After Reilly, Who'll Lead Diocese?

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram & Gazette [Worcester MA]
Downloaded July 9, 2003

WORCESTER- With Bishop Sean P. O'Malley due to be installed as head of the Boston archdiocese at the end of this month, speculation is turning to who will replace retiring Bishop Daniel P. Reilly of the Worcester diocese.

"I think people will be surprised," said Owen J. Murphy Jr., an author and former editor of The Catholic Free Press.

Mr. Murphy said the Vatican needs to "make a statement that the old boys network is dead." The Vatican may have started making that statement with the appointment of Bishop O'Malley, a Franciscan friar, to Boston, he said. "They are going to have to make that statement with the next two or three appointments.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the next (Worcester) bishop is a priest of the diocese," Mr. Murphy said. "Fall River just promoted from its own ranks. We just have to keep praying."

Mary Keville of Harvard, a leader in the Catholic lay organization called Voice of the Faithful, said she believes selecting and elevating a priest of the diocese "would be welcomed by laity and clergy alike, although I think this would be unlikely.

"Of course my hope is that it will be someone who is both pastoral in approach and collaborative in ministry with the priests and the laity, someone who will be sympathetic to the victims of clergy abuse and will follow his heart and the Gospel values in solving the crisis," she said.

Laurie A. Letourneau of Shrewsbury said she has heard that some people in the diocese want to see Monsignor Francis D. Kelly, a priest of the Worcester diocese who is rector of Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, get the appointment.

She is also hearing the name of Monsignor Thomas F. Sullivan, current chancellor, who was elevated to monsignor last year. Ms. Letourneau said she believes Monsignor Sullivan's public role in handling the current sexual abuse scandal might have hurt his chances.

Ms. Letourneau, who heads Life Action League of Massachusetts, said she wants a bishop who is humble and "really pro-life." She would like to see the new bishop move out of the bishop's house on High Ridge Road and into more modest housing.

She criticized the current bishop for putting politics first and publicly taking an anti-abortion stand while cutting funds for his pro-life office.

Victor J. Melfa of Westboro, founder of the Cardinal Newman Society at the College of the Holy Cross, said he has heard no strong rumors but said he thought Monsignor Sullivan might be considered. Mr. Melfa said that in his view Monsignor Sullivan is an orthodox Roman Catholic.


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