New Bedford native returns to home parish to lead Fatima retreat

By Kenneth J. Souza
Anchor Staff

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — One of the native sons of St. Anthony of Padua Church in New Bedford will be returning to his home parish to speak during a two-day retreat on Saturday, November 18.

The two-day Spiritual Carmelite Retreat, entitled “One Mother, Two Saints and One Religious Order,” will begin on Friday night, November 17 with the celebration of Holy Mass at 6 p.m., followed by Eucharistic Adoration, Confessions and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.


Then on Saturday, November 18, Father Paul Denault, O.Carm., a Carmelite Friar from the Province of St. Elias, will be the keynote speaker during a day-long program from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

As faithful throughout the diocese prepare to close out the centennial year celebration of Our Lady of Fatima, the parish organized the event to provide a final opportunity to meditate on and celebrate the connections between Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

“I was born and raised in New Bedford,” Father Denault told The Anchor. “I was originally a parishioner at St. Anthony (of Padua), and then we later moved over to Sacred Heart Parish. I went to Sacred Heart School, then graduated and went to Bishop Stang High School, and then I went to college.”

Now living in Middletown, N.Y., where he serves as pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, about 12 minutes from the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Shrine, Father Denault is looking forward to returning to his former home and discussing his Marian devotion.

“It’s going to tie in with the closing of the Fatima centennial a little bit and the connections that the Carmelites have with Fatima,” Father Denault said. “During the final apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, when she appeared to them that last time, she appeared as Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

“One of the things we have is a statue that was designed by Sister Lucia, one of the seers, here in Middletown. It’s a statue that depicts the way she said Mary looked like — so we regard that statue very highly.”

Having been professed for 41 years and been ordained 37 years this month, Father Denault has worked as a hospital chaplain, parish priest, and Spiritual director. He was also involved in formation work for the Carmelite order for 19 years and served as Novice Master for 14 years before becoming pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish last year.

Father Denault said he will make three different presentations during the November 18 session.

“First, will be a talk on Carmelite Spirituality in general,” he said. “In the second talk we’ll discuss the connection with Our Lady of Fatima and the statue and how even the seers themselves were encouraged — for example, Sister Lucia became a Carmelite nun later on and she encouraged people to have a devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel; and then the third talk in the afternoon will be like a mini exposition on the Spirituality of St. John of the Cross and St. Therese of the Child Jesus, who are two great Carmelite saints.”

In contemplating the Fatima Centennial, Father Denault said it’s often difficult for people to grasp that these apparitions happened just 100 years ago.

“So much has happened in the last 100 years, but it’s really not that long ago — especially when you think about the rise and fall of communism around the same time,” he said. “In fact, one of the auxiliary bishops here in the Archdiocese of New York went to the shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and he pointed out a picture showing his uncle and his aunt at the scene of the last apparition and witnessing the Miracle of the Sun. So he had a living connection with the (event).”

While this past year has offered an ample opportunity for Marian devotions, for Father Denault one of the highlights of the Fatima Centennial would have to be the canonization of St. Jacinta and St. Francisco in May.

“I’m very happy (they) were canonized this year, and I’m sure Sister Lucia will be canonized at some point in the future,” he said. “I just think it will be a longer process and it takes a while sometimes.”

And even though the Fatima Centennial is coming to an end, you can expect Father Denault to continue “celebrating Mary.”

“As a Carmelite, I am devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary,” he said. “So we’re always celebrating her, whether it’s a centennial year or not.”

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