Bishop to join Santo Christo parish in celebrating its 125th anniversary

By Dave Jolivet
Anchor Editor


FALL RIVER, Mass. — On June 18, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., will join with the parishioners and staff of Santo Christo Parish, civic authorities, and other clergy and friends to mark the 125th anniversary of the Fall River parish located in the historic Portuguese District.

A special bilingual Liturgy will be celebrated at 10 a.m. celebrated by the bishop. 

Following the Mass a family style lunch catered by nearby Sagres Restaurant will be served in the parish auditorium.

Fall River in the 1870s, was rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the most industrialized cities in the country. As a result, many Portuguese families living in New Bedford came to Fall River in search of work in the cotton mills, bringing along with them a strong devotion to the Catholic faith.

To meet the Spiritual needs of the Portuguese families, a mission was established in 1876 by Father Antonio M. Freitas, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in New Bedford.

St. Anthony of Lisbon, more commonly referred to as St. Anthony of Padua, was chosen as the patron saint of the mission.

In the late 1800s the Portuguese community bought a Baptist temple located at the corner of Columbia and Canal streets, where eventually Masses were celebrated.

With the ever-growing Portuguese population needing a permanent house of worship, Bishop Matthew Harkins of the Providence (R.I.) Diocese, of which Fall River was then a part, elevated the mission to a parish on June 26, 1892.

The fledgling parish was renamed Santo Christo dos Milagres (Holy Christ of the Miracles).

In 1906 then-pastor Father Francisco Silveira Mesquita obtained permission to build a new church and on May 5 of that year the basement of the church was dedicated and Masses were celebrated there.

It took many years before the entire church could be completed. The Gothic-style Santo Christo Church was dedicated on June 13, 1948.

Through the years repairs and restorations took place at the historic church, leading to the beautiful structure that is such a landmark on Columbia Street.

Father Gastão A. Oliveira took over the parish in 1995 and has been pastor since. Father Oliveira has been pastor for nearly one-quarter of the parish’s history; second only to Father Francisco C. Bettencourt, later Msgr. Bettencourt, who took over the reins at the parish in 1928, remaining there for 32 years.

Currently Father Thomas M. Kocik is a parochial vicar at the parish; Deborah Cândido-Pavão is the secretary and Anchor columnist Osvaldo Pacheco is the parish director of Faith Formation.

The parish website is and the parish email is

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