FALL RIVER — – For the past two years, the three parishes of the Catholic Community of New Bedford North have been linked parishes, meaning they’ve shared priests, programs, and an administrative staff. For most of the past year, because of the pandemic, the parishes have also gathered in one church for Mass and other liturgies.
In light of this experience and with the hope of building a stronger community of faith, the three, Our Lady of Fatima, St. Joseph-St. Therese, and St. Mary, have decided to unify into one single, new parish.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel Parish will be formally established for Catholics of New Bedford’s North End on October 11, 2021, and will have as its worship site St. Mary’s Church (at right) located on Tarkiln Hill Road in the city.
A parish core council of lay leaders representing all three parishes, administrative staff and pastoral leadership have been planning the transition for many months and in August requested, and received, approval from Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., to move forward with the plan.
“Over two years ago, our parishes came together as a collaborative to leverage our tangible and intangible assets and to better serve and provide for the spiritual needs of our parishioners,” the parish core council wrote in its letter to Bishop da Cunha.
While noting that the pandemic led to many challenges, the council pointed out that it also provided an opportunity. “Our parishes began to worship together in one church and to act as one in many facets of parish life…More importantly, our parishioners began to feel comfortable being one community.”
Father Sudhir C. Nayak and Father John A. Raposo, who currently serve as co-pastors of the three-parish collaborative, will together lead the new parish.
“It is a pleasure to celebrate the beginning of the new parish of St. Gabriel Archangel at St. Mary’s Church in the North End of New Bedford,” said Father Nayak. “It represents a change from maintenance to mission. This means our focus as a new parish will be to make Christ known and loved in the North End of the city.
“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.”
Father Raposo was first pastor at Our Lady of Fatima and then became co-pastor of the New Bedford North parish collaborative upon its inception. He explains that as it became increasingly difficult to maintain three separate parishes, “the work was begun to unite all three into one community of faith. That work has come to fruition with the establishment of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish. I pray that inspired by the Holy Spirit and strengthened by the grace of God we can continue to move forward, now as one, to build the Church here in the North End of New Bedford.”
As part of the transition into a new unified community, all three churches of the current parishes will be offering extended adoration time this week and Bishop da Cunha will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at each parish this weekend. The schedule for these Masses is as follows: Saturday, Oct. 9, at 4 p.m. at St. Joseph-St. Therese Church; Sunday, Oct. 10, at 8:00 a.m. at Our Lady of Fatima Church; and at 10 a.m. at St. Mary Church. All are welcome to attend any of the Masses. Sacred items from all three churches will become part of the new St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish.
The parish core council believes that unification of the three parishes into one will benefit in many ways. It will allow for greater efficiency in human and financial resources, eliminate the necessity of supporting and maintaining three separate churches and parish plants, and, most importantly, help build a stronger Catholic community.
In its communication with Bishop da Cunha, the parish core council proposed three possible names for the new parish from which the bishop selected St. Gabriel the Archangel. The council explained that St. Gabriel was suggested to underscore the saint’s role in helping to create the family of Mary and Joseph and to serve as a reminder that, like Gabriel, all of the faithful are called to act as a herald of God’s message.
“St. Gabriel, our parish patron, is the patron of communications since he communicated God’s message to Mary and Joseph,” said Father Nayak. “We ask his protection, guidance, and support as we try to transmit God’s message of love and forgiveness to all. We welcome all to join us in this effort.”