Central Maine Catholics said they are grateful for the appointment of Bishop Robert P. Deeley on Wednesday, although the news also came as a surprise to many who have been waiting for more than a year with little information about who might succeed Bishop Richard Malone.
In Waterville, Sister Mary Catherine Perko of The Servants of the Blessed Sacrament convent said she was thrilled with Deeley’s appointment.
“We’re thrilled at the idea of a new bishop. The group that has been governing the diocese over the last year has done a wonderful job, but we’re very happy to have a bishop,” said Perko, 76.
She said she heard the news on the radio this morning, and although she didn’t know a lot about Deeley’s background, she was happy that he had experience in biblical canon, the laws of Catholicism.
“I checked him out on the Internet immediately. He seems like an intelligent man,” said Perko.
Reactions to Deeley’s appointment were positive overall and included leaders of the Catholic community in central Maine. For the last year, the Portland diocese, which includes all of Maine, has been overseen by Malone, apostolistic administrator and former bishop of the Portland diocese who has been working in Buffalo, N.Y., since August 2012.
The Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests, a national advocacy group that supports victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, criticized the appointment in a press release on its website, but Catholics in central Maine said they were not familiar with the organization’s claims that Deeley worked in administrations that overlooked reports of sexual abuse by Catholic clerics.
Catholics in central Maine pointed out that although Malone’s administration did a good job, they are eager to have a bishop to regularly oversee and interact with their communities.
Claudette Massey, principal at St. John Catholic School in Winslow, said students learned about the Deeley’s appointment in their classrooms, where his picture was passed around Wednesday morning. Younger students were taught to say his name while older students learned about his Irish Catholic background, she said.
“To have him come at this time is a very happy occasion. We’re looking forward to meeting him and having him visit the school,” said Massey. “We’re looking forward to having another strong supporter of Catholic education.”
Massey said she is looking forward to a relationship between the school and the new bishop similar to their interactions with Malone, whom she said was personable with students.
In Augusta, the Rev. Francis Morin, pastor at St. Michael’s Catholic Parish, said he didn’t know a lot about Deeley but was glad to have a full-time bishop in the state. He said Malone had done a good job from a distance, but it has been a long time since the diocese has had their own bishop.
“Things have gone quite well in the past year, it’s just that it’s nice to have your own bishop who can get to know people and link everyone together under his leadership. It’s good that we’re finally getting one,” said Morin.
He said the length it took for the appointment probably had to do with Pope Benedict XVI’s retirement and the transition to a new pope at the Vatican before an appointment could be made. Pope Francis was appointed in March.
“That’s probably the reason why we had to wait so long,” he said. “I think at this point everyone I’ve talked to knows about as little as I do. It’s very new.”
In Skowhegan, Donna Hendricks, a secretary in Christ the King Parish, and a Catholic, also said it is too soon to know what people’s reactions to the new bishop might be. She said the parish, which also serves Bingham and Madison, was notified of the appointment Wednesday morning and did not have a lot of information.
“We’re just finding out about it. Of course we are happy to have a bishop, but I haven’t talked to a lot of people yet to see what their thoughts might be,” she said.
Rachel Ohm— 612-2368[email protected]