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Bishop Kenneth Angell, eighth bishop of Burlington, has died

Bishop Kenneth Angell Bishop Kenneth Angell
Bishop Kenneth A. Angell served as bishop of Burlington from 1992 to 2005, and from the beginning, he revealed a good-humored man of faith with a heart for the dignity of all humanity.
 
He died Oct. 4, 2016, at the age of 86.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at 1 p.m. at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington with  Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne as principal celebrant in the presence of Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston. Calling hours will be on Monday, Oct. 10, from 3-7 p.m. and on Tuesday, Oct. 11, from 11 a.m-12:30 p.m. at the co-cathedral. Burial will take place in the Angell Family lot at St. Anne Cemetery in Cranston, R.I., at a later time.
 
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.
 
He came to Vermont as a member of the Church and at the same time as one who was a pastor, as a disciple of Jesus and as a teacher of the faith.
 
In his installation 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. Msgr. Michael DeForge, then vocations director of the diocese, said the house would benefit the entire community by helping to create a “culture of vocations."

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, to nurture their spiritual lives; to provide a firm foundation in Scripture, spirituality and Catholic teachings; and to develop an awareness and appreciation of the diversity and complementarity of vocations and states of life.

Bishop Angell was dedicated to protecting the dignity of all life. In 1993, he lead 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 1995, at the behest of the bishop, who had dedicated himself to the USCCB’s efforts to “confront a Culture of Violence," the Knights of Columbus collected more than 6,000 signatures on a petition to aid the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines.
 
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, life-long relationship of husband and wife best serves the procreation, care and education of children. We believe further that re-defining marriage, expanding it to include other private relationships, will ultimately attack the age-old truth that traditional marriage and stable families constitute the very foundation of our society.”
 
In 2001 he wrote to the House 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."

Tragedy struck the nation – and the Angell Family in particular – on Sept. 11, 2001. The bishop’s younger brother, David Angell -- the Emmy Award-winning creator and producer of Frasier -- and his wife, Lynn, died during the terror attacks aboard American Airlines Flight 11. 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 was also during his tenure as bishop that the clergy sexual abuse scandal came to light, and he participated in the acceptance of 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. The charter also includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability and prevention of future acts of abuse.
 
“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,” he shared. The 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. More than 1,300 people gathered at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral for the celebratory Mass. “As we look back and celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Diocese of Burlington, we are most grateful for the hearty and God-fearing Catholics of Vermont who preserved our faith, hope and charity through four centuries of Vermont winters, wilderness, politics, priests, bishops and countless tests of faith,” he said.

Faced with a shortage of priests and a decline in weekly Mass attendance, the bishop explained that a “drought in priestly vocations” had caused the diocese to re-evaluate how priests are assigned. In 2004, Bishop Angell called for a sweeping study of parish reconfigurations, consolidations and schedule changes. He then wrote a pastoral letter to address the challenge of maintaining and fostering pastoral life in the diocese while facing a decreasing number of priests to serve in ministry.
 
Some parishes adopted a share-a-pastor model; other parishes used pastoral associates and other lay ministers to assist the pastor in meeting the demands of parish life. Some had adjusted Mass schedules, and some churches were reduced to seasonal or occasional use. Some were closed. Regional meetings took place to aid in the pastoral planning process.

In 2004, Bishop Angell wrote to 49 Catholic Vermont legislators seeking to open lines of communication and expressing his willingness to discuss specific issues of import to Catholics. “A well-informed Catholic conscience is a precious and great gift to those who thirst and strive for justice,” he wrote. He told the Catholic legislators to contact him and/or members of the Diocesan Respect Life Committee on “any such matters of conscience and related concerns.”
 
He met with Gov. Douglas to deliver a stack of petitions in opposition to physician-assisted suicide. “We are here this day in the name of all who respect life, to petition your support in the effort to keep physician-assisted suicide illegal in our beloved state,” he said. “Assisted suicide not only abdicates the sworn duties of all physicians to nurture life, but it infringes upon the power of the Almighty who is the Author of Life and Death.”

In the pastoral letter, “I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: Reflections on the Formation of a Catholic Conscience,” Bishop Angell stated that prominent figures who profess the Catholic faith must be particularly cautious in the way they publicly represent their beliefs on the value of human life. “We hope they will take great care to lead, not mislead the faithful on any and all respect life issues,” he wrote. “Public statements and opinions which distort Catholic Church teachings can confuse the faithful, cause them great pain and promote disunity within the Church.”
 
Bishop Angell maintained a respect for the dignity of humanity and a sense of humor during his tenure as Bishop of Burlington. He lived up to his episcopal motto: “Serve the Lord with Gladness,” for indeed, he was serving the Lord.
 
 
 

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Bishop Kenneth A. Angell - A Look Back
Last modified onThursday, 13 October 2016 16:51
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