The Most Reverend Thomas J. Tobin, D.D.
Bishop of Providence
“Strong, Loving, Wise”
The Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin was installed as the eighth Bishop of the Diocese of Providence on May 31, 2005 in the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Providence. Often stating that he was “not ordained to be irrelevant,” Bishop Tobin has championed many social justice causes during his episcopacy.
RESPECT LIFE ADVOCACY
Shortly after he was installed, Bishop Tobin established the Human Life Guild, a group of individuals who have an unconditional commitment to human life and are willing to promote and defend human life at every stage, in every condition, through thought, word, deed and prayer. The Bishop has led members of the Human Life Guild on peaceful, prayerful vigils at abortion clinics in Rhode Island and through this group, urges elected officials to promote life-friendly initiatives.
As a result of his many efforts to protect and defend life at all stages, Bishop Tobin was recognized by Legatus in May of 2010 with their Defender of the Faith Award. In presenting the award, Legatus stated: In his firm and private style, Bishop Tobin acted as a true shepherd, defending the sacredness of Our Lord in the Eucharist by advising a pro-abortion Congressman not to present himself for Communion. In so doing, the bishop lived out his episcopal motto: Strong, Loving, Wise. In 2010, the National Right to Life Committee honored the Bishop with the ‘Proudly Pro-life’ award. In September of the same year Human Life International recognized Bishop Tobin with the Cardinal von Galen Award, which is given quarterly to a Catholic prelate who has been a voice of conscience for his society.
LENDING A VOICE TO THE ‘STRANGER AMONG US’
After the Governor of Rhode Island signed an executive order targeting undocumented individuals, the Bishop joined with other faith leaders to share stories of widespread fear throughout the immigrant community. The executive order, coupled with immigration raids in the surrounding area, led the Bishop and pastors that serve the immigrant community to call for a moratorium on such raids. In March of 2011, Bishop Tobin was the keynote speaker at a conference hosted by Brown University entitled ’Immigrants and Immigration in the 21st Century.’ (The keynote speech may be read here.) The purpose of the conference was to bring together academics, political leaders, business people and the advocacy and social services world in a constructive discussion of immigration issues.
As special interest groups began an attack on the institution of marriage, the Bishop has used such opportunities to explain Church teachings on marriage with the larger community. Despite efforts by those interest groups, marriage remains a union of one man and one woman in Rhode Island.
LENDING A HAND TO THOSE WITH NO PLACE LEFT TO TURN
In response to escalating home heating costs in the Fall of 2005, the Bishop established the ‘Keep the Heat On’ program. This donor and Catholic Charity Fund supported program provides heating assistance to those who exhaust all other public and private forms of assistance. Since its inception, ‘Keep the Heat On’ has provided more than $1 million to more than 3,000 Rhode Island individuals and families with no place left to turn for help for oil, gas and electric assistance. Under the Bishop’s leadership, the Diocese enacted a number of programs during the economic downturn that provided immediate assistance to those in the great of need. Some of these programs include the RIPTIKS bus ticket program, free help wanted ads in Rhode Island Catholic, child care scholarships and much more.
EXTENDING AN INVITATION BACK TO THE CHURCH: THE YEAR OF EVANGELIZATION
In the Fall of 2009, Bishop Tobin began a ‘Year of Evangelization’ in the Diocese of Providence. The purpose of the diocesan-wide effort is three-fold: renew and revitalize the faith and enthusiasm of every parish, school and organization of our diocesan Church, reach out to inactive Catholics, those countless souls who were baptized and raised Catholic, but, for a variety of reasons, have drifted away and to share the good news of the Catholic Faith with the members of our community who have never been Catholic – the “unchurched” as they’re often called. The campaign was supported by television and radio ads as well as a number of parish-based programs to welcome Catholics back to the Church. Some of the successful parish-based programs included door-to-door evangelization in which the faithful of many parishes across the diocese knocked on doors inviting their neighbors back to the Church or inviting them to attend a Mass for the first time.
STRENGTHENING THE PRIESTHOOD IN RHODE ISLAND
Increased vocations to the priesthood is a priority for the Bishop. Since his installation, Bishop Tobin has ordained 19 men to the priesthood. The Our Lady of Providence Seminary is at nearly full capacity during the academic year. A recent expansion and the procurement of a house adjacent to the seminary has provided additional space to accommodate those men who are studying for the priesthood in the diocese. To read letters Bishop Tobin has written to priests of the Diocese, please click here.
SHARING CHURCH TEACHINGS
Bishop Tobin writes a popular column, “Without A Doubt,” for his diocesan newspaper Rhode Island
Catholic which is posted on his Facebook page. The column received special recognition at the 1998 Catholic Press Association Convention, and in 2000 was selected as best in the nation. Bishop Tobin’s articles have also appeared in other periodicals including New Covenant, Pastoral Life, The Priest and Lay Witness. His first book, “Without a Doubt,” a collection of his columns, has been published by Emmaus Road Publishing, Steubenville, Ohio. In 2009, he published a second collection of columns, ‘Effective Faith: Faith that Makes a Difference.” The Bishop has appeared in or on a number of local and national broadcast and print news media including CNN, The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News, The New York Times, Boston Globe and others.
A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Bishop Tobin was born on April 1, 1948. His seminary studies include Saint Mark Seminary High School, Erie and his seminary training continued at Gannon College in Erie, St. Francis College in Loretto from which he graduated in 1969, and finally at North American College in Rome with study at the Gregorian University. He also pursued graduate studies at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of San Anselmo in Rome.
Ordained a priest by Bishop Vincent M. Leonard on July 21, 1973, Bishop Tobin then served as assistant pastor at St. Vitus Parish, New Castle, until 1979 and as assistant pastor at St. Sebastian Parish, Ross Township, from 1979-1984. He was named administrative secretary to former Pittsburgh Bishop Anthony J. Bevilacqua in 1984 and in 1990 became Vicar General and General Secretary.
Bishop Tobin was named Auxiliary Bishop of Pittsburgh and Titular Bishop of Novica by Pope John Paul II on November 3, 1992. He was ordained to the Episcopacy on December 27, 1992. Bishop Thomas J. Tobin was installed as the fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown, February 2, 1996, in St. Columba Cathedral.
Bishop Tobin was named eighth Bishop of Providence by Pope John Paul II on March 31, 2005. Bishop Tobin was installed as Bishop of Providence on May 31, 2005 in Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral.
In 1997, Bishop Tobin was the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from his Alma Mater, St. Francis College, Loretto, Pennsylvania.
To learn about Bishop Tobin’s Coat of Arms, please click here.
Bishop Tobin’s Motto: “Strong, Loving, Wise” is from II Timothy 1:7, “I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God bestowed when my hands were laid on you. The Spirit God has given us is no cowardly spirit, but rather one that makes us strong, loving, and wise.”
Outsiders do not ordinarily get access to the upper levels of the Roman Catholic Church, but beginning in October 2006, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin welcomed Journal staff writer G. Wayne Miller and Journal photographer Mary Murphy deep inside the Diocese of Providence, which covers all of Rhode Island, America’s most heavily Catholic state. The result is a rare journey through a church, a diocese, and the life of a man. (Providence Journal)
Read G. Wayne Miller’s An American Bishop: Inside the World of One Cathedral Square here.