Most Reverend George E. Rueger, retired auxiliary bishop of Worcester, deceased at 89
Beloved bishop may be best remembered by the estimated 20,000 teens he confirmed
April 7, 2019, WORCESTER, MA –The Most Reverend George Edward Rueger, retired auxiliary bishop of Worcester, died peacefully on Saturday, April 6 at Christopher House in Worcester. He was 89 years old.
The Most Reverend Robert J. McManus, Bishop of Worcester said, “I am profoundly saddened by the death of Bishop George Rueger. He was a kind and gentle priest and bishop who dedicated every moment of his life to the people of the Diocese of Worcester whom he loved so deeply. His humility, which was grounded in a complete commitment to his vocation to the priesthood, was an inspiration for all of us who are ordained. As a good steward of all the gifts God gave him, he lived simply and shared all he had with those in need. May Christ greet his immortal soul with the words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Join me in my Father's house.’”
Bishop George Edward Rueger was born September 3, 1929 in Framingham, the son of Edward G. and Mary T. (Reddy) Rueger.
He attended South High School and St. Peter High School. After attending the College of the Holy Cross from 1949 to 1950, he entered Cardinal O’Connor Minor Seminary in Jamaica Plain. He completed his studies for the priesthood at St. John Seminary in Brighton. He also did post-graduate studies at Harvard University.
Father Rueger was ordained a priest Jan. 6, 1958 by Bishop John J. Wright in St. Paul Cathedral, Worcester. He served as assistant pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in East Millbury and St. Peter Parish in Worcester.
In June 1965 he was named the first headmaster of Marian Central Catholic High School, Worcester.
In 1974 he was named assistant pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Leominster. Two years later he was elected president of the diocesan Senate of Priests. In 1977 he was named pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, Hopedale.
He was appointed diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Schools on Aug. 1, 1978, while remaining pastor in Hopedale. On Dec. 1, 1980 he returned to full-time ministry in Hopedale. Three months later, on Feb. 27, 1981 he was named pastor of St. Peter Parish.
Pope John Paul II named Bishop Rueger Auxiliary Bishop of Worcester and titular bishop of Maronana. Titular bishops are those who have been appointed by the Holy See to a see or diocese which, for all practical purposes, no longer exists. He chose “That They All May Be One” as his episcopal motto. It is taken from the Gospel of John (17:21-22).
On Feb. 25, 1987, he was ordained a bishop in St. Paul Cathedral. Bishop Timothy J. Harrington was consecrator. Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan, second Bishop of Worcester, and Bishop John A. Marshall, Bishop of Burlington, Vt., who had been a priest in Worcester, were co-consecrators.
Bishop Rueger served as auxiliary bishop for 18 years assisting Bishop Timothy J. Harrington, Bishop Daniel P. Reilly and Bishop Robert J. McManus.
In June 1998, Bishop Reilly named him to a new position, diocesan moderator of the curia, while he continued as vicar general. The curia are the agencies and offices that contribute to the operation of the diocese. The moderator is the chief operating officer and coordinator of daily activities.
After 47 years of service to the diocese, 18 of them as auxiliary bishop, and after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75 in 2004, he submitted his resignation to Pope John Paul II, who accepted it.
In October that year, Bishop Rueger received the Collaborative Award for Education and Ministry and the St. Vincent de Paul Society announced the Bishop Rueger Fund for the Poor, honoring his dedication to those in need. The diocesan Adopt-A-Student program established the Bishop George E. Rueger Scholarship, to be given annually to honor the bishop’s support for education, according to Robert R. Pape, Adopt-A-Student chairman.
On the occasion of his 60th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood, he shared the following in an interview with The Catholic Free Press. “I think today that the priests have to continue in the way of holiness. The young generation coming along -- they have to realize how wonderful it is to change bread into the Body of Christ and to help a person who is steeped in sin to come to a life filled with love.”
“I think that every priest enjoys certain parts of the priesthood and he puts those uppermost in his mind,” the bishop continued. “Whatever parish he’s in, to the best of his ability, he proclaims Christ. And young and old, and all the people, come to love his priesthood as they witness him every day.”
”The thing I guess I want to say more than anything else: no matter where you go and whatever you do, you do it with joy and happiness, because you are reflecting, to the best of your ability, the Lord Jesus, the first priest. He sought to bring people closer to God, and so, in everything he did and said, he was being a priest.”
Bishop Rueger’s body will be received at St. Paul Cathedral on Friday, April 12 at 1:00 pm at a Liturgy of the Word. The viewing and visitation will take place from 2 – 7 pm. That evening a Vigil service with Vespers will take place at 7:00 pm. The Funeral Mass will be celebrated the following day, Saturday, April 13 at 11:00 am at the Cathedral. The committal service and burial will follow in Lancaster. The public is invited throughout the two days and the funeral liturgy will be carried on Charter TV3 (Channel 193) and livestreamed by diocesan TV Ministry at worcesterdiocese.org.
Funeral arrangements are under the care of Alfred Roy and Sons Funeral Home 12 Hammond Street, Worcester.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in memory of Bishop Rueger can be made to Priests’ Retirement Fund or the Adopt-A-Student Program, Diocese of Worcester, 49 Elm Street, Worcester, MA 01609.