NORTH SMITHFIELD — Reverend Bertil J. Anderson, 63, pastor of St. Rita Church, Oakland Beach, died July 7 at St. Antoine Hospice.
Born in Providence, he was the son of the late Carl R. and Ann L. (Brophy) Anderson. He attended St. Patrick School and the former St. Michael School, both in Providence.
In preparation for the priesthood, he studied at Our Lady of Providence Seminary, Warwick Neck, and at St. Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore, MD. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Louis E. Gelineau on Oct. 6, 1974 at St. Patrick Church, Providence.
Father Anderson served as assistant pastor of St. Anthony Church, North Providence, from 1974-1978, and taught at the former Our Lady of Providence High School from 1977-1981. He resided at the Cathedral Rectory from 1978-1981. In September 1981 he became assistant pastor of St. Matthew Church, Cranston, and in October 1986 at St. Timothy Church, Warwick. On Jan. 25, 1991 he was appointed pastor of St. Rita Church in Oakland Beach, where he ministered until his death.
In additional to his parochial duties, Father Anderson served as chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, St. Lawrence Council; Regional Director of the CYO?in Northern Rhode Island; and chaplain of the North Providence, Providence and Warwick fire departments.
According to his brother Roland of Warwick, Father Anderson first served in North Providence as a volunteer firefighter before becoming the department chaplain.
“He loved trying to help people,” Anderson said. “People connected with him.”
Bishop Louis E, Gelineau appointed Father Anderson to the chaplaincy posts in the three communities.
“He was very interested and it was nice to have someone who was willing to do it along with his other work,” Bishop Gelineau said, adding that when he visited fire stations throughout the city and in North Providence at Christmas, the firefighters always said they were appreciative of Father Anderson’s unfailing support.
“There was always an expression of gratitude for his work,” the bishop continued. “His presence as a priest is what they appreciated.”
Bishop Gelineau added that in the aftermath of 9-11, Father Anderson spent a week in New York City, where he supported firefighters’ efforts, visited fire stations and consoled grieving families.
The priest-chaplain carried his firefighting apparatus in the truck of his car, and would often help firefighters to put out blazes by carrying heavy hoses and performing other necessary tasks in addition to his chaplain’s duties.
“He was a real hands-on guy,” Anderson said.
North Providence Fire Department Capt. David Giammarco Jr. recalled that he and Father Anderson served together as young volunteer firefighters.
“He was a good friend,” Capt. Giammarco said. “He rode with us all the time.”
The career fireman noted that Father Anderson supported his colleagues “in good times and in bad,” officiated at countless baptisms, weddings and funerals, and counseled many individuals trying to overcome obstacles in their lives.
“There was nothing he wouldn’t do to help someone,” Capt. Giammarco said.
Father Anderson is survived by a brother, Roland F. Anderson Sr., and several nieces and nephews. He was the brother of the late Arthur E. Anderson.
A Mass of Christian Burial was concelebrated July 10 at St. Rita Church, with Bishop Robert C. Evans as the main celebrant and Bishops Robert E. Mulvee, Louis E. Gelineau, Ernest B. Boland and Francis X. Roque concelebrating. Bishop Gelineau served as the homilist.
Burial was in St. Ann Cemetery, Cranston.