Discover the Diocese of Portland

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland is an ecclesiastical territory or diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in the New Englandregion of the United States comprising the entire state of Maine. It is led by a bishop, and its cathedral, or motherchurch, is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the city of Portland.
The Diocese of Portland was canonically erected on July 29, 1853, by Pope Pius IX. Its territories were taken from the present-dayArchdiocese of Boston in the nearby state of Massachusetts.
Richard. J. Malone was installed March 31, 2004, as the eleventh bishop of the diocese. On May 29, 2012, Malone was appointed bishop of Buffalo, New York. On December 18, 2013, Robert Deeley, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston, was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Portland by Pope Francis and will be installed in a Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland on February 14, 2014.


Bishop Richard J. Malone was installed March 31, 2004, as the eleventh bishop of the diocese. On May 29, 2012, Malone was appointed bishop of Buffalo, New York. Subsequently, Malone was also appointed apostolic administrator of the diocese of Portland, which means that after he is installed in Buffalo, he will continue to lead in Portland until a new bishop is installed there. On December 18, 2013,Pope Francis appointed Robert Deeley, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston as Bishop of Portland with his installation scheduled for February 14, 2014.


The Diocese is currently divided into 30 Clusters/Parishes.

Notable churches

Main article: Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Portland in Maine
The Diocese's cathedral is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.
Main article: Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul (Lewiston, Maine)
Located in Lewiston is the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. Due to a wave of late 19th century immigration by French Canadians, the church was built and expanded until 1936, by which time it was the second largest church in New England. In 1983, the church was added to theNational Register of Historic Places. In 2004, the church was named a minor basilica by the Holy See.
Historic places
Located in Bangor is the St. John The Evangelist Catholic Church. In 1855, the church was built by Fr. John Bapst, and in 1973 the church was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Public affairs
In November 2009 it was reported that the Diocese of Portland had contributed $550,000, or 20% of the total cash contributed to Stand For Marriage Maine, a successful campaign to prevent then-impending legalization of same-sex marriage in Maine. Roughly 55% of the funds donated by the Diocese came from other out-of-state dioceses who donated money to the Diocese of Portland's PAC.

The present Diocese of Portland includes the entire state of Maine and is part of the Province of Boston. Established by Pope Pius IX on July 29, 1853, the Diocese of Portland then included the territorial limits of the present states of Maine and New Hampshire. Previous to that time, it was under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Baltimore and later of the Bishop of Boston. In 1884, the diocese was divided and New Hampshire was established as a separate diocese with the Episcopal See located at Manchester. Bishop Richard. J. Malone, Th.D., serves as the apostolic administrator of the diocese.
The diocese presently has an area of 33,215 square miles and a population of 193,392 registered Catholics or one-seventh of the total population of the state of Maine. It is organized in the form of a corporation sole, the title of which is "Roman Catholic Bishop of Portland." In addition to its 55 parishes, it has 10 elementary schools, one private elementary school, one diocesan high school and two private high schools. It also includes one Catholic college, Saint Joseph's College of Maine in Standish.
Within the diocese, there are also seven subsidized housing units, four rehabilitation and residence facilities, and three childcare centers. There are three Catholic hospitals operating independently of the diocese as well as Catholic Charities Maine, the state's largest social service agency, which operates as a separate corporation.
The Seal of the Diocese of Portland is composed of a field of blue on which is displayed a "scattering" of gold (yellow) pine cones. The coat of arms is based on the ancient French royal family coat of arms to reflect the fact that the first attempts to settle what is now the state of Maine were made by the French under Pierre du Guast Sieur de Monts, who received a royal patent from the King of France and planted a small colony on Montral (St. Croix) Island in the St. Croix River in 1604. In this design, the gold fleur-de-lis of the French royal family coat of arms have been replaced by gold (yellow) pine cones to reflect that Maine is "The Pine Tree State." The coat of arms of the Diocese of Portland has been in use since the diocese was erected by the Holy See in 1853.
Offices of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland are located at:
The Chancery
510 Ocean Avenue
Portland, ME 04103-4936
Telephone: (207) 773-6471
Fax: (207) 773-0182
Office hours are 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday from Labor Day to Memorial Day.
Summer office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday (closed Friday) from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
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On July 29, 1853, Blessed Pope Pius IX created the Diocese of Portland, then comprising the states of New Hampshire and Maine (excluding the Madawaska region). The origins of the Catholic community in what is now Maine date much earlier than the middle of the 19th century however. In the summer of 1604, Pierre du Guast Sieur de Monts, a Huguenot, founded a mixed colony of about 80 French Catholics and Protestants on Ste. Croix Island (also known as Dochet’s Island) in the Ste. Croix River, not far from present-day Calais. This site was abandoned the following year after about half of the inhabitants, including the priest on the expedition, died during the harsh winter of 1604-1605. Further French settlements followed on Mount Desert Island in 1613, at Castine in 1633, and at Augusta on the Kennebec River in 1646. Blessed François Montmorency Laval, vicar apostolic of New France since 1658, reported that some 200 baptisms took place at the Assumption Mission in Augusta between 1660 and 1663, a true testimony to the dedication of the Jesuit missionaries who served there and along all the major rivers of what is now the state of Maine.
Missionary activity continued throughout the 17th and early 18th century despite growing hostilities between France and England over control of the region. This armed conflict was punctuated by attacks on English settlements and Native American villages. In one of the most famous attacks, English forces destroyed the village at Norridgewock on August 23, 1724, killing scores of Native Americans, including their chiefs and Father Sebastian Rasle, SJ, their devoted missionary for decades.
During the American Revolution, the scattered Native American communities in Maine were periodically visited by chaplains of the French Navy allied with the rebel cause. By 1785, Loyalist settlers from New England forced Acadian farmers in New Brunswick off their lands, causing them to flee into the Madawaska territory in Aroostook County above the Great Falls on the St. John River, planting the roots of what would become a string of parishes on both sides of the St. John River Valley. In 1789, Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore, the first bishop in the newly-formed United States of America, sent the French refugee priest Jean-Louis de Cheverus to serve the Native Americans at Indian Island and to found what would become St. Patrick Parish in Newcastle. Parishes in North Whitefield, Eastport, Machias, and Portland followed in close succession to serve growing numbers of immigrants from Ireland. Bishop Benedict Fenwick of Boston founded a utopian Catholic farming community at Benedicta in 1833 with the hope of even establishing a college there. During the 1850’s, anti-Catholic prejudice led to the burning of the churches in Bath and Lewiston and to the tarring and feathering of Father John Bapst, S.J., by a mob in Ellsworth.
In this climate, the Reverend Henry B. Coskery, Vicar General of Baltimore, declined to accept the appointment as first Bishop of Portland in 1853. It was not until 1855 that the diocese’s first bishop, David W. Bacon (1815-1874) of Brooklyn, arrived in Portland at night, dressed as a layman in order to avoid a riot. During Bishop Bacon’s tenure, the first Catholic schools were established in Portland, Bangor, and North Whitefield. After a halt due to the Civil War and the destruction wrought by the Great Fire of Portland in 1866, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, its chapel, and the Cathedral Residence were finally opened in 1869. In 1870, jurisdiction for the Madawaska territory, which had become part of Maine through the Webster-Ashburton Treaty in 1842, was finally transferred from the Diocese of St. John, New Brunswick, to the Diocese of Portland.
Portland’s second bishop, James Augustine Healy (1830-1900), was born in Macon, Georgia, the eldest son of an Irish immigrant cotton planter, Michael Healy and his wife, Mary Eliza Clark, a mulatto slave. James Healy was ordained as the nation's first African-American bishop on June 2, 1875, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland. During his tenure, he oversaw the founding of parishes and schools for the growing number of Irish and French-Canadian immigrants. During his 25 years as Bishop of Portland, Bishop Healy founded 33 parishes, 22 schools, 18 convents, and a small number of hospitals and orphanages. Bishop Healy is remembered in particular as the bishop of children and of the poor.
In 1901, Bishop Healy was succeeded by Bishop William H. O’Connell (1859-1944) as third Bishop of Portland. During his tenure, tensions broke out between the French-speaking and English-speaking clergy and laity, tensions which marked the reign of his successor. Bishop O’Connell is remembered for negotiating a very successful diplomatic mission to Japan on behalf of the Holy See. Within a month of his return from Japan in 1906, he was named Archbishop of Boston.
Bishop O’Connell was succeeded in the See of Portland by Louis Sebastian Walsh (1858-1924), a native of Salem, Massachusetts, and superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Boston. Bishop Walsh’s tenure was marked by a new wave of immigrants, this time from Poland, Italy, Slovakia, and Lithuania. Vocal groups of Franco-Americans clashed with Bishop Walsh over the ownership of parish property, leading him to place six of the leading protesters under interdict. Bishop Walsh was a keen supporter of the National Catholic Welfare Conference (first founded as the National Catholic War Council) opposing the efforts of his predecessor, Cardinal O’Connell of Boston, who sought to have this first national organization of bishops suppressed by the Holy See. Bishop Walsh was an avid historian his entire life, acquiring the site of the French Capuchin mission at Castine, marking the tricentennial of the founding of Saint Sauveur mission on Mount Desert Island, and founding the Maine Catholic Historical Magazine.
Having served as Auxiliary Bishop of Hartford, Bishop John Gregory Murray (1877-1956) was named fifth Bishop of Portland on May 29, 1925. A building boom of parish churches and schools in the early years of Bishop Murray’s tenure, and the borrowing to pay for that construction, left the diocese in precarious financial health at the onset of the Great Depression. Bishop Murray found himself unable to control the diocese’s spiraling indebtedness of millions of dollars. On October 29, 1931, he was transferred to the Archdiocese of St. Paul in Minnesota where he died in 1956, much beloved for his kindness and compassion toward people of all walks of life.
Hartford once again provided Portland with a bishop in the person of Joseph Edward McCarthy (1876-1955) who succeeded to the diocese in 1932. By 1936, Bishop McCarthy had stabilized the financial situation of the diocese by issuing bonds which liquidated the entire debt by November 1963. Numerous Catholic elementary schools, high schools, and colleges opened during his tenure, which was also marked by the rigors of World War II. In 1946, the Holy See provided Bishop McCarthy with the diocese’s first auxiliary bishop, Daniel J. Feeney, a native of Portland. By 1948, the administration of the diocese fell to Bishop Feeney due to Bishop McCarthy’s declining health.
Bishop Feeney (1894-1969) succeeded to the Diocese of Portland in 1955 upon the death of Bishop McCarthy. He quickly set about celebrating the centennial of the arrival of the first Bishop of Portland. That same year, 1955, saw the ordination of 15 candidates to the priesthood for the diocese, the largest class ever in Maine. Bishop Feeney’s tenure also saw the establishment of the Christian Family Movement, the Catholic Youth Organization, and the predecessor agencies of Catholic Charities Maine. He attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council and initiated the diocese’s participation in the nascent ecumenical movement.
In 1966, Peter Leo Gerety (1912- ) of the Hartford Archdiocese was named the Coadjutor Bishop of Portland with right of succession to assist Bishop Feeney in the implementation of the Second Vatican Council. Under Bishop Gerety’s direction, a number of new parishes were founded in the suburbs of the metropolitan areas of the state. The first diocesan capital campaign was held, and the Bureau of Human Relations Services, precursor to Catholic Charities Maine, became a state-wide agency for the first time. The declining numbers of religious sisters made it impossible for dozens of Catholic schools to remain open. On the other hand, the diocese opened its first units of low-income elderly housing in Portland and in Waterville during Bishop Gerety’s tenure. After eight years in Maine, Bishop Gerety was appointed Archbishop of Newark in 1974.
That same year, Bishop Gerety’s auxiliary bishop, Edward C. O’Leary (1920-2002), succeeded to the diocese after also having served as a much-appreciated pastor and chancellor. Amedée Wilfred Proulx (1932-1993), a native of Sanford, became Bishop O’Leary’s auxiliary bishop in 1975, the first Franco-American to serve in this capacity. During Bishop O’Leary’s tenure, the Church in Maine experienced both an increase in population and a decline in the number of priests, leading to the first planning process to manage these trends. A sister diocese relationship was initiated with the Diocese of Nassau in the Bahamas. The diocese joined the Maine Council of Churches. Bishop O’Leary appointed women for the first time to positions of leadership in the Office of Catholic Schools, the Diocesan Tribunal, and the Chancellor’s Office. Like Bishops Healy, Walsh and Feeney before him, Bishop O’Leary took frequent public stands on a number of social issues of importance to the Church, notably pro-life issues. Bishop O’Leary retired for reasons of health in 1988.
Portland’s tenth bishop, Joseph J. Gerry, O.S.B. (1928- ), was installed February 21, 1989, having served as Auxiliary Bishop of Manchester, New Hampshire, for three years, and as Abbot of St. Anselm Monastery for 14 years prior to that. During his tenure, Bishop Joseph published roughly one pastoral letter per year, treating such topics as vocations, the Sacrament of Confirmation, and human sexuality. An increasing number of parishes began to share a pastor, and new parishes in Old Town, Lisbon, and Waterville, for example, were founded by the consolidation of two or more existing parishes. The revelation of the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests in decades past shocked the residents of the state in 1993, 1998, and 2002 into 2003. The crisis led to the establishment of the first Diocesan Review Board in 1993. Guidelines and processes were put in place to assist victims and survivors, as well as the accused.
With the death of Bishop Proulx in November 1993, the Diocese of Portland was without an auxiliary bishop until the episcopal ordination of Sanford native Michael R. Cote (1949- ) in July 1995. He was appointed bishop of Norwich, Connecticut, in 2003.
In 1997, after an exhaustive consultation process, the Sacrament of Confirmation began to be conferred at the same time as the celebration of First Eucharist. The first permanent deacons were ordained for the service of the local church. In 1999, voters turned down a referendum advocated by the diocese which would have prohibited partial-birth abortion. In 2000, voters narrowly defeated a measure permitting physician-assisted suicide which the diocese had vigorously opposed. A major renovation of the Cathedral was completed in 1999 in time for the diocesan observance of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000. The high point of the diocesan jubilee year was a Eucharistic Congress, held at the Augusta Civic Center, which drew thousands. A new Saint Dominic Regional High School opened in January 2002, realizing a long-held dream of its alumni and supporters. In February 2004, the retirement of Bishop Joseph was accepted by Pope John Paul II upon having reached the age limit of 75.
In November 2003, a new history of the diocese entitled The Catholic Church in the Land of the Holy Cross: A History of the Diocese of Portland, Maine was published by Les Éditions du Signe of Strasbourg, France.

Most Rev. Robert Deeley, J.C.D.

Ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston: July 14, 1973
Named Prelate of Honor (Monsignor): December 13, 1993
Ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Boston: January 4, 2013
Named Bishop of Portland: December 18, 2013

The data below is for 2012 unless otherwise noted.
Bishop: 1
Auxiliary Bishop: 0
Retired Bishop: 1
Priests: Active in Diocese: 60
Priests: Active Outside Diocese: 1
Priests: Retired, Sick, Absent: 82
Number of Diocesan Priests: 143
Religious Priests in Diocese: 27
Extern Priests in Diocese: 11
Permanent Deacons in Diocese: 43
Total Brothers: 13
Total Sisters: 285
Professional Ministry Personnel
Sisters: 4
Lay Ministers: 39
Ordinations in 2012
Diocesan Priests: 1
Transitional Deacons: 1
Permanent Deacons: 9
Total Parishes: 55 (January 2014)
Diocesan Students in other Seminaries : 9
Total Seminarians: 9
Colleges & Universities : 1
Total Students: 3,103
Diocesan High Schools : 1
Total Students: 241
Private High Schools: 2
Total Students: 682
Diocesan Elementary Schools : 10
Total Students: 2,088
Private Elementary Schools : 1
Total Students: 167
Teachers in Diocese
Priests: 1
Brothers: 2
Sisters: 4
Lay Teachers: 246
Catechesis & Religious Education
High School Students: 859
Elementary Students: 5,334
Total Students Under Catholic Instruction: 12,483
Catholic Hospitals: 3
Total Assisted: 445,575
Health-Care Centers: 0
Total Assisted: 0
Homes for the Aged : 6
Total Assisted: 589
Day-Care Centers: 1
Total Assisted: 215
Special Centers for Social Services and Assistance: 2 
(Hotline centers, food distribution, homeless centers, counseling,etc.)
Total Assisted: 715
Other Institutions: 4
Total Assisted: 1,984
Vital Statistics
Infant Baptisms: 1,288
Minor Baptism (ages 7-17): 177
Adult Baptisms: 86
Received into Full Communion: 115
First Communions: 1,648
Confirmations: 1,747
Deaths: 2,645 
Marriages: Catholic: 373, Interfaith: 211, Total: 584
Total Catholic Population in Maine: 193,392
Total Population: 1,329,192 estimated)

Did you know... 
There are 68.2 million Catholics in the United States (22% of the U.S. population), and 1.07 billion Catholics in the world (17% of the population).
In the United States alone, there are 210 archdioceses, dioceses, and apostolates.


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