Texas hospital chapel keeps Fall River priest’s legacy alive


By Dave Jolivet
Anchor Editor
davejolivet@anchornews.org

EDINBURG, Texas — It was a journey that began on Pitman Street in Fall River in 1933, traveled to Cathedral Camp in East Freetown, two New Bedford parishes, and ended in Edinburg, Texas in 2017. It was also a journey that could well be forgotten as time passes, but for a plaque in a hospital chapel keeping the memory and legacy of a Fall River priest alive for many years to come.

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That priest was Msgr. Agostinho S. Pacheco, affectionately known as Father Gus, a Fall River native, ordained as a priest for the Diocese of Fall River on Jan. 30, 1960 by Bishop James L. Connolly.

Nine years later, then-Bishop Humberto Medeiros, another Fall River Diocese native, requested Father Gus’ assistance in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, along with several other Massachusetts priests, including diocesan native Father Joseph P. Delaney, later to become the second-ever bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas.

The Oct. 30, 1969 edition of The Anchor said Father Pacheco “has been granted permission to work on a temporary basis in the Diocese of Brownsville.” Father Gus didn’t return to the Fall River Diocese, instead leaving a lasting, loving impression on the diocese on the border of the U.S. and Mexico.

The good works of Msgr. Pacheco may have faded into memory, especially in his native Fall River, but for an area businessman who received an email from a friend living in McAllen, Texas, within the Browsville Diocese. Steve Nasiff, owner of Nasiff Fruit Company and a parishioner of St. Anthony of the Desert Parish in Fall River, told The Anchor, “I have a friend in McAllen who noticed a plaque mounted in the chapel at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg, Texas. It was celebrating the life of a priest from Fall River, Father Pacheco.

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“I felt it was important to share the story with people up here. It’s a good story of a good man, who went to a place that could well have been described as another country.”

Nasiff continued, “Back in 1969 the area was very,  very rural with many people of Mexican descent, and Father Pacheco fit right in and the people there loved him. I’m so proud of that priest from Fall River.”

Following his ordination at St. Mary’s Cathedral in 1960, Father Gus served at Immaculate Conception Parish in New Bedford for seven years, later going to St. John the Baptist Parish in the same city.

In 1969 then-Bishop Medeiros of Brownsville requested Father Gus’ services in extreme southern Texas.

Bishop Medeiros, who would later become Cardinal Medeiros, had worked as chancellor of the Fall River Diocese, so he was aware of the skills and holiness of Father Pacheco.

Father Pacheco was a classmate of Father Delaney, retired Father Martin L. Buote, and the late Msgr. John F. Moore and Msgr. John J. Steakem. “I remember Bishop Medeiros asking Father Pacheco to go to Texas,” Father Buote told The Anchor. “I had two classmates go there to help, Father Pacheco and Father Delaney.”

Father Pacheco’s first assignment in Texas was in the Rio Grande Valley at St. Anthony Parish in Halingen. He moved a few more times before founding Holy Spirit Parish in McAllen, where he stayed for several years as the fledgling parish grew.

Father Pacheco was eventually transferred to Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in McAllen where he ministered for the last 14 years of active service, and seven in retirement.

While at Our Lady of Sorrows, Father Pacheco led a large congregation and the city’s only Catholic elementary school with more than 500 students. Added to that, Father Pacheco oversaw the building of new 1,100-seat church building and office complex.

Father Pacheco was elevated to the status of monsignor by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

When Father Pacheco retired in 2007 he began chaplain duties at Doctors Hospital in Renaissance in Edinburg. During those seven final years of his life, the young boy from Pitman Street in Fall River added to his legacy by touching the hearts and souls of many people, often at the lowest times in their lives.

During Father Pacheco’s funeral in 2017, at the church he helped build, pastor Msgr. Gustavo Barrera said, “We are grateful to Msgr. Pacheco who left his home, his family, his friends to start a new life among folks he had never met.”

Father Pacheco had asked Msgr. Barrera to assist him at his first assignment in Harlingen. “Usually folks tell a visiting priest all the dirt — there was none that I heard,” said Msgr. Barrera during the funeral. “They even mentioned that his Spanish was improving. And I thought to myself, I think that their Portuguese was improving.”

Msgr. Barrera continued, “The list of his accomplishments  is extensive. When he retired in 2007 he had every right to put up his feet and enjoy rest and relaxation but he chose to work as a hospital chaplain, a responsibility that he fulfilled almost until his death.

“Msgr. Pacheco leaves big shoes to fill. He has finished the race, fought the good fight and is enjoying the promise to the good and faithful servant.”

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On the plaque in the hospital chapel bearing his name, Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville is quoted, “He was from Fall River, Massachusetts, coming all this way. It might as well have been another country in some ways, but he came with a great priestly love in his heart. He served in this diocese for 48 years. He persevered in his faith, in the love that God has for us and that is our hope, so let’s take his example to heart.

“When I was newly-arrived at the diocese, never been here before, you quickly learn who the legends are. Monsignor was a legend, towering in a certain way.”

The plaque also reads, “As a chaplain priest he served all patients, regardless of their religious preference. Msgr. Pacheco was a true server of God until the end of his life.”

Perhaps the most accurate measure of the man was painted by those whom he touched.

When Msgr. Pacheco died in 2017, the Facebook page of Our Lady of Sorrows School in McAllen was flooded with nearly 300 messages — some of which read:

“RIP Father Gus, you were a big part of my childhood in the Church.”

“He will be greatly missed at Doctors Hospital. Thank you for your kind words, thank you for helping the needy, thank you for your blessings. I’m truly grateful to work alongside this very wise man.”

“Rest now monsignor. You always taught us to live a good life and be ready. Vaya con Dios!”

“Father Gus, thank you from the bottom of my aching heart.”

“One of the best priests who knows how to make people hold onto faith as I did. Rest in peace Father. And glory to God in Heaven.”

Msgr. Agostinho S. Pacheco, the lad from Pitman Street in Fall River and the student at Espirito Santo School, will be long-remembered in the Rio Grande Valley area in Texas for a long time.

But in his native Fall River, sometimes being so far removed can cause people to forget.

In Msgr. Gus’ case, that won’t happen — thanks to a simple plaque in a Texas hospital chapel, and the wherewithal of a friend to text the image to where the simple man of God had his start.

A Mass of Christian Burial was also celebrated for Msgr. Pacheco at Espirito Santo Church in Fall River, and he is buried at St. Patrick Cemetery there.


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