Appointed bishop by a saint

I first met Bishop George W. Coleman 18 years ago when I first started The Anchor. He was a monsignor, diocesan vicar general, and moderator of the curia under then-Bishop Sean O’Malley.

He was a humble, reserved man. I heard nothing but good things about him from people who were his past parishioners or who worked with him in any capacity while he was a priest of the Fall River Diocese.

He was born in Somerset to the late George W. and Beatrice K. (Shea) Coleman. He grew up in St. Patrick’s Parish. His faith and his humility came from his parents. In an interview I had with then-Msgr. Coleman in May of 2003, he was very eager to point out it was his parents who molded him into the man he became.

“My parents were wonderful, faith-filled parents,” he said. “I have no doubt whatsoever that they handed down that faith to me. My earliest recollections are during World War II, at a time of rationing in this country. I know my parents made many sacrifices to ensure that my sister and I were well provided for.”

It was that selflessness that Bishop Coleman brought to the table when he was asked to become part of Bishop O’Malley’s administrative team and ultimately Bishop of Fall River.

Bishop Coleman was a priest who loved his parishioners and loved being a parish priest. So there’s no doubt that accepting a more administrative position was indeed a sacrifice for him. But it was for the Church and God he did it.

Bishop Coleman is one of the relatively few priests appointed to bishop by someone who eventually became a saint — St. John Paul II. That was in 2003. When I asked the bishop-elect if he thought his parents would be proud of his being appointed a bishop, he said they would be pleased, honored and happy, “but their first consideration would be to ensure that I would be a good priest and good pastor. Also, for my father, it was the inner person that made the difference, not the rank.”

George Coleman never changed through the years. He remained and remains a humble, dedicated priest, whose primary concerns are God, His children, and His Church.

After attending Msgr. Coyle High School in Taunton and Holy Cross College in Worcester, he entered St. John’s Seminary in Brighton and then the North American College in Rome.

He was ordained a priest of the Fall River Diocese in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Dec. 16, 1964.

He served at St. Kilian’s Parish in New Bedford; St. Louis Parish in Fall River; and Our Lady of Victory Parish in Centerville. 

He was also appointed as director of the Diocesan Department of Education — a position he held for eight years. 

He also served as pastor at St. Patrick’s Parish in Fall River and Corpus Christi Parish in East Sandwich. While there, he was dean of the Cape and Islands Deanery.

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While preparing this special edition, I flipped through several old Anchor editions. I came across one of my favorite Father Coleman pictures; one of him on team on an ECHO retreat weekend. If you’ve ever been on ECHO you know it’s faith-filled ... and fun. Father Coleman was both. He’s shown enjoying an activity with the candidates — the humble priest who was once named a bishop — by a saint. Best wishes on your retirement Bishop Coleman, and congratulations and thank you for 50 years of service to God’s people as a priest.

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts