FALL RIVER — Facing serious challenges including a steady decline in Mass attendance, mounting debt, and an unanticipated loss of outside income, St. Bernadette Parish in Fall River will close in August.
According to a press release from the Bishop, the decision was conveyed to parishioners in a letter from Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., that was read at all Masses this past weekend (May 26-27).
The bishop recounted that a Parish Planning Team along with parish priest Father James Fitzpatrick had presented to parishioners at a March assembly the numbers that indicated the strain on parish finances and reflected the steady decline in Mass attendance and sacramental participation.
It was also explained that parish offertory giving makes up only one-third of needed revenue for St. Bernadette Parish to operate and maintain its facilities with the remainder of support coming from bingo proceeds and rental income from the YMCA for its use of a parish building.
“And a few weeks ago we learned that the YMCA had lost their grant and would need to shut down their program resulting in the loss of $66,000 in annual income,” shared Bishop da Cunha in his letter.
“It is the culmination of these many challenges that brings us to where we are today – having to make the most difficult of decisions, to move toward closing St. Bernadette.”
Bishop da Cunha will join parishioners for a final Mass there on August 5th.
“I want you to know that I do not take this difficult decision lightly,” wrote the bishop. “My heart carries the weight of your sadness in this loss too.”
At the direction of the bishop, diocesan planning facilitators will meet with the Parish Planning Team to discuss opportunities for parishioners to come together in prayer and fellowship to celebrate all that the parish has accomplished and to look forward with anticipation to opportunities that lie ahead.
“As your Bishop, I will walk this road to new life with you,” Bishop da Cunha said. “We will find a way that we can keep YOU, the beautiful people of St. Bernadette, and your important ministries alive and vibrant.”
St. Bernadette Parish, located in Fall River’s Flint area, was formed in 2012 from the merger of the neighboring Notre Dame de Lourdes and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Parishes.
In related news, parishioners from St. Stanislaus, Good Shepherd, St. Anthony of Padua, and St Anne’s will be meeting on June 10 to see if they can improve finances and share resources to help the churches survive.