Bishop of the Diocese of Orlando (1990 – 2004)

Bishop Dorsey was born Leonard James Dorsey on December 14, 1929 in Springfield, Massachusetts, the son of Leonard E. Dorsey and Mary Ann Dowd. Leonard attended Holy Cross Seminary in Dunkirk, New York, from 1946-1948 and pronounced his vows as a Passionist with the religious name of Norbert on August 15, 1949. He studied philosophy and theology in Jamaica, New York and Union City, New Jersey, obtaining a Masters Degree in Theology before being ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Cuthbert O’Gara, CP, 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, Fr. Dorsey was assigned to the Passionist monastery in West Hartford, CT, as a theology professor and the Director of Formation. Five years later, in 1965, he was elected Rector of the Monastery and Theologate in West Springfield, MA. 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 over 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, Fr. 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 January 10, 1986, Pope John Paul II nominated Fr. Dorsey 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 235,000 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, the establishment of 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 a high school in Ocala, Trinity Catholic High School; 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 eleven thousand people together for the first Diocesan-wide celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation. On this memorable day, Catholics came together from near and far to show their unity and passion for their faith.  Bishop Dorsey 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 October 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 diocese-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 right next door to the Cathedral of St. James.

Pope John Paul II accepted Bishop Dorsey’s letter of retirement on November 13, 2004. Bishop Norbert M. Dorsey died on February 21, 2013 in Orlando after a long battle with cancer.

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.”


Attended Seminary (1946-1948)
Pronounced vows as Passionist (1949)
Studies in New York and New Jersey (1949-1956)
Ordained Priest (1956)
Studies in Europe (1957-1960)
Director of Formation at Passionist Monastery in CT (1960-1965)
Rector of Monastery and Theologate in West Springfield (1965-1968)
Provincial Consultor for the Eastern Province of Passionists (1968-1974)
Executive Assistant to the Provincial; Provincial Secretary (1974-1976)
Assistant General of worldwide order of Passionists (1976-1986)
Auxiliary Bishop of Miami (1986-1990)
Bishop of Orlando (1990-2004)

Activities and Memberships

Board of Barry University in Miami
Board of St. Thomas University
Board of St. John Vianney Seminary
Board of St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary
Board of St. Leo College
Board of Barry University in Orlando
Catholic Poetry Society of America
Catholic Theological Society of America
Episcopal Liaison for the Holy Childhood Association
Florida State Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, 1998-2001
Chairman of Region IV, National Conference of Catholic Bishops
Chairman of the Board, Pontifical Irish College (PICUS), Rome, Italy
Musicological Society of America
National Chaplain of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, 1998-2002
NCCB Committee on Priestly Life and Ministry
NCCB Committee on Liturgy
NCCB Committee on Missions
NCCB Committee on Doctrine
NCCB Committee on Priestly Formation
NCCB Committee on Campaign for Human Development
NCCB Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Affairs
Committee of Catholic-Jewish Relations
Chairman of the NCCJ Interfaith Council
Orlando Area Interfaith Sponsoring Committee
Tri-County Human Needs Assessment Committee

Noted Events in Bishop Dorsey’s Ministry

Grammar School
1934-42 Holy Name Grammar

High School
1942-46 Cathedral High School

1946-48 Holy Cross Seminary, Dunkirk, NY

1949-56 Jamaica, NY (Philosophy) & Union City, NJ ( Theology and Regular CP Studies)

Other Studies
1957-60 Rome, Italy (Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, Gregorian University)
1958 London, England
1959 Munich, Germany
1984-86 Rome, Gregorian University


  • MA Theology – St. Michael’s, Union City, NJ
  • M Sac Mus – Rome
  • STD “Summa Cum Laude” – Rome

1960 The Singing of the Passion in the Roman Liturgy (Thesis, Rome)
1960 Included in “The Invitation to the City,” Poetry Anthology, Ed J. G. Brunini
1970 Essays on The History of Sacred Music, in Crossroads, March 1, 1970
1986 Pierre Toussaint of New York, Slave and Freeman: A Study of Lay Spirituality in Times of Ecclesiastical and Social Change (Thesis, Rome)


  • Knight Commander, Order of the Holy Sepulchre (KCHS) – for work on behalf of the Near East Refugees, 1978
  • Peace and Unity Award, St. Martin Porres Association, Miami, FL “for building bridges of harmony between races and cultures,” – 1989
  • Appreciation Award, National Council of Christians and Jews, Interfaith Council, Miami, FL – 1990
  • Founding President Award, National Council of Christians and Jews, Orlando Chapter – 1991 – 1993
  • The Pierre Toussaint Medallion, Office of Black Ministry, Archdiocese of New York, presented in ceremony at St. Patrick’s Cathedral by John Cardinal O’Conner, for “special merit in the service of freedom, human rights, and spiritual values in the Black Community,” May 5th, 1996
  • Appreciation Award, Ancient Order of Hibernians – 2001
  • Honorary Chaplain to Orange County Sheriff’s Office – 2004

1960-1965 Director of Formation
1960-1965 Teacher
1960-1986 Preaching Ministry: Parish Missions & Retreats to Laity, Religious and Clergy
1965-1968 Rector
1968-1974 Provincial Consultor
1968-1974 Provincial Dean of Studies and Formation
1968-1974 Provincial Director of Personnel
1974-1976 Executive Assistant to the Provincial
1974-1976 Provincial Secretary
1974-1976 U.S. Regional Secretary, STAUROS (Louvain)
1976-1986 General Consultor
1986 Ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Miami, FL – March 19, 1986
1990 Installed Bishop of Orlando, FL – May 25, 1990
2004 Retired – November 13, 2004