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Bishop Robert Evans ordained in Providence

Most Rev. Robert C. Evans Courtesy photo

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A native son of the Renaissance City where he was born Sept. 2, 1947 and a priest of the statewide Providence Diocese since July 2, 1973 when Bishop James Hickey ordained him a priest at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Most Rev. Robert C. Evans was ordained auxiliary bishop of Providence and titular bishop of Aquae Regiae. He is the eighth auxiliary bishop in the 137 year history of the diocese.

During elementary school he attended the city’s public schools in the overwhelmingly Italian and Italian-American neighborhood known as Federal Hill. He is a son of the venerable Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish there and readily attributes, at least in part, his priestly vocation to the priests who served there during his youth. After a year at LaSalle Academy he went to Our Lady of Providence seminary high school and college; he did his theological preparation for ordination at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome where he was a student, with his residence and further formation at the Pontifical North American College. He returned to Rome some years later to complete a degree in Canon Law.

He is the fifth member of his 1973 North American College ordination class to be ordained a bishop. In an interesting twist, the bishop who ordained him at Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral on Dec. 15, Providence’s diocesan bishop Thomas Tobin, is one of those classmates. Another of his bishop-classmates said, “We knew he’d be a bishop, we just thought he’d be the first!”

Assisting Bishop Tobin were Providence’s former bishop, Louis Gelineau for whom Bishop Evans once served as priest secretary and master of ceremonies; and Bishop Salvatore Matano, a Providence native and bishop of Burlington, Vt. Among the concelebrating bishops and representing the archdiocese were Bishops Walter Edyvean, John Dooher and Robert Hennessey.

Priests who have been friends for a number of years or only a few seem to be universal in their praise of the new bishop’s gifts. “Priestly model,” “ever ready smile,” “loves people,” “loves priests,” “good cook,” “not impressed with himself,” “great sense of humor,” “ready and quick wit.”

Prior to his present assignment in February 2007 as pastor of the sprawling St. Philip Parish in suburban Greenville, he served in a number of parish and diocesan assignments, as well as a stint back in Rome as Director of the Institute for Continuing Theological Education, a program of priestly renewal and updating at the North American College. He returned to the United States and served as a secretary at Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C. before his appointment to Greenville.

The episcopal ordination was celebrated at a packed cathedral. The late fall day, cool and a bit overcast, could not overshadow the active and spirited participation of family, bishops, priests, deacons, women and men religious and the hundreds of lay friends and collaborators of the new bishop.

Father Michael Donohue, pastor of St. Matthias Parish in East Lyme, Conn. and a friend of the new bishop since Roman seminary days said “Outstanding choice!” Boston’s Father Thomas Maguire, pastor of St. Helen, Norwell was delighted with the ordination of his friend; “A great priest, the picture of kindness and concern for priests and people alike.” Father Jon-Paul Gallant, a Fall River priest and pastor of St. Theresa in South Attleboro, who became fast friends with Bishop Evans while they were pursuing graduates studies in Rome observed “It’s great when a new bishop is a friend; it’s even better when he’s also a friend to so many of the people and priests of the diocese.”

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