Diocesan parishes, priests dig out after blizzard, snowstorms

By Kenneth J. Souza, Anchor Staff

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FALL RIVER, Mass. — Dubbed everything from the sensationalistic “Blizzard of 2015” to the more affable “Blizzard Juno,” a relentless winter snowstorm that dumped not just inches but multiple feet of the white stuff onto the region last week certainly stopped several diocesan priests in their tracks and curtailed parish operations for several days.

“We survived,” Father David C. Frederici, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Pocasset, told The Anchor. “Fortunately we never lost power and despite high winds, we had no significant property damage. The good news was the wind blew all the snow off the car windows and roof … the bad news was the snow went up to the windows.”

While the storm forced Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to issue a statewide travel ban on January 27 and shuttered schools in the area for three days, by January 30 Father Frederici said they were still slowly but surely working to plow out the parish parking lot to prepare for weekend Masses.

“The rectory wasn’t plowed until (Friday) morning … and the parish offices were closed all week,” Father Frederici said. “Today there are a couple of us in the office, but the office is closed for business. They will be finishing up the snow removal around the parish center and hall this afternoon.”

The blizzard quickly proved to be a baptism by fire for Father Jay Mello as the newly-appointed parochial administrator of St. Michael and St. Joseph parishes in Fall River.

“I have always hated the cold and the snow, and now being an administrator, I really hate it because I have to pay for it to be removed,” Father Mello said. “Though I am blessed to have companies that remove the snow at both locations.”

Like several of his brother priests, Father Mello posted photos of himself shoveling out the front of St. Michael’s Church and rectory on his Facebook page.

“We did cancel school for three days because of the snow, and with that the daily Masses and had to move one funeral that was scheduled for Tuesday,” he said.

Although he was thankful they didn’t lose power during the storm and he felt it wasn’t as severe as the Blizzard of 2013, Father Rodney Thibault, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in South Dartmouth, said he did have to cancel daily Masses for three days and resumed celebrating the morning Liturgy on Friday.

“I happily celebrated the 8 a.m. (Mass) this morning so that Father Tom Rita could avoid any issues with weather,” Father Thibault said. “Our facilities manager, Thomas Bernat, and the company who does our landscaping and plowing, Earthworks, owned by parishioner, Patrick, did exceptional work. Our lot and walkways looked better than anything I saw in Dartmouth.”

Easily one of the hardest hit areas of the diocese was Nantucket, which unlike the rest of the Commonwealth, ended up losing power for several days. Phone service to and communication with inhabitants of the island was severely limited for the entire week following the blizzard.

“The roads were closed the day of and the day after the storm, so I couldn’t get to the three parish properties,” reported property manager Brian Davis in an email to The Anchor. “I couldn’t get out of my 400-foot driveway during that time. I gathered up some help and started digging out the church, the rectory, and Father Griffin Hall … not to mention my house, my wife’s office, and six of the homes I caretake.”

Although the storm did force the cancellation of daily Masses and other parish activities for several days at St. Mary-Our Lady of Isle Parish on Nantucket, Davis seemed to take it all in stride.

“Born and raised on the island, I’ve been through many storms in my 62 years,” he said. “To me, it was just another snow event. All in all, we survived another blizzard here on ‘the rock.’”

Anticipating the Blizzard of 2015, Father Jeff Cabral, judicial vicar for the diocesan Tribunal office, said he drove from Fall River, where he resides at the Holy Name Parish rectory, to his parents’ home in Dartmouth and ended up staying with them to assist with snow cleanup.

“The drifts were pretty high in the driveway at my parents’ house — just as high as me,” Father Cabral said. “My dad and I went to shovel and snow-blow the driveway on Tuesday afternoon, and we really only could do about three-quarters of the driveway because of the high winds and continuing snowfall. On Wednesday, with the help of my parents’ neighbor, we finished plowing out the driveway and shoveled out the walkway.”

At press time this week — just when things appeared to be getting back to normal — a second storm, Linus, hit the area on February 2, dropping more than six inches of fresh powder onto the snow mounds leftover from plowed streets and shoveled-out driveways.

“I think we are all ready for spring,” Father Cabral mused in a Facebook posting. “Where are we going to put all of this snow?”

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