The Most Reverend Bernard J. Flanagan, D.D., was the second Bishop of Worcester, Massachusetts. Bishop Flanagan was originally from Proctor, Vermont. He attended Holy Cross College in Worcester, graduating in 1928. After graduation he received his priestly formation at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, and was ordained a priest in 1931. Subsequently he completed a doctorate in Canon Law from the Catholic University of America in 1943. Prior to his elevation as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Norwich, Connecticut in 1953, he served as a pastor in Vermont, and later as the chancellor of the Diocese of Burlington from 1943-53. In 1959 Bishop Flanagan succeeded Bishop Wright as the second Bishop of Worcester, where he remained as Bishop until his retirement in 1983.
Bishop Flanagan’s tenure in Worcester coincided with the period of the Second Vatican Council, which he attended, and whose reforms he enthusiastically sought to implement in the Diocese. Bishop Flanagan is also remembered for re-instituting the permanent diaconate, and especially for his vigorous commitment to promoting ecumenical dialogue among the various ecclesial communities in his diocese and worldwide. As Bishop of Worcester, he took the important step of joining the Worcester Ecumenical Council and also of entering into dialogue with local Protestant and Orthodox Christian communities. At his funeral in 1998, there were a number of Protestant and Orthodox church leaders present in the sanctuary, along with the Roman Catholic bishops of Worcester and the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston, which served as a testament to Bishop Flanagan’s commitment to the importance of Christian unity.
The Ecumenical Institute at Assumption College has established the Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan Memorial Lectures Series to honor the memory of Bishop Flanagan’s ecumenical contributions to the Church and to the world, and to foster the progress of the work he began in our Diocese.