abortion facility, Bishop Rueger has a story of his own.
Driving away from Blessed Sacrament Parish a couple years ago, he saw a crowd of youth outside the clinic. He and the priest driving him stopped and cheered with them for life, he says.
This story leads to another – Bishop Rueger recalls with pride and gratitude how the nation’s new vice president, Mike Pence, spoke to thousands of youth from around the country who were raising their voices for life at the March in Washington, D.C., this year. The vice president represented the government and wanted to be there, he says.
The bishop’s stories aren’t just about current events, however; they also offer glimpses of the diocese’s history.
He recalls a time when, as a seminarian, he helped take the census for St. Paul Cathedral. He was from St. Peter’s Parish himself and remembers Bishop (later Cardinal) John J. Wright deciding that St. Peter’s needed another church. It was named for St. Andrew the Apostle, Peter’s brother.
“I’m particularly fond of it, because I said my first Mass there and my mother and father were buried from it,” Bishop Rueger says. He went to seminary from St. Peter’s, but by the time he was ordained his parents lived in St. Andrew’s territory, he says. (St. Andrew’s is now a mission of St. Peter’s.)
After serving 29 years as a priest, he learned that he was being named Auxiliary Bishop of Worcester.
“I was nervous,” he says.
For his episcopal motto Bishop Rueger chose an ecumenical passage, “That They All May Be One,” from Jn 17:21-22. He explains that he had been involved with prayer gatherings with other Christian ministers.
“There was an ecumenical movement in Worcester anyway,” he says.
And there was an ecumenical movement of sorts in his own family.
While in seminary, he hadn’t been allowed to leave to attend his Lutheran father’s entrance into the Catholic Church.
“He told my mother he wanted to go to Communion at my first Mass,” so he received instructions, Bishop Rueger explains. Apparently, years later, the important event was an inspiration for the new bishop’s motto.
“I think our holy father has done a lot” for ecumenism today, Bishop Rueger says. “I think Francis is a wonderful figure for all people.” When Pope Francis visited the United States, people of all religions were happy to see him.
Bishop Rueger also recalls hearing young people’s happiness about seeing Pope John Paul II.
“John Paul II, we love you,” they chanted, to which the pope responded, “John Paul II loves you too.”
Popes – and bishops – are priests first. What would Bishop Rueger say to men considering priesthood?
“I think they have to discern that vocation in days of prayer … in front of the Eucharist, in time of silence,” he says. “That’s when the Spirit speaks.”
Is that how it worked for him?
“I think in the seminary that was it,” he replies. Before he went to seminary, when people asked why he wanted to be a priest, he said he was inspired by the great priests at St. Peter’s Parish and school, he says.
For their graduation from St. Peter’s High School, he and his classmates put on their caps and gowns and marched down Main Street to the church, he says.
Bishop Rueger also recalls spending time in the church with other youth from noon to 3 p.m. on Good Friday. They weren’t supposed to talk during those hours, traditionally observed as the time that Jesus hung on the cross.
“If we were outside, we were sure we were going to talk,” he says. “To be honest, we probably sent notes to each other” while in church, with messages such as, “What time are we going home?” The answer: Not until after the Stations of the Cross were prayed.
“On Thursday … we put the Eucharist away,” Bishop Rueger says. So on Good Friday the church was empty; “it was like the tomb.”
In later years, Bishop Rueger would be found in Great Brook Valley on Good Fridays, joining the Way of the Cross from that neighborhood to St. Joan of Arc Church on Lincoln Street.
That brings up another memory.
Bishop Rueger says Father John F. Sullivan, St. Joan of Arc’s first pastor, took him to seminary. The rector of St. John’s Seminary in Brighton had been a classmate of Father Sullivan’s, he says.
“So, I got a good start in the seminary,” Bishop Rueger says. “I stayed at the seminary. He drove back with my mother and father.”
Once ordained a priest, like other curates Father Rueger directed his parish’s CYC. Other places had CYOs, which stood for Catholic Youth Organization, he says. But Bishop Wright didn’t want to use the word organization.
“It sounded too business-like,” Bishop Rueger explains. “Council sounded more intellectual, more prayerful.”
The CYCs would pray the rosary on the radio, he recalls. One night, they’d say it at the bishop’s house instead of at the radio station. They were to enter and leave the house quietly.
“It was great for the kids to see the bishop’s house,” Bishop Rueger says. Before Bishop Wright, Worcester didn’t have its own bishop; it was part of the Springfield Diocese.
Another tradition was the CYC parade down Main Street in Worcester.
“I was the loudspeaker because I had a big mouth,” Bishop Rueger says. He announced the parishes’ floats. There was a different Christian theme each year, such as honoring saints. A float didn’t always get the necessary protection, however.
The folks in Gardner “liked to build big floats,” Bishop Rueger says. “They forgot they had to go under bridges…. They had to knock it down before they got there. Some others didn’t knock it down – it came down!”
Later, assuming episcopal duties, Bishop Rueger was faced with confirming young people, something he misses doing now. He recalls his first confirmation. Of course, this was new to him, and his emcee, Father James M. Shea, had never been an emcee for one.
“We both guessed at what we were doing,” the bishop says. “The night before, we read the book.”
At that confirmation in Athol he told the first student: “I will confirm people in the years ahead. Just remember that you were the first.”
Now, 30 years later, he’s asked what he’d like to share with The Catholic Free Press readers.
“Only words of gratitude,” he says, speaking of those who help him, now that he can’t get around like he used to.
Father Ralph A. DiOrio
Father Ralph A. DiOrio was born on July 19, 1930, in Providence, R.I., the son of Ralph and Mollie (Pazienza) DiOrio.
He entered the minor seminary of the Missionary Fathers of St. Charles. In 1949 he entered the Immaculate Conception Novitiate in Staten Island, N.Y., and professed his religious vows in 1950.
He prepared for the priesthood at St. Charles Seminary, Staten Island, N.Y., and Sacred Heart Seminary, Melrose Park, Ill. He began pastoral assignments in the United States and Canada. He took part in a radio program, “L’ora Catolica,” from 1963 to 1967 in Utica, N.Y.
He was ordained a Missionary Father of St. Charles by Bishop Raymond Hillinger on June 1, 1957, in Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago, and served in parishes in Illinois, Ontario, Canada, Ohio and New York.
He came to the Diocese of Worcester in March 1968 and was associate pastor of St. Anna Parish, Leominster; Our Lady of Mount Carmel/St. Ann Parish, Worcester; Our Lady of Loreto Parish, Worcester; St. Bernard Parish, Fitchburg, and St. John Parish, Worcester.
After his incardination as a diocesan priest in 1973 he was named associate director of the diocesan Spanish-speaking apostolate. In 1976 he founded and became director of the Apostolate of Divine Mercy and Healing.
In 1979, he was appointed director of St. Joseph House of Prayer, Leicester.
In 1980 his autobiography “The Man Beneath the Gift,” written with Donald Gropman, was published by William Morrow & Co.
Over the years he has drawn many thousands to his healing ministry, across the United States and in countries around the world. Stories about his ministry have appeared in newspapers and magazines, on radio and on national television. He retired from active ministry in the Apostolate of Divine Mercy and Healing this past January.
Msgr. F. Gilles Roy
Msgr. F. Gilles Roy was born on May 24, 1927, in Central Falls, R.I., son of Richard and Corinne (Verreau) Roy.
He graduated from Assumption High School and Assumption College, Worcester. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1945-48, aboard a medical ship at Okinawa, Japan.
He studied for the priesthood at the Seminary of Philosophy and Grand Seminary, Montreal, and was ordained a priest on May 30, 1957 in St. Paul Cathedral by Bishop Wright.
He was associate pastor of St. Theresa Parish, East Blackstone; Immaculate Conception, Fitchburg; St. Cecilia Parish, Leominster, and St. Peter Parish, Northbridge.
In 1967 he was assigned to the Diocese of Sicuani, Peru, where he served as a missionary priest for the parishes of San Pedro and San Pablo.
Upon his return, he was named pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Fitchburg, on Sept. 4, 1979, and continued work with the Spanish Apostolate in the Fitchburg area.
On July 15, 1983, he was named pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Worcester.
On Sept. 12, 1984, he returned to the Diocese of Sicuani, Peru. That year, Bishop Flanagan named him director of the first Worcester Diocesan Missionary Unit in Latin America. The Unit served two parishes in Sicuani and included two Worcester Diocesan nuns, Sister Ann Marie Marshall, R.S.M., and Sister Paula Cormier, P.B.V.M.
Pope John Paul II named him a monsignor on Sept. 29, 2003. He retired from active ministry June 1, 2011. He presently lives at Notre Dame, Long Term Care Center, 559 Plantation St., Worcester.
Father Andre E. Dargis
Father Andre E. Dargis was born July 18, 1941, in Leominster, the son of the late Emile N. Dargis and Lillian M. (Cormier) Dargis. He was a member of St. Cecilia Parish in Leominster and attended the parish elementary school. He graduated from Assumption Preparatory School in Worcester in 1958. He attended Assumption College in Worcester from 1958 to 1960, when he entered the novitiate of the Assumptionists in Saugerties, N.Y. He made his first profession of vows in August 1961.
He was sent to study philosophy at the Assumptionist Seminaire des Missions in Layrac, France, for two years, and then to study theology at the Assumptionist Abbaye de Brogne in St. Gerard, Belgium, from 1963-66. He was ordained to the priesthood at the Abbaye de Brogne on April 16, 1967 by Auxiliary Bishop Jean Baptiste Musty of Namur, Belgium.
From 1966-71 he took graduate-level courses at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, from which he received advanced degrees in Theology and in Sacred Scripture, concluding with a Doctorate in Sacred Theology in 1971.
From the fall of 1971 to the spring of 2001 he served on the faculty of Assumption College in the Department of Religious Studies/Theology, which he chaired for many years. He also served in various administrative posts at the college, including membership on the College’s Board of Trustees, Vice President for Religious Affairs and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs.
In 1972 he began offering weekend assistance in diocesan parishes, including Holy Family of Nazareth in Leominster, St. Columba in Paxton, and St. Brigid in Millbury.
In June 2001 he was made associate pastor of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Gardner, and in August 2003 appointed its administrator.
Bishop Daniel P. Reilly incardinated Father Dargis in the Diocese of Worcester and named him pastor of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish, Gardner, in December 2003. Incardination is the legal term for the attachment of a priest or deacon to a particular jurisdiction such as a diocese, religious institute, or society.
On July 1, 2009 Father Dargis retired and, for medical reasons, moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, where he currently serves on a limited basis as a member of the Pastoral Team of St. Patrick’s Catholic Community.
Father Laurence V. Brault
Father Laurence V. Brault was born on Aug. 20, 1950, in New Bedford, the son of Richard R. and Marie Virginia (Verdi) Brault. He graduated in 1968 from Marian High School, Framingham.
He graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 1972 and prepared for the priesthood at St. John’s Seminary, Brighton. While attending the seminary, he was musical coordinator and director of liturgy at Sacred Heart Parish, Lexington.
He was ordained a priest on June 4, 1977, at St. Paul Cathedral by Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan.
After ordination he served as associate pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish, Westborough, and, in February 1982, at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Fitchburg.
In January 1984 he was appointed associate pastor of St. Anne Parish, Shrewsbury, and served there until July 1, 1988, when he was named associate pastor of St. Brigid Parish, Millbury.
He has been active in the Worldwide Marriage Encounter movement for the past 38 years, presenting weekends, serving in leadership for the Worcester area, and sitting on the National Board as part of the secretariat staff.
On June 26, 1992, he was named pastor of Holy Angels Parish, Upton.
On Sept. 8, 2011, Bishop McManus established St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Upton by merging Holy Angels and St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Mendon. At that time, Father Brault was named co-pastor with Father Thomas E. Mahoney. Since Father Mahoney’s retirement on June 30, 2012, Father Brault has served as the sole pastor.
Father Paul M. Bomba
Father Paul M. Bomba was born Nov. 23, 1951, in Webster, the son of Mitchell and Harriet (Krystyniak) Bomba.
He graduated from Bartlett High School, Webster. He studied for the priesthood at St. Mary College, Orchard Lake, Mich., and completed his studies at the North American College in Rome.
He also took summer courses at the Jagiellonian University at Cracow, Poland. During the summers of 1975 and 1976 he worked as a civilian with the United States Army in Germany.
He was ordained a priest on Nov. 19, 1977, in St. Paul Cathedral by Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan. He was assigned associate pastor of Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish in Worcester and Our Lady of Jasna Gora Parish in Clinton before being appointed chaplain in the United States Army in May 1982.
After completing the Chaplain Officer Basic Course, he was assigned to the Third Armored Calvary regiment at Fort Bliss, Texas, as assistant chaplain. He served in Mainz, Germany, until 1988; attended the Chaplain Officer Advanced Course at the U.S. Army Chaplain School in Fort Monmouth, N.J., and was assigned to Fort Belvoir, Va. In 1992, the Army assigned him to recruit priests and seminarians for the Army. He was stationed at the Pentagon. The next year he was assigned to provide Catholic support for the 10th Mountain Division in Somalia.
He then was a brigade chaplain in Korea, studied ethics for a year at Princeton University and taught ethics at the Army’s Air Defense Artillery School at Fort Bliss.
He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1998 and was stationed in Hohenfels, Germany. He served tours of duty in Hungary and in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, in June 2002, where he served as Catholic community chaplain and Third Armored Corps assistant command chaplain for operations.
He served in Iraq from January 2004 to February 2005. He was assigned to the multinational corps in Iraq. He was stationed in Baghdad where he was Deputy Corps chaplain for operations. In March 2005, he was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, where he was Catholic base operations chaplain. He retired from the Army on Dec. 31, 2006, with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
He returned to the Worcester Diocese in September 2006, and was temporary administrator of St. Theresa Parish, Blackstone. In September 2007, he was named temporary administrator of Good Shepherd Parish, Linwood. On July 1, 2008, he was appointed pastor of St. Theresa. On July 1, 2014 he was named pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Auburn.
Father Dennis J. O’Brien
Father Dennis O’Brien was born on June 17, 1951, in Whitinsville, son of William and Rita (Ducharme) O’Brien.
He attended St. Patrick’s School in Whitinsville and graduated from St. Mary’s Central Catholic High School in Milford in 1969.
He studied for the priesthood at St. Thomas Seminary, Bloomfield, Conn., St. John’s Seminary, Brighton, and the North American College, Rome.
While in Rome, Father O’Brien studied at the University of St. Thomas Aquinas, where he received his bachelor’s degree in sacred theology in 1976.
He completed his deacon-internship at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, West Boylston, and was ordained by Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan on June 18, 1977, in St.
Following ordination, he was assigned for the summer to Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Hopedale. He then returned to Rome for graduate studies at the Institute of
Spirituality of the Pontifical Gregorian University. He received his Licentiate in Sacred Theology in 1978 and returned to Sacred Heart Parish as associate
In July 1981, he was assigned to the faculty of St. Bernard’s Central Catholic High School, Fitchburg. In 1983, he was named to the faculty of Holy Name Central Catholic High School, Worcester. He received his master’s degree in administration and supervision from Boston College in 1985 and was appointed headmaster of Holy Name on July 11, 1986.
In 1993 he entered the novitiate of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance at St. Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer. Over the years, he spent more than four years with the Trappist community.
In 1996, Father O’Brien was appointed the first director of the Father James Fitton House for Priestly Formation in Leicester and taught in the diocesan
Permanent Diaconate Program. He has served as associate pastor of St. Leo’s Parish, Leominster, St. Mary’s Parish, Shrewsbury, and Saint Joseph’s Parish, Fitchburg.
On June 25, 2005, he was named pastor of St. Theresa the Little Flower Parish in Harvard and a year later he was appointed pastor of Saint Francis Xavier Parish in Bolton as well. After the two parishes were merged in December 2008, he became the first pastor of the newly formed Holy Trinity Parish.
He was named pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Leominster on June 30, 2012.
Father O’Brien is the Dean of Deanery X, which includes Leominster, Fitchburg and Lunenburg, and is chairman of the Diocesan Presbyteral Council. He has been an Associate of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary since
Father Conrad S. Pecevich
Father Conrad S. Pecevich was born September 19, 1949 in Worcester, the son of Leonard J. and Anna (Shea) Pecevich. He graduated from St. Peter’s Central Catholic High School in 1967.
He studied for the priesthood at St. Thomas Seminary, Bloomfield, Conn.; Christ the King Seminary, St. Bonaventure, New York; St. John’s Seminary, Brighton, and Christ the King Seminary, East Aurora, New York. He was ordained a priest on June 3, 1977 by Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan in St. Paul Cathedral.
He served as associate pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in West Boylston and St. Theresa Parish, Blackstone.
He was assigned to St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Worcester in November 1984 as part-time associate pastor and as part-time Instructor at Anna Maria College, Paxton. A year later, he was named chaplain and director of campus ministry at Anna Maria.
He subsequently earned a master’s degree in biblical studies from Providence College and a certificate of advanced graduate studies from Assumption College.
In June 1990, he began part-time studies at Andover Newton Theological School, Newton Center, earning a doctorate of ministry. He was named part-time pastor of St. Roch Parish, Oxford, and part-time campus minister at Nichols Colllege, Dudley. He also served as director of the diocesan Nursing Home Apostolate.
He is an instructor in the diocesan Permanent Diaconate Program, has been active in Muslim-Christian dialogue locally and nationally, and writes a weekly column for The Catholic Free Press.
Father Pecevich will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Matthew Church, Southborough, on Sunday, May 21. A reception will follow in the Parish Hall. The public is invited to attend.
Msgr. Thomas J. Sullivan
Msgr. Thomas J. Sullivan was born on July 5, 1949, in San Francisco, the son of Thomas H. and Rita B. (Roche) Sullivan.
He attended schools in Pelham and White Plains, N.Y., and graduated from North Andover (Mass.) High School in 1967.
He graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 1971. He earned a master’s degree in education, with a concentration in religious education, from Boston College in 1974.
Before beginning his priestly studies, he taught at Marian High School, Worcester, and was a director of religious education at Holy Family Parish, Colorado Springs, Colo., and at St. Joseph Parish, Fountain, Colo.
He did seminary studies at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore.
He was ordained a priest on June 18, 1977, by Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan in St. Paul Cathedral.
His first parish assignment was associate pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, Worcester. He later served as associate pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish, Westborough, and St. Mary and Our Lady of the Rosary parishes in Spencer.
From 1979 to 1984 he was the associate director of the diocesan Office of Religious Education, specializing in adult education, and was the director of the South County Religious Education Office.
He was the diocesan director of the Emmaus Program for Priestly Spirituality and a member of the Priests’ Personnel Board and the Diocesan Vocations Advisory Board.
In June 1990, he was appointed headmaster of St. Bernard Central Catholic High School, Fitchburg.
In April 1995, he was appointed diocesan director of vocations, a post he held for 10 years.
He was secretary to Bishop Daniel P. Reilly from April 1995 until June 1998. He was named diocesan chancellor in June 1998 and served until July 2013.
In January 2002, he received pontifical honors and the title of monsignor. From April 2002 until August 2003 he was administrator of St. Bernadette Parish, Northborough.
In September 2004, while chancellor, he was named moderator of the diocesan Office of Development – later the Office of Stewardship and Development – and became its director in August 2005.
From July to November 2006, in addition to his diocesan duties, he was pastor of St. Columba Parish, Paxton. On July 1, 2008, the position of director of the diocesan Fiscal Affairs Office was added. His responsibilities in those financial posts ended in July 2011, when he was made pastor of Christ the King Parish,Worcester.
He currently serves on the Diocesan Review Committee, the Pastoral Planning Committee and is a member of the Diocesan College of Consultors.
Father Thomas M. Tokarz
Father Thomas M. Tokarz was born Nov. 3, 1948, in Webster, the son of Theodore P. and Cecilia (Motyka) Tokarz.
He graduated from Bartlett High School, Webster, in 1967 and Holy Apostles Seminary, Cromwell, Conn. He completed his studies for the priesthood at St. Francis Seminary, Loretto, Pa., and St. Vincent de Paul Seminary, Boynton Beach, Fla.
He was ordained a priest by Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan on June 4, 1977, in St. Paul Cathedral.
He served as associate pastor of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Worcester, until Jan. 18, 1985, when he was named associate pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Webster.
On Sept. 12, 1994, he was named pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Gardner. On July 1, 2015, he was named pastor of St. Joseph the Good Provider Parish in Berlin.
Father Joseph M. Dolan
Father Joseph M. Dolan was born in Leominster on Nov. 13, 1963, the son of John and Marilyn (Cataleta) Dolan. He graduated from Leominster High School in 1982.
He graduated in 1986 from the College of the Holy Cross, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree. He then attended The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he received a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology in 1989. He also studied at Pope John XXIII Seminary in Weston.
He was ordained a priest by Bishop Timothy J. Harrington in St. Paul Cathedral on June 6, 1992. He then served as associate pastor of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Worcester; St. Leo Parish, Leominster, and St. Joseph Parish in Auburn.
On Nov. 26, 2004 he was assigned temporary administrator of St. Camillus de Lellis Parish, Fitchburg and on June 25, 2005, was named pastor of St. Camillus and campus minister for the Newman Center at Fitchburg State College.
On July 1, 2010, he was named pastor of the newly established St. Bernard Parish at St. Camilus de Lellis Church, Fitchburg.