Bishop Angell remembered for his warmth, compassion as a priest, shepherd

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PROVIDENCE — The Most Rev. Kenneth A. Angell, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Burlington, Vt., who previously had served for 18 years as auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Providence, is being remembered for his warmth, keen wit and compassion.

He died peacefully October 4 in Winooski, Vt. He was 86. October 7 would have been the 42nd anniversary of his consecration as a Bishop.

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Tuesday in Burlington for Bishop Angell, who will be buried in the Angell family plot at St. Anne Cemetery in Cranston. Bishop Thomas J. Tobin will celebrate a Memorial Mass for Bishop Angell on Monday, October 17 at 12:05 in the Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul. All are invited to attend.

“Bishop Angell was a beloved son of the Church in the Diocese of Providence,” Bishop Tobin said in a statement. “He served long and well as a parish priest, diocesan official, and Auxiliary Bishop in our Diocese, and made many wonderful contributions to the growth of God’s Kingdom in Rhode Island. His personal goodness, warmth and wit will be missed by all who knew him, admired him and loved him.

“On behalf of the Diocese of Providence, I extend our sincere sympathy and prayerful support to Bishop Christopher Coyne, the members of the Diocese of Burlington, and the members of Bishop Angell’s family and many friends. We pray that God will throw open the doors of Heaven and joyfully welcome Bishop Angell into the presence of the angels and saints, and that Lord Jesus, Eternal High Priest, will grant him the blessed reward promised to all of His good and faithful shepherds.”

Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans delivered the homily at Bishop Angell’s funeral. He worked with then-Auxiliary Bishop Angell in various capacities in Rhode Island from December 1983 until he was installed as the eighth Bishop of Burlington in 1992.

He remembers him as a “priest’s priest,” one who was profoundly grateful for the gift of his vocation and who constantly tried to encourage his brother priests to live up to the ideal of Jesus Christ who came not to be served but to serve.

“He was the soul of kindness and possessed a heart of humility,” Bishop Evans reflected. “He was wise in his counsel, gentle in his rebukes and charitable in all things.”

He said that Bishop’s Angell’s last years were difficult given his declining health and lack of mobility. But he embraced this suffering by configuring himself to Christ, “not unlike the long Gethsemane of Saint John Paul II,” he said.

Bishop Angell began his priestly ministry in 1956 at St. Mark Parish, Jamestown, and Sacred Heart Parish, Pawtucket. In 1960, he served as assistant pastor of St. Mary Parish, Newport. In 1968, he became Assistant Chancellor and Secretary to the Most Reverend Russell J. McVinney, Bishop of Providence, and in 1972 was appointed Chancellor and Secretary to the Most Reverend Louis E. Gelineau, the sixth Bishop of Providence. Bishop Angell was named a Prelate of Honor with the title Monsignor by Pope Paul VI on December 17, 1972.

On August 13, 1974, he was appointed by Pope Paul VI as Titular Bishop of Settimunicia and Auxiliary Bishop of Providence, and was ordained to the episcopate by Bishop Louis E. Gelineau on October 7, 1974.

Bishop Gelineau recalled that when he was first named to succeed Bishop McVinney as shepherd of the Diocese of Providence, he had asked then-Father Angell to remain in the chancery to help him get adjusted to his new role.

“At a sacrifice to himself he agreed to stay on with me,” Bishop Gelineau noted of Father Angell’s love of parish work.

In 1974, about two-and-a-half years later, Bishop Gelineau submitted Father Angell’s name for consideration of a new appointment in the diocese of an auxiliary bishop.

When he was chosen, Auxiliary Bishop-elect Angell stated that he was happy and would accept the appointment.

“He accepted on the basis that the call of the pope had been made,” he recalled.

He then served as Vicar General of the Diocese of Providence until October 6, 1992, when he was appointed by Pope St. John Paul II to serve as the eighth Bishop of Burlington. He was installed on November 9, 1992, and served for 13 years until he retired as Bishop Emeritus in 2005.

Through the years, Bishop Gelineau, who grew up in Northern Vermont, maintained contact in the Diocese of Burlington with Bishop Angell, whom he describes as very noble and forgiving, especially in the wake of a tragic event that changed his life forever.

On September 11, 2001, his older brother, David Angell, who worked in television, was traveling back to California along with his wife Lynn on the first American Airlines flight out of Boston that was hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center.

“That was really a terrible thing for him and all the other families that were wounded that day,” Bishop Gelineau recalled, “but he encouraged everyone to pray for all the people involved,” including those terrorists who had perpetrated the crime.

“It was really a noble and Christ-like thing that he had done,” he said.

Bishop Salvatore Matano, a fellow Rhode Islander who succeed Bishop Angell in 2005, remembers how he lived up to his motto: “To Serve the Lord with Gladness.”

“He was a very kind shepherd of souls, a truly good shepherd who understood and empathized with the needs of those committed with his pastoral care,” he said, noting his wonderful sense of humor. “He was a warm person, outgoing and certainly approachable.”

“He certainly reflected the empathy with which our present Holy Father Pope Francis speaks of so very often.”