New date for annual anniversary Mass ushers in an assortment of Faith Formation programs

By Becky Aubut
Anchor Staff


FALL RIVER, Mass. — Usually held in October, this year’s Anniversary Mass is being held on the last Sunday in September, on September 24, at the Cathedral in Fall River, 327 Second Street, at 3 p.m., and the staff at the Office of Faith Formation of the Fall River Diocese hopes the new date will see the same large number of attendants as years past.

“We kick off our catechetical year [with the Anniversary Mass],” said Claire McManus, director of the Office of Faith Formation. “The bishop’s schedule was tight in October. The only date that would work was in September. The bishop does such a good job acknowledging their commitment to Marriage. They renew their vows. We have couples that come back every year. It’s a really moving experience to watch people renew their vows.”

Any couple who has a significant anniversary this year should go see their pastor for an invitation. The pastors will then send in the names to Rose Mary Saraiva, events coordinator for the Office of Faith Fomration. A packet is put together for each couple, including a certificate signed by Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V.

“We’ve been averaging around 100 couples every year,” said Saraiva. “People forget that a significant anniversary is anything that a couple feels has been a milestone in their life. A couple might hit eight years and might have struggled for two. They didn’t think they were going to make it to eight, so for them eight is a significant year. It’s a nice, upbeat event.”

The Scripture Alive 2017 schedule, facilitated by Sister Frances Thomas, R.S.M., has been posted. This year’s focus in on the “Our Father,” and space is limited. One session is held on Tuesdays, September 12 to October 17, from 10 a.m. to noon at St. John Neumann Parish in East Freetown. A second session is on Wednesdays, September 13 to October 18, from 10 a.m. to noon at Office of Faith Formation, Catholic Education Center in Fall River.

Each six-week course costs $20 and covers the expense of the resource book, workbook and other materials. Deadline for registration is one week prior to the start of the first session. To register, call the Office of Faith Formation: 508-678-2828.

Adult Confirmation classes begin September 19 and 20. Adult Catholics, age 18 or over, who have been Baptized, received First Communion, and are practicing their faith but have not celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation are invited to participate in a diocesan preparation program. Interested adults must inform the pastor or a member of their parish staff in their home parish that they wish to prepare for the Sacrament. They will then be advised of the process for this preparation and what is required of them as a Confirmation candidate. 

The preparation program in the Diocese of Fall River involves six class sessions and a retreat day. The diocesan adult Confirmation conferrals take place twice a year — once in the Fall and once during the Easter season. For more information, contact Deacon Bruce Bonneau, assistant director of the office, at 508-678-2828.

Bereavement Support Group sessions are from September 26 to November 7. This is a support group to help people cope with the loss of a loved one. The basis of the group is to allow individuals to share their experiences, feelings, and emotions with others who are on the very same journey. The group meets on Tuesdays at the Catholic Education Center, 423 Highland Avenue, Fall River. There is no fee to participate. If you are interested in joining the group or would like more information, please call 508-678-2828, ext. 27 or 508-642-0583, or email: or

This year’s Faith Formation Ministry Convention, “Becoming a Parish of Intentional Disciples,” will be held at the Holiday Inn in Taunton on November 4, with morning Mass with Bishop da Cunha.

The theme of the convention is based on the book, “Forming Intentional Disciples,” by Sherry A. Weddell. Weddell created the first charism discernment process specifically designed for Catholics in 1993, and in 1997, she co-founded the “Catherine of Sienna Institute,” an affiliated international ministry of the Western Dominican Province. 

Katherine Coolidge, who joined the Institute staff in 2014, and brings more than two decades of parish ministry as catechist, program coordinator, youth minister, director of evangelizations, Liturgist and pastoral associate, will be the part of the general sessions/workshops at the Faith Formation Ministry Convention.

“She’s one of the contributors to the book,” said McManus. “We’ve asked her to change the format so that it fits into our convention. What she’s doing is fitting it into our time blocks. Her sessions can go until 4:00, and the usual way is for people to do a personal discernment, then she talks about how you bring it into the parish — very interactive. 

“So what she’s going to do in the first [session] block, she’s going to talk about how to form intentional disciples through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, and then for the second [session block] she’ll do how to become a parish of intentional disciples, and then the third one she’ll talk about how to use Lectio Divina on how to form intentional disciples.”

Additional presenters are Father Tom Washburn’s workshop on relational ministry with youth, and Susan Kay, who is sponsored by Sadlier, and will do two workshops, one for beginning catechists, and another which will help catechists with their time management while teaching.

Barbara Domingue, executive director of Community Autism Resources — — is another convention presenter: “I had her come in June to do a presentation with the DREs, along with my daughter, Erin McLoughlin, who has done workshops in the past,” said McManus. “The two of them worked so well together. When I saw the practical things that Barbara presented, [I knew] we needed more of our catechists to have this opportunity, so I asked just Barbara to come. The whole workshop is an overview on how to work with children who have special needs. This one will be just for catechists to give them practical tools to use. Barbara is a great resource.”

This year the convention will offer translation services for Spanish-speaking participants; when registering for the convention, please note if translation services will be needed. 

A Brazilian community will also be benefiting from the upcoming convention: “We have a Brazilian apostolate, which is currently worshipping and teaching at Holy Rosary in Taunton with permission from the bishop,” said Deacon Bonneau. “They started last fall, and it’s become a relatively large community. I’ve been working with them, along with the bishop, and I was speaking with their lead catechist about adult Faith Formation. I told him about the convention, and asked if he thought it would be worthwhile to have some workshops for his people.”

The lead catechist supported the idea, and Deacon Bonneau said he was still working on topics for the convention.

Many of the programs at the Office of Faith Formation can’t run without volunteers. The office’s Marriage ministry program actually goes from preparing engaged couples to celebrating their anniversaries, “so it’s a full circle here,” said McManus.

The office’s Marriage Prep Program is a positive ministry run by volunteer couples who share their Marriage and their faith, and is in desperate need for married couples to come forward and be part of the ministry of Marriage Prep and Remarriage Prep. McManus said young and old couples, from all deaneries, are welcome. Each prep program has sessions held in Attleboro, New Bedford and the Cape, and each couple will stay in one deanery while taking part in four to five sessions per year.

 “I really credit these volunteers,” said McManus. “They do such a good job talking to the couples about what they’re going to face when they’re married, and also putting a positive face on Marriage.”

For those interested in volunteering for Marriage Prep or Remarriage Prep, contact Claire McManus at the Office of Faith Formation via email:

For more information on any of the programs covered in this article, contact the office at 508-678-2828, or

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