New pastors say appointments provide ‘stability’ for parishioners

By Kenneth J. Souza
Anchor Staff

FALL RIVER, Mass. — For the four newly-appointed, first-time pastors in the Fall River Diocese, the recent title change may not have a great impact on how they continue to serve their parishioners, but it certainly will provide a sense of continuity and stability for the parish itself.

“I don’t see a huge change with the exception of stability for both me and the people of the parish,” said Father Jay Mello, who was named pastor of St. Michael and St. Joseph parishes in Fall River on April 12. “There is much ambiguity with the title parochial administrator and I think it leaves people concerned as to what that means for the parish. The title of pastor comes with particular rights and responsibilities that an administrator doesn’t have — in particular, the concept of stability of office.”

“Functionally, there’s really no difference between being a parochial administrator and a pastor,” said Father Michael Fitzpatrick, who was appointed pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Hyannis, effective April 25. “But it’s good for the parish — what it does is it lends a sense of stability and peace to a parish that has felt kind of up in the air.”

Without a designated pastor in place, Father Fitzpatrick said, parishioners tend to “get a little bit nervous” and “wonder what’s going to happen to our parish.”

“Stability is crucial to pastoral planning,” agreed Father Dariusz Kalinowski, who became pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Westport on April 25. “Now I can think about the future and ask myself and my parish council where do we see our parish in five or 10 years. Many people do not understand that an administrator is a temporary position, and being able to say that I am a pastor now does make a difference. The sense of confidence and stability is very important in any position of leadership and it only comes with time.”

Father Octavio Cortez, I.V.E., sees his new role as pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in New Bedford as one of “unifier.”

“Given that this is a (parish) that is multi-cultural, with multi-charisms and multi-traditions, I see that as one of my most important roles as pastor,” Father Cortez said. “I know for sure that this will entail more responsibility for me in the important task of making the best decisions for the good of the parish, but at the same time I know this will give me more freedom to bring forward many ideas that I have always hoped one day I would be able to put into practice.”

Father Jay Mello hopes to draw upon his “wide range of assignments” prior to coming to St. Michael’s and St. Joseph’s to shepherd his two Fall River parishes.

Since being ordained on July 7, 2007, Father Mello continued his studies for two years in Rome before his first assignment as chaplain at Bishop Stang High School while serving as parochial vicar at St. Julie Billiart Parish in North Dartmouth.

In 2010 he was assigned to St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth and a year later he was appointed assistant Vocations director for the Fall River Diocese.

In 2012 he was named parochial vicar of St. Mary’s Parish in Mansfield, before being assigned to serve as parochial administrator at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in New Bedford in 2014.

He has been serving as parochial administrator of St. Michael’s and St. Joseph’s parishes since January 2015.

“In addition to parish work, I also had responsibilities in high schools, grade schools, the Vocations Office, and hospitals,” Father Mello told The Anchor. “The wide range of opportunities, and the differences in communities — from Cape Cod to New Bedford to Mansfield — has helped me see there is no ‘one size fits all’ vision for a parish. Each parish is unique and has its own history and personalities. So I have learned to learn about the community before coming up with a pastoral plan.”

Father Michael Fitzpatrick said he hopes to foster a greater sense of collaboration among the different communities that make up St. Francis Xavier Parish in Hyannis, thereby bringing together the Brazilian, Hispanic and English-speaking cultures.

“There’s a lot of natural divides that can be circumvented — and need to be — but it takes a lot of effort on the part of a lot of people,” Father Fitzpatrick told The Anchor. “That’s not always so easy to do. But there’s a lot of goodwill and I think it’s going pretty well.”

One of the first steps in that direction, as restructured by Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., according to Father Fitzpatrick, is ministering to the Brazilian community as members of the parish and no longer treating them as a separate “apostolate.”

“One of the other transitions that’s happened is Father Paulo Barbosa has been transferred here as parochial vicar to serve the Brazilian parishioners,” Father Fitzpatrick said. “So there’s a natural connection to the parish that all of that will facilitate — that’s all going very well and this will help, for sure.”

After his ordination on Oct. 11, 2003, Father Fitzpatrick’s first assignment was as parochial vicar at St. Mary’s Parish in Mansfield, while serving as chaplain for Bishop Feehan High School in Attleboro. 

In 2008, he was appointed chaplain at UMass Dartmouth and St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford, while in residence at Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. James Parish rectory in New Bedford.

He next served as parochial vicar at Corpus Christi Parish in East Sandwich for three years before a brief stint at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Orleans.

He first came to St. Francis Xavier Parish in Hyannis two years ago to serve as parochial administrator.

Since his ordination on June 26, 1999, Father Dariusz Kalinowski has had several parish assignments over the last 17 years.

“Every parish assignment I have had has added to my experience in celebrating the Sacraments and dealing with people and thus made me more confident in everything I do,” Father Kalinowski told The Anchor.

He first served as parochial vicar at St. Mary’s Parish in Mansfield for six years before being appointed parochial vicar at Our Lady of Victory Parish in Centerville in 2005.

He subsequently served as parochial vicar at St. Patrick’s Parish in Wareham and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Seekonk before being appointed parochial administrator of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Westport in 2014.

“As a parochial vicar, you do not need to worry about finances, paying bills and making sure that everything is taken care of and runs properly,” Father Kalinowski said. “I have seen all my pastors dealing with those issues but you do not really pay much attention to it until you, yourself have to do it.”

In contrast to his fellow first-time appointees, Mexican-born Father Octavio Cortez, I.V.E., has had a much different path to becoming pastor.

Since his ordination on June 8, 2012, Father Cortez has been mainly involved “with seminary formation work,” and served for four years at his order’s High School Seminary in Mankato, Minn. before coming to the Fall River Diocese to serve as parochial administrator for the former St. Kilian’s Parish in New Bedford.

When that parish was merged with St. Anthony of Padua last year, Father Cortez was appointed parochial vicar to serve the thriving Hispanic community there, until his recently-announced appointment as pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in New Bedford, which becomes effective June 29.

“My experience is mostly related to working with seminary formation,” Father Cortez told The Anchor. “During that time, nevertheless, I was able to experience the joy and hope of knowing that God continues to send vocations to His Church. I think this positive experience will help me in my new responsibilities, especially in working with the youth. Part of my focus will be to find ways to engage the youth in our parish life.”

With all four pastors either already ensconced in their new roles or about to begin the next chapter in their ministry, they remain equally joyful and optimistic about the future of their parish and the Church in the diocese.

“Being able to be with people in the critical moments of their lives and connect it to their faith is central to what we do,” Father Mello said. “I am most looking forward to bringing renewal to the parish by restoring the sense of the Sacred. I believe that a beautiful Liturgy and celebration of the Sacraments is the real way in which we bring renewal to the Church and the faith.”

Father Fitzpatrick looks forward to bringing together the Brazilian, Hispanic and English-speaking communities in his parish.

“The Brazilians and the Hispanics are the ones with the youth, so the collaboration between them and the integration with the traditional American community and vice versa is a great collaboration,” he said.

Father Kalinowski said that getting people more involved in the life of the parish beyond once-a-week Mass attendance is going be his top priority.

“Many parishes will survive today only by the sacrifice of many volunteers,” he said. “In many parishes devotions have almost disappeared. My biggest challenge is to make people more involved in the parish outside of (just) attending Mass.”

“I have a great desire to reignite the faith of the people of this parish and the surrounding area,” agreed Father Cortez. “I know there is a very important Catholic heritage in this city and diocese, and there is a great potential. I’d like to see this church filled to the last pew once again with faithful followers of Christ. With the prayers and support of all the people I know we will be able to reach that goal.”

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts