Recently, I was the featured guest in an episode of “A Conversation With…” on the New Bedford Cable Network. Host Jim Marshall interviewed me about the Fall River Diocese, our parishes, schools, and overall condition, following months of pandemic-imposed closures and restrictions. We also spoke about, “Journeying Together: With Jesus on the Path of Faith and Hope,” my new Pastoral letter. We covered a lot of ground and I think it’s worth sharing. You can watch that interview on YouTube HERE.
In next week’s blog, I will resume sharing the different sections of the pastoral letter, with a look at Part 2: Presenting the Future. Here’s a reminder: the letter can be read in its entirety in English, Spanish, and Portuguese on the Journeying Together resource page.
On October 9-10, 2021, Pope Francis officially opened the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome. You can watch the opening Mass and read more about Pope Francis’ homily on the Vatican News website. At Pope Francis’ request, I and bishops around the world will then celebrate the official opening of the synodal process in our local dioceses this weekend.
I will celebrate the 10:30 a.m. Mass in St. Mary’s Cathedral on October 17 to mark the opening of the Synod in the Fall River Diocese. It will be the Mass of the Holy Spirit. My hope is for the entire Church to be represented in some way during this Mass. Although open to all who wish to attend, I recognize the difficulty of participating in person, especially for our clergy. To that end, I am asking all our priests to also celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit in their parishes this weekend along with offering prayers for a fruitful Synod and some introduction to the Synod process in their homily. All those who are able to are welcome to join us for the Mass in the Cathedral. If you cannot be at the Mass in person, you can also follow it on our Facebook page, facebook.com/fallriverdiocese.
The annual Procession and Mass for Peace held on Monday, October 11, 2021, was a beautiful testimony of our faith. I am so grateful to all those who worked to prepare for this annual celebration. Thank you to all who participated in the procession and the celebration of Mass; it was indeed a wonderful occasion. My homily focused on how we can actively participate in bringing about peace through the practice of our faith—both internally and externally.
During the Apollo 13 crisis in 1970, many at NASA felt they were on the brink of their darkest hour. Yet, there was one wise engineer who bravely countered with the sincere belief that this could be their finest hour. We stand at a time of great crisis in our world, country, and even our Church; we have a choice to turn this into an incredible opportunity, and it too could be our finest hour. What begins first with prayer must then include cooperation with God’s grace and turn into action.
What are we doing to bring peace into our world, communities, and homes? Pope Paul VI wrote, “If you want peace, work for justice” (Celebration of Day of Peace, Jan. 1, 1972). How do we combat racism, discrimination, poverty, injustice rampant in today’s society? Just as the engineers in NASA had to use their talents, experiences, and wisdom to find a solution, we too must use our faith, God’s help, and grace to make a difference and effect real change. We must work to eliminate personal attitudes and behaviors that foster injustice, division, and discrimination while denouncing those evils and those who foster them in our world.
People are staying away from God and His Church; we could say, along with the astronauts of Apollo 13, “Houston, we have a problem,” but do we? What if instead, we say, we have an opportunity? A chance to transform situations of crisis into our finest hour. With God, all things are possible, and in Him is where we find peace. Through faith, prayers, and using our gifts and talents, we can demonstrate our strong connection to God and how He is truly working through us. We are all acutely aware of all the pain, suffering, and difficulties we’ve endured in the last 18 months. Let us emerge with courage and confidence in our Risen Lord and start the hard work of rebuilding together.
The livestream of the Mass is available on the Diocese of Fall River YouTube channel HERE.
St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish
For the past two years, the three parishes of the Catholic Community of New Bedford North have been linked parishes, meaning they have shared priests, programs, and administrative staff. For most of the past year, the parishes of Our Lady of Fatima, St. Joseph-St. Therese, and St. Mary, have also gathered in one church for Mass and other liturgies because of the pandemic.
In light of this experience and with the hope of building a stronger community of faith, a decision was made to unify the three into Saint Gabriel the Archangel Parish. On Monday, October 11, 2021, the new parish was formally established for Catholics of New Bedford’s North End. Let us welcome St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish to our diocesan family. It will use as its worship site St. Mary’s Church located on Tarkiln Hill Road in New Bedford. Father Sudhir C. Nayak and Father John A. Raposo, who served as co-pastors of the three-parish collaborative, will now lead the new parish.
I echo and am very encouraged by Fr. Nayak’s words, “Although transitions can be difficult, new beginnings can be a rich blessing for those who respond to God’s love and direction. In some ways it is like a newborn is a blessing for a family, so this new parish will be a blessing for all as we begin a new journey. This journey will be made easier because we bring with us all the wisdom, support, and generosity of the past from the parishes of St. Joseph-St. Therese, Our Lady of Fatima, and St. Mary’s. We thank those who have made this new beginning a reality.”
As part of their transition into a new unified community, I celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving at each parish this past weekend. I was struck by the words of the prayer for the Mass assuring us of how the grace of the Lord is always before and after us. God is opening the way and leading us while also following and knowing what we do. As in our careful discernment in the decision to unify these parishes, we must trust that when we come and prayerfully seek the Lord’s guidance, we can rest assured that the Holy Spirit is guiding all we say and do.
I believe God will bless the new parish of St. Gabriel the Archangel and all those who will worship there, not just today but in the years to come. Bishops, priests, deacons, and faithful laity that came before us, undoubtedly wrestled with many difficult and painful decisions. Their prayers, sacrifices, and wisdom left a legacy for generations to come, and we wish to do the same for those who will come after us.
We must discern the best course of action not just for today, but for years to come. So, our children and their children will have a place to come together in prayer, hear God’s Word, and be nourished by the Eucharist. Let us focus on what we are gaining, the community we seek to create, nourish, and grow, trusting that the Lord, through the Holy Spirit, is continually guiding our way.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha