Fall River’s Sacred Heart Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry, which until June had provided meals and more on Mondays for over a decade, will reopen this month in a new location with new leadership.

Beginning September 14th, the soup kitchen will resume operations at St. Bernadette Parish at 529 Eastern Avenue in Fall River. It will provide a hot meal without charge to those in need every Monday night, continuing the ministry that was offered at the former Sacred Heart Parish for so many years. Doors will open at 5 p.m. Entrance will be from the Bedard Street side of the church. Plans are for the food pantry to reopen next month.

Its new name will reflect its past and present: the Sacred Heart Soup Kitchen/Food Pantry at St. Bernadette Parish.

Brendan O’Neill,  a Fall River resident who grew up in Sacred Heart Parish and volunteered at the soup kitchen, has led a small group of other former volunteers to make its return possible.

The soup kitchen ceased operation last June following the closure of Sacred Heart Parish and the re-assignment of Father Raymond Cambra, who as pastor there was the founder and driving force behind the ministry since its inception in 2004.

At the time of its closure, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha asked diocesan leaders to look into ways to bring it back.

Father Jay Maddock, who is dean of the Fall River Deanery and pastor of the city’s Holy Name Parish, had asked the parish to prayerfully consider whether anyone could volunteer to lead an effort to continue the service of the Sacred Heart Soup Kitchen in the community. The parish had regularly collected food donations for it and some parishioners were among its volunteers.

O’Neill heard the announcement while attending Mass at Holy Name and agreed to step up to the task. A Johnson and Wales graduate, he has worked in hospitality and food service for 20 years and has owned a local restaurant.

“The need is there in the community for a soup kitchen,” he explained. “We never served fewer than 150 or 160 people when I was helping at the Sacred Heart kitchen -even on cold nights.”

He also thought it important to “keep the good work that Father Cambra had started going.”

The first task for O’Neill and his team of volunteers was to find a new site for the soup kitchen. With a non-functioning, non-repairable boiler, the Sacred Heart facility was not an option. After consideration of several possible sites, the St. Bernadette Parish hall was selected.

Father Maddock, who also serves as administrator of St. Bernadette Parish, welcomes the ministry to its facility.

“We as a parish family at St. Bernadette are happy to host the soup kitchen here and we hope many people who are in need will take advantage of it,” he said.

“I think this kind of outreach to the community is what church should be about.”

Along with their thanks to Father Maddock and the parishioners of St. Bernadette’s, O’Neill and the leadership team also expressed their gratitude to Bishop da Cunha and other diocesan administrators “for their support and encouragement to once again offer this service to people in need in our city.”

They are hopeful that additional former volunteers and any other interested members of the community will come forward to assist in what they describe as a “wonderful work of charity.”

Anyone interested in volunteering at the soup kitchen, donating non-perishable food items or offering financial assistance is asked to call Polly at 508-677-0713.

Diocese of Fall River
Diocese of Fall River
Office of Communications