Buzzards Bay parishioners celebrate 100 years of faithfulness

By Linda Andrade Rodrigues, Anchor Correspondent

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BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. — For a century the parishioners of St. Margaret Church in Buzzards Bay and its mission church, St. Mary Star of the Sea in Onset, have kept the faith.

Last weekend they marked the culmination of a year-long centennial celebration, which coincided with the feast day of St. Margaret of Scotland, the virtuous medieval queen who is venerated for her devotion to God and her people.

“It’s a happy feeling that we are celebrating a hundred years,” said Franciscan Father Bruce Czapla, OFM, who serves as pastor, assisted by fellow itinerant friar, Father Richard Donovan, OFM. “There are two worship sites, but we are one parish.”

Father Czapala said that the parishioners are a good example of Christian living.

“Oh my goodness, they are an absolutely wonderful family,” he said. “They are supportive, giving and participate in the activities. For me it’s a joy.” 

Last Saturday at St. Margaret’s Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., celebrated the centennial Mass, which was concelebrated by five priests and a deacon.

It was the bishop’s first visit to the church alongside the Cape Cod Canal.

“But that is an understatement,” he told the congregation, laughing. “Everything is my first.”

A native of Brazil, Bishop da Cunha is the former auxiliary bishop of Newark, N.J., and was elevated to bishop of the Diocese of Fall River in September.

“My brothers and sisters, it’s a joy to be here to celebrate this special occasion, the centennial of the parish, and to give thanks for God’s blessings,” he said.

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Two very special parishioners attended the Mass. Lifetime parishioner Mary Rose Viera will celebrate her 100th year in December. She also had the privilege of meeting Pope Francis at Easter. A descendant of St. Margaret of Scotland, parishioner Walter MacDonald is the saint’s 26th generational great-grandson.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus told His disciples the parable of the three servants and how they chose to use the gifts and talents they had received. 

In his homily, Bishop da Cunha said that each person in this world is born with a reservoir of talents and a specific set of opportunities. 

“The purpose of our life is to uncover those talents and to eliminate the barriers that put limits on the full growth of those talents,” he said. “The important thing is not really the talent but what we do with the talent.”

The bishop pointed out that the congregation was celebrating their own faith because of the contribution of others.

“Being here for 100 years means many people who came before us invested their gifts and talents not only to build this building of bricks and mortar but to build a community of faith,” he said. “Now 100 years from now, nobody knows what life is going to be like, what the world will be like. But 100, 200 years from now we will still need God, still need the Church, still need the Sacraments, still need prayer, still need family, still need each other.

“For years to come your Church will be here because of your faith, because of your commitment to those who come after us,” he added. “So my dear brothers and sisters, my friends in Christ, I rejoice with all of you. I’m glad to celebrate with all of you.”

Throughout the centennial year, the congregation came together, beginning in March with an International Kick-Off Brunch.

“The theme of that event was to celebrate the diversity that is our parish,” said Mary Ann Bostrom, chairman of the Centennial Committee. “Families brought dishes of their individual heritages to share.” 

Recipes and family stories were collected, and they created a cookbook from that gathering.

“We did not hold an event in April because of Lent and Easter, although the parish did come together for a simple meal of bread and meatless soup after the Stations of the Cross,” she said.  

In May they resumed activities with the Crowning of Mary at St. Mary’s Church on Mother’s Day, followed by a coffee hour with home-baked breakfast foods.

During June they offered a Friday Night Fish Fry, as well as a Ladies Tea, in observance of the 60th anniversary of the Women’s Guild.  

In July the congregation gathered in the church parking lot for a flea market/yard sale, featuring vendors, a food court and music; and they reunited once again in August for a parish picnic at St. Joseph Friary.

Parishioners embarked on a sunset cruise of Cape Cod Canal in September. Each brought a plate to share with others on board. The St. Vincent de Paul Society also celebrated their 60th anniversary with a potluck dinner. Admission was a donation of non-perishable food items for the needy. 

In October the congregation held a Rosary rally, followed by a spaghetti dinner.

Last Saturday after Mass, the parishioners wrapped up the anniversary-year celebrations with a centennial dinner/dance, featuring a traditional three-course meal followed by dancing at Bay Pointe Country Club in Onset. 

What is today St. Margaret’s Parish was originally part of Corpus Christi Parish in Sandwich. However, as the Cape Cod population grew, additional parishes were needed; and in April 1911, St. Margaret’s had its beginnings with a Mass offered in the Buzzards Bay home of Thomas Wallace, in the house which is now St. Margaret’s Rectory.

Soon the Mass location was shifted to Franklin Hall in Buzzards Bay, a historic building located behind the present St. Margaret Church, then successively to Bourne and Firemen’s halls.

For three years Buzzards Bay Masses were offered by priests from Corpus Christi; then in 1914 Father Joseph Lyons, newly-named pastor at Corpus Christi, determined that Buzzards Bay Catholics needed their own house of worship.

Sparked by a $5,000 donation, large for those days, from Margaret Hall, a summer visitor, money was collected and St. Margaret’s of Scotland, named for Hall, was dedicated July 4, 1915 by Bishop Daniel F. Feehan.

The new church remained a mission of Corpus Christi until 1946, when Bishop James E. Cassidy erected it as a parish in its own right, having as a mission St. Mary Star of the Sea Church, which had until then been served by St. Patrick’s Parish in Wareham.

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