It is with a heavy heart that the Diocese of Fall River announces the death of the Most Reverend George W. Coleman, who faithfully served as the Seventh Bishop of Fall River from July 2003 to September 2014.

Bishop Emeritus Coleman died last night at Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River where earlier in the week he had undergone surgery. He was 85 years old.

In announcing his death, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., who succeeded Bishop Coleman, said, “While we mourn his passing and will miss him dearly, we are also consoled by the promise of the resurrection, and the certainty that he, a good and faithful servant of the Church, will be rewarded for all the good he has done in this life, and will be our new intercessor in heaven.”

Bishop da Cunha is asking that all join him in prayer for the eternal repose of his “beautiful soul and for the consolation of his family, friends, clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Fall River.”

In December of this year, Bishop Emeritus Coleman would have observed his 60th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. He was recognized for this significant milestone at the diocesan Chrism Mass in St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fall River this year during Holy Week.

It was in that same cathedral where he was ordained a bishop and installed as the leader of the Diocese of Fall River on July 22, 2003. That began an 11-year tenure of dedicated faithful, humble, and competent ministry as he worked to fulfill the many responsibilities of being bishop. He retired at the age 75, as required, and was succeeded by Bishop da Cunha on September 24, 2014. In retirement, while able, Bishop Emeritus Coleman continued to serve the Diocese, often assisting with parish Masses.

His appointment to the episcopacy came as he was serving as administrator of the Diocese of Fall River following the transfer of then Bishop Sean P. O’Malley, OFM Cap. to the Diocese of Palm Beach in Florida in the fall of 2002.

A native of the diocese, he was born in Fall River on February 1, 1939, the son of the late George W. and Beatrice K. (Shea) Coleman, and raised in Somerset, along with one sister, Eileen, of Milford, Mass.

He graduated from the former Msgr. James Coyle High School in Taunton in 1957 and then attended Holy Cross College in Worcester. He prepared for the priesthood at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton and at the North American College in Rome, where he also earned a graduate degree in sacred theology from the Gregorian University.

He was ordained a priest in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on December 16, 1964.

His first assignment was as curate or associate pastor at St. Kilian’s Parish, New Bedford, where he served from 1965 to 1967. He was then assigned to minister in the same capacity at the former St. Louis Parish, Fall River, until 1972, and from there to Our Lady of Victory Parish, Centerville, until 1977.

He was then appointed to direct the Diocesan Department of Education, a post he held for 8 years, overseeing Catholic schools, parish religious education and campus ministry programs in the diocese.

In 1982 he also became pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Fall River.

He left both posts in 1985 to become pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in Sandwich, where he served until 1994. From 1990 to 1994 he was dean of the Cape and Islands Deanery.

In August of 1994 Bishop O’Malley reorganized the administration of the Fall River Diocese and appointed then Father Coleman to the position of Vicar General and first Moderator of the Curia.

Later that same year he was named by Pope John Paul II to the rank of Prelate of Honor with the title of Reverend Monsignor.

On October 22, 2002, he was elected to serve as Administrator of the diocese by his peers on the College of Consultors following Bishop O’Malley’s transfer.

At a Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated in August 2014, a few weeks before his retirement, Bishop Coleman recalled in his homily that shortly after becoming bishop, he received a letter from a third grader who expressed his hope that the new job would be “fun.” Bishop Coleman continued, “it has been fun, only surpassed by the ever-deepening joy of being Christ’s instrument” in the diocese.

In addition to his sister, he is survived by one nephew, Christopher Keegan and his wife Diana, two great nephews, Matthew and Patrick Keegan all of Milford, MA and cousin Cindy Day of Falmouth.

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated for Bishop Coleman in St. Mary’s Cathedral on Friday, May 31.

Bishops and priests stand outside St. Mary’s Cathedral as the body
of Bishop Coleman is brought out following his Mass of Christian Burial

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