Consecrated fifth Bishop of Providence, July 14, 1948
Appointed Assistant at Papal Throne, August 19, 1957
Died August 10, 1971
Bishop Russell J. McVinney was born in Warren, son of Thomas and Catherine Blessington McVinney , educated at LaSalle Academy, Providence; St. Charles, Castonsville.
He attended St. Charles College in Catonsville, Maryland, from 1916 to 1918, and continued his studies at the Grand Seminary of Montreal in Quebec, Canada (1918-20) and at St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester, New York (1920-21). Following the conclusion of World War I, he was sent to complete his studies at the American College at Louvain in Belgium.
He was ordained to the priesthood at Louvain on July 13, 1924. Following his return to Rhode Island, he briefly served on a temporary assignment at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul before becoming a curate at St. Patrick’s Church in Harrisville. From 1929 to 1936, he served as a curate at St. Edward’s Church and a teacher at St. Raphael Academy in Pawtucket. In 1935, he studied journalism for a year at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.
From 1936 to 1941, McVinney served as associate editor of the Providence Visitor and did pastoral work at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul. He directed the diocesan pilgrimage to the Eucharistic Congress at New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1938. He served as the first rector of the newly-opened Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Warwick from 1941 to 1948. During his tenure as rector, he also served as pro-synodal examiner and secretary of the body of examiners of junior clergy (1943-48).
On May 29, 1948, he was appointed the fifth Bishop of Providence by Pope Pius XII. He received his episcopal consecration on the following July 14 from Archbishop Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, with Bishops Henry Joseph O’Brien and James Louis Connolly serving as co-consecrators. He was the first native of Rhode Island to serve as head of the Diocese of Providence. During his 23-year tenure in Providence, McVinney established 28 new parishes, mostly in rapidly growing suburban and rural areas of the diocese. He also established 40 new Catholic schools and oversaw the construction of new buildings for many preexisting schools. In 1954, he opened Our Lady of Fatima Hospital, a hospital for the chronically ill, in North Providence.
McVinney convoked the fourth synod of the diocese on October 8, 1952. He founded the Sisters of Our Lady of Providence in 1955 and later the Brothers of Our Lady of Providence in 1959. In 1957, in order to accommodate the increasing number of seminarians at Our Lady of Providence Seminary, he oversaw the construction of a complex of new buildings for the seminary. Between 1962 and 1965, McVinney attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council in Rome. Following the conclusion of the Council, he created a Diocesan Liturgical Commission in June 1964 and one of the first Diocesan Ecumenical Commissions in the United States in January 1965. He also established the Catholic Inner City Apostolate in 1966 and the Diocesan Human Relations Commission in 1967.