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Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester

Coordinates: 42°15′55″N 71°48′24″W / 42.26528°N 71.80667°W / 42.26528; -71.80667
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Diocese of Worcester

Diœcesis Wigorniensis
Cathedral of St. Paul
Coat of arms
Country United States
TerritoryCounty of Worcester, Massachusetts
Ecclesiastical provinceBoston
Coordinates42°15′55″N 71°48′24″W / 42.26528°N 71.80667°W / 42.26528; -71.80667
- Catholics

350,000 (43.8%)
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteRoman Rite
EstablishedJanuary 14, 1950
CathedralSt. Paul's Cathedral
Patron saintSt. Paul[1]
Current leadership
BishopRobert Joseph McManus
Metropolitan ArchbishopSeán Patrick O'Malley
Bishops emeritusDaniel Patrick Reilly
St. Joseph Basilica, Webster

The Diocese of Worcester (Latin: Diœcesis Wigorniensis)is a Latin Church ecclesiastical territory, or diocese, of the Catholic Church in central Massachusetts in the United States. The diocese consists of Worcester County. It is a suffragan diocese in the ecclesiastical province of the metropolitan Archdiocese of Boston. The patron saint of the diocese is Paul the Apostle.

The mother church of the Diocese of Worcester is the Cathedral of Saint Paul in the city of Worcester. The fifth and current bishop is Robert McManus.


1700 to 1808[edit]

Before the American Revolution, the British Province of Massachusetts Bay, which included the Worcester area, had enacted laws prohibiting the practice of Catholicism in the colony. It was even illegal for a priest to reside there. To gain the support of Catholics for the Revolution, colonial leaders were forced to make concessions to them. Massachusetts enacted religious freedom for Catholics in 1780.[2]

After the Revolution ended in 1783, Pope Pius VI want to remove American Catholics from the jurisdiction of the Diocese of London. He erected in 1784 the Prefecture Apostolic of the United States, encompassing the entire territory of the new nation. Pius VI created the Diocese of Baltimore, the first diocese in the United States, to replace the prefecture apostolic in 1789.[3]

1808 to 1950[edit]

Pope Pius VII erected the Diocese of Boston in 1808 from the Diocese of Baltimore. The new diocese included all of New England in its jurisdiction.[4] In the 1820s, Irish immigrants began arrived in Worcester Country to work on the railroads and construct the Blackstone Canal. St. John's Church was established in 1834 in the City of Worcester. It is the oldest surviving Catholic church in New England outside of Boston.

The College of the Holy Cross was founded in Worcester by Bishop Benedict Fenwick of Boston in 1843. Fenwick had tried to build the college in Boston, but was thwarted by Protestant politicians running the city. He finally decided to locate it in Worcester on existing church property.[5][6]

In 1870, Pope Pius IX created the Diocese of Springfield from the Diocese of Boston, including Worcester County.[7] The Worcester area would remain part of the Diocese of Springfield for the next 80 years.

1950 to 2004[edit]

Pope Pius XII erected the Diocese of Worcester on March 7, 1950. He removed Worcester County from the Diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts to created the new diocese. Pius XII designated the Church of St. Paul as the cathedral of the new diocese and appointed Auxiliary Bishop John Wright of Boston as the first bishop.

In 1959, Pope John XXXIII appointed Wright as bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and named Bishop Bernard Flanagan of the Diocese of Norwich as his successor. In 1968, Timothy Harrington was appointed as an auxiliary bishop of the diocese by Pope Paul VI. In 1973, the diocese joined the Worcester County Ecumenical Council, a predominantly Protestant organization.[8]

After Flannagan's retirement in 1983, Pope John Paul II appointed Harrington as the new bishop of Worcester. Harrington retired in 1994 and John Paul II appointed Bishop Daniel Reilly from Norwich to succeed him. During his tenure in Worcester, Reilly reopened St. Joseph Parish but merged it with Notre Dame des Canadiens Parish in Worcester.[9] He raised over $50 million for his Forward in Faith campaign to place the diocese in a stable financial condition.[9]

2004 to present[edit]

When Reilly retired in 2004, John Paul II appointed Auxiliary Bishop Robert McManus from the Diocese of Providence to replace him.

McManus in 2007 criticized the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester for renting out "sacred space" to the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy for workshops. He said that the Alliance taught subjects that violated Catholic teachings. In October 2007, he stated that Holy Cross might lose its designation as a Catholic institution due to this action.[10] Holy Cross President Michael C. McFarland said that the college had contractual obligations to the Alliance and would not cancel its agreement with them.[11]

Lowe B. Dongor was indicted in September 2011 on processing child pornography and stealing money from St. Joseph’s Parish in Fitchburg to send to his family in the Philippines.[12] After briefly fleeing to the Philippines, Dongor returned to Worcester, where he pleaded guilty and received five years of probation.[13]

In April 2012, McManus asked Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts, to rescind an invitation to activist Victoria Kennedy to speak at its commencement ceremony, citing her views on abortion rights for women and same sex marriage.[14] In May 2012, the college agreed to disinvite Kennedy, but also disinvited McManus, stating that his presence at the ceremony would be a "distraction".[15]

In June 2012, diocesan officials declined to sell Oakhurst, an historic mansion in Northbridge, Massachusetts used as a retreat center, to James Fairbanks and Alain Beret, a married gay couple.[16][17] In September 2012, the couple sued McManus and the diocese for discrimination. They cited an email in which church officials said that McManus wanted to stop the sale "because of the potentiality of gay marriages there."[18][19] In October 2012, the diocese sold the property to a different buyer.[20]

McManus was arrested in 2013 in Narragansett, Rhode Island, for drunken driving, leaving the scene of an accident, and refusing a chemical sobriety test. At 10:30 pm that evening, McManus had collided with another vehicle, then drove away from the scene. The other driver followed him and called the police. They arrested McManus 20 minutes later at his family home in Narragansett, at which point he refused a DUI chemical test.[21] McManus later pleaded guilty to refusing to take the test, which resulted in a loss of license for six months, 10 hours of community service and a $945 fine.[22]

In 2017, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the three secrets of Fátima in Portugal, McManus consecrated the diocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.[23] The Shrine of Mary, Mother of Persecuted Christians was opened in Clinton in 2022. The shrine was installed with help from Nasarean.org, an organization founded by Benedict Kiely which advocates for Christians facing persecution in the Middle East.[24]

In June 2022, McManus decreed that the Jesuit Nativity School of Worcester could no longer call itself a Catholic school or celebrate mass on its premises. In March 2022, McManus told the school to take down Black Lives Matter and Gay Pride flags from its facility; the school refused to do it.[25] After hundreds of Holy Cross College students signed a petition asking the administration to bar McManus from their commencement ceremony due to his action, McManus voluntarily decided not to attend.

As of 2023, McManus is the current bishop of Worcester.

Sexual abuse[edit]

In 1995, Phil Saviano settled a lawsuit with the Diocese of Worcester, which after attorney fees amounted to $5,700. He alleged being sexually molested by David A. Holley, a priest at St. Denis Catholic Church in Douglas for one year during the 1970s. Two years before the legal action, in 1993, Saviano had read that Holley had been convicted of child sexual penetration of several boys in Alamogordo, New Mexico and sentenced to 275 years in prison.[26] In August 1997, the Dallas Morning News released a 1968 letter sent by Bishop Flanagan to Jerome Hayden, a Catholic therapist in Holliston.[27] In his letter, Flanagan stated that Holley:

"...has been ... [accused of] molesting teenage boys on at least two occasions—most recently in a hospital from which he has been barred—and with carrying around and showing to these boys pornographic magazines and books. Although the ... [accusations] were established beyond any doubt in the judgment of the priests who assisted me in the investigation as well as myself, Father has denied any wrongdoing."[27]

In 1970, the diocese transferred Holley for treatment to the Seton Institute in Baltimore, Maryland without notifying law enforcement. After his treatment was finished, Flanagan refused to let Holley return to Worcester.[27] Holley eventually ended up in dioceses in Texas and New Mexico.

In 2013, Eran J. McManemy, one of Holley's victims in New Mexico, sued the Diocese of Worcester for allowing Holley to serve in other parts of the United States while knowing he was a pedophile.[28] In May 2020, the Albuquerque Journal reported that the Diocese of Worcester was being sued by another Holley victime from New Mexico.[29][30] The lawsuit, which named other dioceses in which Holley served, stated that the Diocese of Worcester deserved "most of the blame."[30]

In October 2020, Bishop McManus and the diocese were named in a sexual abuse lawsuit filed by a former parishioner.[31] The plaintiff alleged that Thomas E. Mahoney, a diocesan priest, had groomed and abused him and other boys in the early 1970s in Worcester and Boylston. The lawsuit accused the diocese of failing to stop Mahoney's alleged crimes. After the lawsuit was filed, McManus suspended Mahoney, already retired, from any ministerial duties.[31]

In December 2022, Nicole Bell, sued the diocese, claiming that she and other women had been sexually abused by William Riley, the food for the poor coordinator at St. John’s Catholic Church. She said that in the early 2010's Riley would coerce her into having sex with him. Bell accused the diocese and the pastor of St. John's of covering up for Riley. The diocese suspended Riley after receiving the complaint and he quit soon after that.[32]

The diocese in February 2023 release a list of 173 credible accusations of sexual abuse against clergy in the diocese. The list did not include the names of accused clergy.[33]


Bishops of Worcester[edit]

  1. John Joseph Wright (1950-1959), appointed Bishop of Pittsburgh and later Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy (elevated to Cardinal in 1969)
  2. Bernard Joseph Flanagan (1959-1983)
  3. Timothy Joseph Harrington (1983-1994)
  4. Daniel Patrick Reilly (1994-2004)
  5. Robert Joseph McManus (2004–present)

Auxiliary bishops[edit]

Other diocesan priest who became bishop[edit]

Michael Wallace Banach, appointed Apostolic Nuncio and Titular Archbishop in 2013

Organization of parishes[edit]

In 2004, Bishop Reilly grouped parishes into "clusters".[34][35] The purpose of this system is to allow communities to come together for regional events. Also, priests may substitute for one another at a particular parish.

Associate Pastor/Vicar
Annunciation Parish Gardner Victor Sierra Thiago Ibiapina
St. John Paul II Southbridge Carlos Ardilla Peter Bui
Blessed Sacrament Worcester Thomas Landry
Christ the King Worcester Thomas J. Sullivan
Divine Mercy Blackstone John Larochelle
Holy Cross Templeton (East Templeton) Patrick Ssekyole
Saint Joseph - Saint Stephen Worcester Robert K. Johnson Cleber dePaula
Holy Family of Nazareth Leominster José A. Rodriguez
Holy Trinity Harvard/Bolton Terence T. Kilcoyne
Immaculate Conception Lancaster Thomas H. Hultquist
Immaculate Conception Worcester Edwin Montaña
Immaculate Heart of Mary Winchendon Henry Ramirez
Mary, Queen of the Rosary Spencer William Schipper
North American Martyrs Auburn Frederick Fraini, III
Our Lady Immaculate Athol Thien Nguyen
Our Lady of Częstochowa Worcester Ryszard Polek Edward Michalski
Our Lady of Good Counsel West Boylston Steven M. Labaire
Our Lady of Hope Grafton Anthony Mpagi Derek Mobilio
Our Lady of Mount Carmel And Our Lady of Loreto Parish Worcester F. Stephen Pedone
Our Lady of Lourdes Worcester James B. O'Shea
Our Lady of Mercy (Maronite Eparchy of Brooklyn) Worcester Alex Joseph
Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Melkite Eparchy of Newton) Worcester Bryan McNeil
Our Lady of Providence Worcester Jonathan Slavinskas
Our Lady of the Angels Worcester Mark Rainville
Our Lady of the Assumption Millbury Daniel R. Mulcahy
Our Lady of the Lake Leominster Kenneth Cardinale
Our Lady of the Rosary Worcester Patrick J. Hawthorne
Our Lady of Vilna (historically Lithuanian, currently Vietnamese) Worcester Peter Tam M. Bui
Prince of Peace Princeton James J. Caldarella
Sacred Heart of Jesus Hopedale William C. Konicki
Sacred Heart of Jesus Milford Richard A. Scioli Gregory J. Hoppough (weekends)
Sacred Heart of Jesus Webster Adam Reid
Sacred Heart-St. Catherine of Sweden Worcester Erik Asante
St. Aloysius Gilbertville Richard A. Lembo
St. Aloysius-St. Jude Leicester John M. Lizewiski
St. Andrew Bobola (Polish) Dudley Krzysztof Korcz
St. Andrew the Apostle Worcester Francis J. Scollen
St. Ann Oxford (North Oxford) James Boulette David Cotter
St. Anna Leominster Carlos Ruiz
St. Anne Shrewsbury Walter Riley Paul T. O'Connell (Senior Priest)
St. Anne Southborough Albert Irudayasamy
St. Anne & St. Patrick (run by Assumptionists) Sturbridge (Fiskedale) Luc Martell
St. Anthony of Padua Fitchburg Juan Ramirez
St. Anthony of Padua Dudley Daniel Moreno
St. Augustine Mission Hardwick (Wheelwright) Richard A. Lembo
St. Bernadette Northborough Ronald G. Falco
St. Bernard @ St. Camillus de Lellis Church Fitchburg Joseph M. Dolan
St. Boniface Lunenburg Charles Omolo
St. Brigid Millbury Daniel R. Mulcahy Jr.
St. Cecilia Leominster James Moroney Paul Shaughnessy, S.J.
St. Christopher Worcester Stanley F. Krutcik
St. Columba Paxton Stephen Lundrigan
St. Denis Ashburnham Andres Araque
St. Denis Douglas Miguel Pagan
St. Edward the Confessor Westminster Juan Herrara
St. Francis of Assisi Athol Thien Nguyen
St. Francis of Assisi (Hispanic) Fitchburg Angel Matos
St. Francis of Assisi South Barre James B. Callahan
St. Gabriel the Archangel Upton Laurence V. Brault Lucas LaRoche
St. George Worcester Edward D. Niccolls
St. Joan of Arc (Hispanic) Worcester Enoch Kyeremateng
St. John Worcester John F. Madden Jean Robert Simbert Brice
St. John the Baptist East Brookfield Joe Rice Donald C. Ouellette
St. John, Guardian of Our Lady Clinton James S. Mazzone Julio Granados
St. Joseph Auburn Paul M. Bomba
St. Joseph Charlton Robert A. Grattaroti Charles Monroe
St. Joseph Fitchburg Dario Acevedo
St. Joseph & St. Pius X Leicester John M. Lizewski
St. Joseph North Brookfield Joe Rice Donald C. Ouellette
St. Joseph Basilica Webster Grzegorz Chodkowski
St. Joseph the Good Provider Berlin Thomas Tokarz
St. Leo Leominster William E. Champlin
St. Louis Webster Javier Julio
St. Luke the Evangelist Westborough Diego A. Buritica V. Sagar Gundiga
St. Mark Sutton Michael A. Digeronimo
St. Martin Mission Templeton (Otter River) Patrick Ssekyole
St. Mary Holden (Jefferson) Timothy M. Brewer
St. Mary Shrewsbury Michael F. Rose José Carvajal
St. Mary Uxbridge Nicholas Desimone Michael Hoye
St. Mary of the Hills Boylston Juan Echavarria
St. Mary the Assumption Milford Peter Joyce
St. Matthew Southborough James B. Flynn
St. Patrick Rutland James Boland
St. Patrick Whitinsville Tomasz J. Borkowski
St. Paul Cathedral Worcester Hugo Cano Juan Parra
St. Peter Northbridge Michael Lavallee
St. Peter Petersham Thien Nguyen
St. Peter (Hispanic and African-American) Worcester Francis J. Scollen
St. Richard of Chichester Sterling James M. Steuterman
St. Roch Oxford James Boulette
St. Rose of Lima Northborough Juan Escudero
St. Stanislaus Warren Richard Reidy
St. Vincent de Paul Templeton (Baldwinville) Francis A. Roberge


High schools[edit]

* Operates independently of the diocese

Closed schools[edit]


  • Robert McManus, bishop
  • Daniel P. Reilly, bishop emeritus
  • Richard F. Reidy, vicar general and moderator of the curia
  • F. Stephen Pedone, judicial vicar
  • Paul T. O'Connell, associate judicial vicar
  • Raymond L. Delisle, chancellor of operations
  • James Mazzone, director of priest personnel
  • Paula Kelleher, vicar for religious
  • James P. Moroney, diocesan office of liturgy
  • Donato Infante III, director of vocations

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Our History". St. Paul Diocesan Jr/Sr High School. Retrieved October 3, 2022.
  2. ^ "Freedom of Religion Comes to Boston | Archdiocese of Boston". www.bostoncatholic.org. Retrieved February 25, 2023.
  3. ^ "Our History". Archdiocese of Baltimore. Archived from the original on July 24, 2008. Retrieved March 30, 2009.
  4. ^ Page on Archdiocese of Baltimore on Catholic Hierarchy web site.
  5. ^ Kuzniewski, Anthony J. (1999). Thy Honored Name: A History of the College of the Holy Cross, 1843-1994. CUA Press. ISBN 978-0-8132-0911-1. Archived from the original on October 31, 2020. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  6. ^ "History". holycross.edu. Archived from the original on October 21, 2021. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  7. ^ "Springfield in Massachusetts (Diocese) [Catholic-Hierarchy]". www.catholic-hierarchy.org.
  8. ^ Telegram & Gazette. [1] May 22, 2007
  9. ^ a b Shaw, Kathleen (May 6, 2003). "Bishop Reilly to retire". Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
  10. ^ Hudson, Deal W. (October 15, 2007). "High Noon at College of the Holy Cross". Crisis Magazine. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  11. ^ "High Noon at College of the Holy Cross". Crisis Magazine. October 15, 2007. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  12. ^ "Fitchburg priest charged with child porn". The Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
  13. ^ MassLive, The Associated Press | (February 28, 2013). "Ex-Fitchburg priest avoids jail in child porn case". masslive. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
  14. ^ "Bishop Stands Firm On Kennedy Snub". WCVB. April 27, 2012. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  15. ^ "Bishop who disinvited Kennedy to skip graduation". Boston.com. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  16. ^ Williamson, Dianne (July 26, 2012). "'Plans' don't include sale to gay couple". Worcester Telegram. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  17. ^ Anderson, Karen. "Gay Couple Says Church Is Blocking Sale Of Historic Home". CBS Boston. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  18. ^ Wangsness, Lisa (September 10, 2012). "Gay couple says church denied Northbridge mansion sale to stop same-sex weddings". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 10, 2012.
  19. ^ Fenton, Josh. "Gay Couple Sues Diocese of Worcester for Discrimination". GoLocalWorcester. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  20. ^ "Diocese sells retreat center despite lawsuit; Buyer says no gay marriages". Boston Business Journal. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  21. ^ "Bishop McManus of Worcester arrested for drunken driving; admits 'terrible error in judgment'". www.boston.com. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  22. ^ "RI dismisses drunk driving charges against Worcester's bishop McManus". The Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
  23. ^ "Diocese to be Consecrated to Immaculate Heart of Mary". Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester, May 30, 2017
  24. ^ CNA. "A Marian shrine for persecuted Christians to open". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved February 17, 2023.
  25. ^ Dunlop, Kiernan (June 16, 2022). "Worcester Bishop determines that Nativity School can't identify as a Catholic school after flying Black Lives Matter and Pride flags". masslive. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
  26. ^ "Fr. David A. Holley - BishopAccountability.org". May 3, 2005. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
  27. ^ a b c "Path of a Pedophile Priest [David A. Holley], Dallas Morning News, August 31, 1997". www.bishop-accountability.org. Retrieved October 20, 2020.
  28. ^ "NM man's suit against priest names Worcester Diocese". The Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
  29. ^ "Worcester Diocese named in New Mexico child sex abuse suit - Blog View - The 016 - Worcester, Mass". the016.com. Retrieved October 20, 2020.
  30. ^ a b Maxwell, Nicole. "St. Jude's, Immaculate Conception named in lawsuit for 1970s child sexual abuse". Alamogordo Daily News. Retrieved October 20, 2020.
  31. ^ a b Thompson, Elaine (October 1, 2020). "Worcester priest removed after lawsuit alleges sex abuse in the '70s". Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  32. ^ "Worcester woman sues ex-official, diocese over coerced sex allegations". Crux. December 21, 2022. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
  33. ^ "Worcester Diocese lists 173 credible allegations of cleric abuse; critics slam report". The Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
  34. ^ "Office of Pastoral Planning" (PDF). Diocese of Worcester. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 28, 2007.
  35. ^ "The Catholic Free Press". Archived from the original on September 4, 2007. Retrieved August 16, 2007.

External links[edit]