The end of an era in Fall River

By C.J. Ferry, Grand Knight
Special to The Anchor

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FALL RIVER, Mass. — November 23 was the end of an era for the Sacred Heart Parish community in Fall River. Due to decreasing attendance and increasing costs to operate the church and its ministry, the Fall River Diocese had no choice but to close the church after its boiler went into disrepair.

Sacred Heart Church was built in 1872, when Fall River was still part of the Diocese of Providence, R.I. Its first pastor was Father Francis Quinn, which became the name of this parish’s Knights of Columbus Council. During the 142 years of its doors being open, Sacred Heart has seen many joys and sorrows. Imagine trying to quantify into a number those who were Baptized, had First Communion, received Confirmation, shared happiness in weddings and had said goodbye to loved family and friends at funerals there over the years. The final Mass invoked the same sort of sorrow-filled goodbye, and truly the closing of Sacred Heart Parish is the greatest of all sorrows.

During his final homily, Father Ray Cambra encouraged the community to remember all their work over the years, to remember their journey and many efforts for the greater good of all: of all that they have given to Christ together; from feeding the poor, clothing the naked, helping fellow man in times of disaster, sending needed items and a piece of home comfort to members of our Armed Forces, visiting the sick and homebound. Not once did this humble man, a servant of Christ, ever look to himself, but rather always to the parish first. As a shepherd would tend to his flock; he always guided others toward and found leadership, wisdom, guidance and joy in Christ. As is the theme for the Celebration of Christ the King, this humble priest has lived and been an example of what Jesus would do.

Sacred Heart was a community of lifelong parishioners who drew strength from the weekly Masses and messages of their shepherd; whether that was Father Ray Cambra, or in recent years Father David Costa, Father Ed Byington, Father Barry Wall, Father Joseph Viveiros, or the late Father John Folster.

Sacred Heart was a pivotal member of our city and the community of the Catholic faithful. On this last day open for Sacred Heart we saw a bittersweet moment, the church had become filled from wall to wall for the first time in many years. If only all our churches had attendance such as the last Mass, then maybe we’d never have to consider the closing of another one of our area churches again. 

You could see many of the faithful, with tears running down their faces as they saw the door to the ambry left open and empty, emblematic of the tearing of the veil in the temple, showing God no longer dwells there. For every church that closes, we lose a piece of our personal and city’s history; we lose a portion of the fabric that is our community.

But the story of Sacred Heart is like that of many other Catholic churches in our area and around the world; religion and faith are no longer viewed as vital staples to who we are as individuals, no longer do they serve as guideposts in our daily journey of life. Importance only seems to come to fruition when a disaster, illness, accident or death occurs. It’s in those moments we seem to drop everything and run to Christ. Let us not only run to Christ when in need, but rather let us welcome Him into our day-to-day lives, as He would also be there for us.

“Whatsoever you do to the least of My people, that you do unto Me.”

C.J. Ferry is a lifelong parishioner of Sacred Heart Parish of Fall River and the Grand Knight of the Father Francis Quinn Council No. 15405 of the Knights of Columbus.

© 2017 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing  †  Fall River, Massachusetts