UPDATED: Bishop Norbert M. Dorsey, a Springfield native, dies in Florida; will be buried locally
ORLANDO, Fla. – Bishop Norbert M. Dorsey, 83, died on Feb. 21 in Orlando, after a long battle with cancer.
He was born Leonard James Dorsey on Dec. 14, 1929 in Springfield. He attended Holy Cross Seminary in Dunkirk, N.Y., from 1946-1948 and pronounced his vows as a Passionist with the religious name of Norbert on Aug. 15, 1949.
He studied philosophy and theology in Jamaica, N.Y., and Union City, N.J., obtaining a master’s degree in theology before being ordained to the priesthood by Passionist Bishop Cuthbert O’Gara, on April 28, 1956, at St. Michael’s Monastery in Union City.
After his ordination, he studied sacred eloquence for a year in West Springfield before going on to study in Munich, London, and Rome. He held the degrees of maestro from the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, and doctor of sacred theology from the Gregorian University. He was a composer of music.
Upon returning to the United States, Father Dorsey was assigned to the Passionist monastery in West Hartford, Conn., as a theology professor and director of formation. Five years later, in 1965, he was elected rector of the monastery and theologate in West Springfield. During his term there, he organized courses in the Theology of Vatican Council II for the laity.
In 1968, he was elected to the first of two terms as provincial consultor for the Eastern Province of the Passionists. During this time, he was director of personnel for more than 600 religious men, and also the dean of studies and formation. Throughout those years, Father Dorsey was a popular preacher of parish missions and retreats for the laity, religious and clergy throughout the United States and Canada.
In 1976, while serving as an American delegate to the international General Chapter of the Passionists, Father Dorsey was elected assistant general of the Passionists worldwide, and re-elected in 1982. Based in Rome, he shared the life and experience of the church in five continents during his periodic “visitations” to most of the 52 countries where the Passionists are established.
On Jan. 10, 1986, Pope John Paul II nominated Father Dorsey as titular bishop of Mactaris and auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Miami. He was consecrated by Archbishop Edward J. McCarthy at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Miami on March 19, 1986. In Miami, Bishop Dorsey served as vicar general and executive director of the Ministry of Persons. He also served on the boards of St. Thomas University and Barry University in Miami, and St. Leo College near Tampa.
Bishop Dorsey was installed as the third bishop of Orlando on May 25, 1990. During his episcopacy, the diocese grew from 216,000 to almost 400,000 Catholics. Bishop Dorsey established the parishes of Holy Cross, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Rose of Lima, and St. John the Evangelist, and the mission of St. Leo the Great in Lake Wales.
He oversaw numerous construction, expansion, and renovation projects, including the building of the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe Shrine in 1993; elementary schools for Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, Kissimmee; Resurrection Catholic Church and St. Anthony Catholic Church, Lakeland; Annunciation Catholic Church, Altamonte Springs; Holy Family Catholic Church, Orlando and Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala; and new churches at Queen of Peace, Ocala, Prince of Peace, Ormond Beach, Resurrection, Winter Garden, St. Ann, DeBary, St. Mary, Rockledge and Annunciation, Altamonte Springs. He established a cemetery at San Pedro Retreat Center for priests of the diocese.
In 1996, Bishop Dorsey gathered 11,000 people together for the first diocesan-wide celebration of the sacrament of confirmation. Bishop Dorsey also was the first bishop to establish the Blue Mass, a celebration of the gifts of public safety personnel, in the Diocese of Orlando. The first Blue Mass was celebrated on Oct. 5, 2001 at St. James Cathedral.
In 2004 he established Bishop Grady Villas, a 10-acre residential community in St. Cloud for adults with disabilities. Bishop Dorsey spoke several languages, including Spanish, Italian, French and Creole.
In 1995, Bishop Dorsey established a Diocesan Review Board for the safety of vulnerable populations and in 1997 he established a diocesan-wide program of employee and volunteer fingerprinting and criminal background checks and safe environment training.
Under Bishop Dorsey’s direction, the diocese purchased, in 2001, most of the historic post office building in downtown Orlando, to be a new chancery center for the growing diocesan offices. The 2001 purchase placed the diocesan offices next to the Cathedral of St. James.
Pope John Paul II accepted Bishop Dorsey's letter of retirement on Nov. 13, 2004.
His motto was “Love is Ingenious,” taken from the Rule of the Passionist Congregation, written by St. Paul of the Cross. The full text reads: “The love of God is very ingenious and is proved not so much by words, as by the deeds and actions of the lovers.”
He was predeceased by his father, Leonard E. and mother, Mary Ann (Dowd), and brother, Paul J. He is survived by his sister-in-law, Shirley L. Dorsey, of East Longmeadow; his niece, Gemma L. Dorsey, of Boston; and Passionist Brother Augustine Lowe, his devoted brother in Christ.
The funeral arrangements for Bishop Norbert Dorsey are:
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
- Reception of the body and viewing at St. James Cathedral, 215 North Orange Avenue, Orlando, FL, following the 12:10 p.m. Mass
- 3 p.m. and 5 p.m - Prayer services at St. James Cathedral
- 7 p.m. - Vigil with Evening Prayer followed by personal reflections
Thursday, February 28, 2013
- 11 a.m. - Funeral Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, 8300 Vineland Avenue, Orlando, FL
- The Bishop's body will be brought to Springfield, MA after Mass
Friday, March 1, 2013
- 10 a.m. - Viewing at Sacred Heart Church, 395 Chestnut St, Springfield, MA
- 11 a.m. - Memorial/Funeral Mass at Sacred Heart Church
- Christian Burial at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Springfield, MA
- Reception following
In lieu of flowers, Bishop Dorsey asked that contributions be made to the Passionist Community Support Fund, Passionist Pastoral Center 111 South Ridge Street, Suite 300, Rye Brook, NY. 10573; or to Bishop Dorsey Colloquium on Priestly Life and Ministry, for clergy education and care, Diocese of Orlando, P.O. Box 4905, Orlando, FL 32802-4905.