PORTLAND

A Boston auxiliary bishop tapped by Pope Francis to lead Maine’s 188,000 Roman Catholics said Wednesday he’s beginning his new ministry the same way the Holy See did — by asking for prayers.

The Most Rev. Robert Deeley compared his joining the diocese to climbing onto a moving train on which he must build upon the efforts of others who have been serving the community for 160 years.

“I come only as your new shepherd, and, as Pope Francis is fond of telling bishops, I will have to get to know the smell of the sheep before I can serve you as well as the Lord calls me to,” Deeley told reporters at the Diocese of Portland.

Deeley, 67, was introduced at news conference by former Diocese of Portland Bishop Richard Malone, who over the summer assumed leadership of western New York’s Roman Catholics. Malone continued to play a role in Maine while awaiting a successor.

Deeley’s installation has been scheduled for Feb. 14 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.

The Massachusetts native was ordained as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston in January. Prior to that he served as vicar general and moderator of the curia in the archdiocese, a post he held since 2011.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, head of the Archdiocese of Boston, said Deeley will be missed, especially for his guidance of Disciplines in Mission, the Archdiocese’s pastoral planning initiative.

One of five sons of Irish immigrants, Deeley was born in Cambridge and raised in Belmont. He studied at the Catholic University of America in Washington and at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1973 at Sacred Heart Parish in Watertown, Mass.

Deeley, who becomes the diocese’s 12th bishop, said he comes to Maine with no set plan or program for how to lead the diocese.

He told reporters that he didn’t hesitate when he learned that Pope Francis tapped him for the new post in Maine. Like the pope, he asked for people’s prayers.

“My first request of you … is that you pray for me, that I might be worthy of the responsibility that is given me, and that I might be able to unite us as God’s people doing the work of the Lord,” he said.



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