Bishop McManus reflects on the past, future

Telegram & Gazette


WORCESTER — On March 3, 2004, Providence Auxiliary Bishop Robert Joseph McManus received a five paragraph letter from Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo — the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio to the United States — informing him that Pope John Paul II had formally decided to appoint him as Worcester’s fifth bishop.

The short note, which requested that Bishop McManus keep the matter confidential until the news was officially released six days later, confirmed a telephone conversation the two men had had two days earlier.

Though it’s a very special honor for a priest to be named chief shepherd of a diocese, it wasn’t the best of times to become a new bishop in the United States.

The clergy-abuse scandal was consuming the American church and Worcester was one of the dioceses at the heart of the controversy. …

Ten years after assuming the reins, Bishop McManus is generally credited with placing the local church on a solid financial footing, launching a major reorganization plan to cope with the shortage of clergymen, boosting interest in vocations, and getting lay and religious leaders to be more attentive to the spiritual needs of parishioners.

Recognizing that the sexual abuse crisis will haunt the church for years, Bishop McManus has also warned chancery officials and pastors to be continually on the watch for sexual predators.

While he said he believes the diocese is generally in good shape, the 62-year-old prelate said there are still many challenges to be undertaken including wooing back alienated worshippers and dealing with a tide of new immigrants.

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