The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception fell silent as incense wafted through air and dozens of priests, bishops and other dignitaries began their slow procession through the sanctuary.

Among them was Bishop James Thomas Ruggieri, who bowed his head and lifted his hands to greet the hundreds of faithful Catholics who traveled to Portland on Tuesday to celebrate his ordination and installment as the 13th bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

Jessica Ciszewski said she drove nearly five hours from New Sweden, a small town in Aroostook County, with two of her children for what she called a once-in-a-lifetime chance to attend the event. She said the day felt like a celebration for the whole diocese.

“It’s wonderful. The chant from the choir, the fellowship – I found myself almost moved to tears,” she said. “It’s like you’re being wrapped in joy.”

Ruggieri, 56, who comes to Maine from the Diocese of Providence, will now lead the more than 275,000 Catholics across the state.

David O’Brien and his wife, Linda, who attend church in the Holy Spirit Parish in Kennebunk, said they were grateful to attend the ceremony.


“It’s an important moment for the diocese and something I don’t expect I’ll see again,” he said. “You see the church in all of its glory and pageantry and magnificence.”


The two-hour ceremony of tradition and pageantry was both solemn and celebratory. The cathedral was filled to its 1,000-person capacity long before the procession began.

A woman adjusts a veil as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception fills before the ordination and installation of James Thomas Ruggieri as the 13th Bishop of Portland. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

After Cardinal Christophe Pierre, an apostolic nuncio to the United States, read the official mandate from Pope Francis calling Ruggieri to ordination as bishop, Ruggieri held the document above his head and walked slowly through the church showing it to the congregation.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston led Ruggieri through the ancient custom of questioning the bishop-elect about his resolve to fulfill the responsibilities of the episcopal ministry.

Ruggieri then lay prostrate on the floor in a sign of humility as the congregation prayed for him and the church.


Those in attendance watched quietly – occasionally raising cellphones to capture quick photos – as archbishops and bishops lay their hands on Ruggieri in prayer, anointed his head with chrism and presented him with the Book of the Gospels. Ruggieri was also presented with his episcopal ring, mitre and a pastoral staff that once belonged to David William Bacon, the first bishop of Portland.

After Ruggieri was led to the throne-like chair behind the altar, marking his official installation as bishop, the congregation stood and applauded.

Bishop James Thomas Ruggieri leads Communion after his ordination and installation as the 13th Bishop of Portland. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

In his remarks at the end of the Mass, Ruggieri expressed his gratitude to the pope, archbishop, and other bishops and priests who advised and supported him. He also acknowledged his mother and brothers, who came to Maine for his installation, before sharing a story about a bishop who met Mother Teresa.

“She said, ‘Bishop, don’t get in God’s way,’ ” Ruggieri said. “I take those words to heart.”

Jeanne Marie Leo said she came to Portland from Mount Desert Island with her husband, Anthony, and their four young children for the Mass. As lay Missionaries of Charity, they thought it was great that Ruggieri referenced Mother Teresa.

“It’s glorious to be here, especially with our kids,” she said. Ruggieri “is probably going to be confirming our kids and his episcopacy is going to shape the diocese my children grow up in. It’s a historic day.”



Ruggieri had served as pastor at St. Patrick’s and St. Michael’s parishes in Rhode Island, where he grew up and was ordained as a priest in 1995.

With help from parishioners and other supporters, Ruggieri founded St. Patrick Academy, a Catholic high school that allows families to pay what they can afford, and 20% of students are first-generation immigrants, according to the academy.

When he was announced as the next bishop in February, Ruggieri said that he loves Hispanic ministry and working in a parish with immigrants from many countries, including Burundi and Rwanda. That experience has prepared him to work with immigrants who attend Catholic churches in Maine, he said.

Bishop James Thomas Ruggieri carries the pastoral staff after his ordination and installation as the 13th Bishop of Portland. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Cardinal O’Malley paused early in the ceremony to thank outgoing Bishop Robert Deeley, who submitted his resignation letter in 2022 at age 75, but stayed on until Ruggieri was chosen as his successor.

“I know how hard he has worked,” he said. “It was so obvious to all of us it was a labor of love.”

Deeley, who was appointed by Pope Francis in December 2013, will continue to reside in Maine as Bishop Emeritus. He led the diocese through ongoing lawsuits alleging the institution is responsible for dozens of cases of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of priests and other diocesan employees that often predated Deeley’s tenure.

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