Hundreds gather for Solemn Vespers held in thanksgiving for Bishop Deeley's service to the diocese

Hundreds gathered at the Basilica of Ss. Peter & Paul in Lewiston on Sunday, April 14, for Solemn Evening Prayer held in thanksgiving for the episcopal ministry of Bishop Robert Deeley. After 10 years as chief shepherd of the diocese, Bishop Deeley will be transitioning to the role of bishop emeritus with the upcoming ordination and installation of Bishop James Ruggieri on May 7.

“I am completing a time that has been very important in my life. I have served as bishop of Portland for 10 years. Now it is time to move on to the next road the Lord opens for me,” Bishop Deeley said. “I always tell the priests there is no such thing as retirement in the priesthood. The same is true for bishops. We are freed of the responsibility of administrative matters and the governance of a diocese, but we remain bishops and continue with the ministry which we began in priesthood. I will do that here in Maine.”

In reflecting on his years of service, Bishop Deeley first offered his thanks to God for the opportunity to lead the faithful of Maine but then also expressed his appreciation for all who have served the Church in Maine during the past decade.

"It has been a wonderful ten years. It has had its challenges, but it has given me many graces. Maine may be a secular state, and often it is characterized as such, but 20% of the population still defines itself as Catholic. And the life of those Catholics living their faith, supporting the activity of their parishes and Catholic Charities, bringing the young people for the sacraments, participating in faith sharing, praying together at adoration, visiting the hospitals and staffing the food pantries and serving meals throughout the diocese is a work of God that I have been privileged to witness and to encourage," the bishop said. "Lay faithful, priests, religious women and men, deacons, seminarians, all participate in these good works which are both spiritual works and acts of charity. They are the heart of the diocese and of the Church. They are the memories I treasure."

The bishop thanked in a special way the priests of the diocese, calling them his closest collaborators.

"I am so grateful for their dedication and their devotion to the good of the Church in Maine. From the first Presbyteral Council meeting I had with them after my installation as bishop, I have been impressed with their love of the Church in Maine and their desire, together, to care for the diocese and for each other. I could not have been more blessed than with the ministry of these good men," Bishop Deeley said.

Many priests of the diocese were in attendance at the prayer service, as were deacons, women and men religious, and lay faithful. They came from communities far beyond the Lewiston area, saying they wanted to be there to pray for and with the bishop.

“I drove five hours to come here. It was so important to me. I have never seen a bishop like him, the way he has touched the people and the priests. He is very compassionate, caring, and loving,” said Father Antony Alexander Maria Doss, HGN, parochial vicar of St. John Vianney Parish in Fort Kent. “He is not afraid of traveling. He has reached every corner of the diocese, and that shows how much he cares for every single person in the diocese. I am very grateful. It’s not easy for me to come all the way, but I didn’t want to miss this chance to wish him well.”

“We’re here because he has been such a blessing to this diocese for the last 10 years and because he has been supportive of the deacons and the priests and has been such a voice for the laity in what he has done and what he has said, and he is everywhere,” said Deacon Robert Curtis, who serves at the Maine State Prison in Warren. “And the kids love him. You see the pictures where he goes and does the confirmations and to the different schools, and the children want to be around him because he is such a pleasant presence.”

“Our family definitely wanted to be here for the bishop to pray for him as he transitions into this beautiful, golden time for him and just out of a sense of deep, deep gratitude that we have for him, for his overwhelming generosity during his time as bishop with us. It’s been tremendous,” said Deacon Luis Sanclemente of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Bangor.

“We found it very important to be here because we’ve always supported this diocese, and we feel that Bishop Deeley has really been a shepherd in this diocese, and he’s been very good to our congregation as well,” said Sister Maureen Bellerose, RSR, of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.

“I think his impact in Maine has been wide. He is just a genuinely good man, in and out, not just because he is bishop, but I think he is a good man. He is a loving human being,” said Solange Tchatat, a member of the Parish of the Holy Eucharist in Falmouth. “My whole family loves him.”

The vespers at the basilica included exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, hymns, psalms led by Leon Griesbach, who served as cantor, and Benediction. After the service, people gathered in the downstairs hall for refreshments and for the opportunity to chat with the bishop and to personally express their gratitude to him. Many were happy to learn that, although he will be transitioning to a new role, he plans to continue to live in Maine as bishop emeritus, rather than return to his home state of Massachusetts.

"I am staying because I like it here. I like the people I have met and the beauty of the land and water," Bishop Deeley said. "I think I can give Bishop Ruggieri some help when he needs it. Maine is a big state. It is hard to be in the County and Biddeford on the same day. With me around, he has the ability to do that."

Bishop Deeley genuflects before the altar.
Opening procession
Incensing the Blessed Sacrament.
Priests and family members fill the front pews.
Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist
Cantor Leon Griesbach
Bishop Robert Deeley delivers remarks.
Msgr. Andrew Dubois and Father Claude Gendreau with other priests.
Crowd looks on as Bishop Deeley delivers remarks.
Nancy Naimey greets Bishop Deeley during the reception.
Bishop Deeley receives a hug from a woman.
Bishop Robert Deeley, Sister Carol Martin, PFM, and Sister Juania