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Worcester: Bishop Emeritus Daniel Patrick Reilly, 96, fourth bishop of Worcester dies

Bishop Daniel Patrick Reilly, 96, the fourth bishop of Worcester, passed away peacefully at 8:10 p.m. on June 18.

In response to his passing, Bishop McManus stated, “This week the Catholic faithful of the Diocese of Worcester have lost a great champion of the faith. Bishop Daniel Reilly led this diocese at times of great joy as we entered into a new millennium, and offered the pastoral care of the Good Shepherd in times of sorrow, including the tragic loss of life in the Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse fire and outreach to victims of sexual abuse as he implemented the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. His pastoral zeal and his indomitable spirit relied on his trust in God and living his episcopal motto, ‘In Kindness and in Truth.’ I ask the faithful to join me in praying for the repose of his soul, that God may welcome this good and faithful servant into eternal joy in heaven.”

Bishop Reilly, one of nine children, was born in Providence, Rhode Island on May 12, 1928, son of Francis E. and Mary A. (Burns) Reilly. 

He attended St. Michael’s Parish School in Providence, studied for the priesthood at Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Warwick, R.I., from 1943-1948, and, from 1948 to 1953, at the Grand Seminaire, St. Brieuc in France.

He was ordained a priest May 30, 1953, in the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in Providence. He was appointed associate pastor there in June 1953.

He furthered his studies at Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration and Boston College School of Business Administration.
He was appointed assistant chancellor of the Diocese of Providence in September 1954; secretary to the bishop in September 1956, and chancellor of the diocese in 1964. He attended two sessions of the Second Vatican Council during 1962 and 1964.

On Jan. 29, 1965, he was named a domestic prelate with the title of Right Reverend Monsignor by Pope Paul VI. After the death of Bishop Russell J. McVinney, he served as administrator of the Diocese of Providence from August 1971 to January 1972. He was appointed vicar general of the diocese in April 1972 by Bishop Louis E. Gelineau and served in that post until 1975.
Pope Paul VI named him Bishop of Norwich, Connecticut, on June 17, 1975.

He was ordained and installed as bishop Aug. 6, 1975, in the Cathedral of St. Patrick in Norwich.

He was named Bishop of Worcester by Pope John Paul II, Oct. 27, 1994, and was installed as the fourth bishop of the diocese Dec. 8, 1994, in St. Paul Cathedral.

He submitted his resignation on May 12, 2003, his 75th birthday. Pope John Paul II accepted his resignation for reason of retirement on March 9, 2004, and he became Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Worcester.

As a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Reilly held several posts. He was chairman of the International Policy Committee, during which time he traveled to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with the United States Delegation for Peace in Northern Ireland in 1995. He also visited South Africa and Central and South America.

As chairman of Catholic Relief Services, he visited Egypt, Ethiopia, the Near East and Eastern Europe. He also visited Cuba, South Africa, Poland, and Haiti, where the Worcester Diocese had a mission house. He served on the writing committee for the U.S. Bishops Conference’s 1983 letter on nuclear weapons: “The Challenge to Peace.” 

He was named to the USCCB’s Committee on Pastoral Practices and was active with the National Catholic Cemetery Conference. He served on the Pontifical Council Cor Unum from 1980 to 1988 and was named to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 1994.

Bishop Reilly received honorary doctoral degrees from the College of the Holy Cross and Assumption University in Worcester; Anna Maria College, Paxton; Our Lady of Providence College Seminary and Providence College in Providence; and Salve Regina College, Newport, R.I.; Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., and Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn. and St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt.

He was a trustee with the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, Assumption University, St. Vincent Hospital, Catholic Mutual Relief Society of Omaha, Nebraska, and St. Mary’s Seminary and University, Baltimore. He has served as chaplain for the state Knights of Columbus. He also served on the board of directors of Emmanuel Communications, Worcester.

Bishop Reilly was predeceased by his parents and siblings; John J. Reilly, Francis E. Reilly Jr., Joseph M. Reilly, Thomas L. Reilly, Raymond W. Reilly, Mary C. Reilly, Rita A. (Reilly) Marceau and Eileen L. Reilly.

A life that spanned eight papacies.