By Cori Fugere Urban
Catholic News Service
Catholic News Service
BURLINGTON, Vt. (CNS) — Retired Bishop Kenneth A. Angell, eighth bishop of the Diocese of Burlington, died Oct. 4 after suffering a stroke. He was 86. Bishop Angell was Bishop Salvatore R. Matano’s predecessor in Vermont and also was his predecessor as vicar general of the Diocese of Providence, R.I.
His funeral Mass is to be celebrated Oct. 11 at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington, with Bishop Christopher J. Coyne as principal celebrant. Burial will take place in the Angell family lot at St. Anne Cemetery in Cranston, Rhode Island, at a later time.
The retired bishop, who headed the diocese from 1992 to 2005, is remembered as a good-humored man of faith with a heart directed toward the dignity of all humanity. His episcopal motto was: "Serve the Lord With Gladness."
Beginning at his installation, Bishop Angell publicly showed his keen sense of humor. His predecessor, Bishop John A. Marshall — a more serious personality — said Bishop Angell’s sense of humor would be a welcome change for Vermonters."
"Everyone’s been talking about his sense of humor and different personality, and it’s good to have that contrast," Bishop Marshall said, indicating his own more serious side. But, he added, "He’s very serious about the teachings of the church."
During his installation, Bishop Angell spoke of social justice issues and a new mission of transforming society to better reflect Jesus’ values and called everyone to get involved.
In his homily, he asked people to continue to put their gifts and talents at the service of the church and said he prayed that people would always love the church because it is the "extension of Christ."
He pledged cooperation and support to those of other faiths and ecclesial communities in transforming society to reflect the values they shared and proclaimed, and he asked that people never cease to proclaim the dignity of all human life.
To assist men contemplating a vocation to the priesthood, Bishop Angell called for the establishment of a House of Discernment, opened in 1993 in four second-floor rooms at the Catholic Center at the University of Vermont, a place where young men of college age or older could spend a day, a weekend or longer praying and reflecting on whether they are being called to the priesthood.
With the full support of Bishop Angell, the Diocese of Burlington began a new ministry training program to provide education, training and support for those who discerned a call to leadership ministries.
Bishop Angell was dedicated to protecting the dignity of all life. In 1993, he led an ecumenical group of more than 1,500 right-to-life supporters to the Statehouse in Montpelier where he presented a petition containing more than 29,000 signatures against mandated abortion coverage in health care. He also began a diocesan wide Respect Life Phone Tree, which he activated whenever immediate action was needed to lobby state or national leaders.
In 1996, Bishop Angell established a diocesan Bishop’s Commission on Women to ascertain the needs and concerns of Vermont Catholics on issues related to women in the church. "We have been trying to open up jobs and ministries to women, and although we have had some success, it is not yet all that we hope for," he said.
A strong supporter of traditional marriage, Bishop Angell in 2000 released a statement saying, "We believe that marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman, entered into for life, and open to the possibility of children and family. We believe that a stable, lifelong relationship of husband and wife best serves the procreation, care and education of children."
In 2001, he wrote to the state House of Representatives to express his opposition to capital punishment, saying, "We must not perpetuate the crime of murder by becoming a society that kills for retribution. … We must not promote or justify a culture of vengeance. We cannot hope to teach that killing is wrong by killing."
On 9/11, when terrorists in planes brought down the World Center’s twin towers, hit the Pentagon and crashed a plane in Pennsylvania that was meant for the Capitol or the White House, the Angell family was among the countless families directly affected by the tragedy.
The bishop’s younger brother, David Angell — the Emmy Award-winning creator and producer of the TV sitcom "Frasier" — and his wife, Lynn, died during the terror attacks aboard American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the trade center’s north tower.
Nearly 1,200 people attended a memorial Mass Sept. 12 at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington for the victims of the terrorist attacks. At the beginning of the Mass, Bishop Angell prayed for the victims, their families, friends, rescue workers and President George W. Bush.
He also asked the congregation to pray for the perpetrators "that they may be moved to repentance." Addressing the media after the Mass, Bishop Angell was asked how he could call for prayers for the perpetrators of such senseless violence; he replied, "I am a Christian. I have to forgive, so I do."
It also was during his tenure as bishop that the U.S. clergy sexual abuse scandal broke, and he participated in the bishops’ vote to approve the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," a comprehensive set of procedures established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in June 2002 for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.
"I was so moved by the testimony of those abused. My heart went out to the victims — each of these people whose lives have been so deeply affected by offending clergy," Bishop Angell said. The Burlington Diocese established the Office of Safe Environments to implement the charter and to oversee programs to ensure safety for those involved with church ministries.
In 2003, Bishop Angell spearheaded the celebration of the sesquicentennial of the diocese.
Bishop Angell was born Aug. 3, 1930, in Providence, Rhode Island. He began his seminary studies at Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Warwick, Rhode Island. For his theological studies, he attended St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Providence May 26, 1956.
On Aug. 13, 1974, Blessed Paul VI named him an auxiliary bishop of Providence and he was ordained to the episcopate Oct. 7, 1974. He was vicar general of the diocese until Oct. 6, 1992, when he was named by St. John Paul II to head the Burlington Diocese.
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Urban is a staff writer for Vermont Catholic, the magazine of the Diocese of Burlington.