FALL RIVER — Hosted by Knights of Columbus at St. Anthony of the Desert Parish in Fall River, the Fall River Area First Friday Club, the longest running First Friday Club in the U.S., is going to be starting up on November 5, following a lengthy period of no meetings due to our two-year Pandemic. The first meeting is at St. Anthony of the Desert, 300 North Eastern Ave, Fall River. Adoration and Confessions are from 5- 6 p,m. with Mass at 6 p.m., followed by a meal and a guest speaker.
This month’s meal is a pasta dinner with meatballs, salad and desert. Good will offering for the meal. Jean Revil is our guest speaker. RSVP by November 1. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; St. Anthony’s rectory: 508-672-7653.
The club is a group of Catholic men and women that continue to honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the First Friday tradition.
Recently deceased Clem Dowling is credited with being the driving force that created this club in 1947. From 1947-1961 the club was an activity of the Knights of Columbus, Council 86. Now 60 years later it is again Hosted by the Knights of Columbus. It is important to note that by tradition, no matter what parish hosted, the evening always ended each year with a Mass at St. Anthony of the Desert.
Msgr. Felix Childs was the chief recruiter of new members from approximately 1947-1963. He was certainly the club’s true “Spiritual Father.”
The reason it is the longest continuous running First Friday Club in the U.S. is the simplicity of the meetings; beginning with a Mass at 6 p.m., followed by a hot meal, then a top notch guest speaker. Attendees are often home by 8 p.m. Where else can one go out before 6 p.m. and be home by 8 p.m.?
It has been blessed with great speakers, such as newly-ordained Humberto Medeiros in 1947, later to become Cardinal Medeiros, and in 1949 Father James Keller, founder of the Christopher’s. When Father James Keller spoke in 1949 the club had to meet in the Hotel Mellon for the need of space. About 500 men attended that event.
Past speakers include bishops such as Bishop Jeremiah Minihan, James Connolly, Daniel Cronin, Sean O’Malley (later to become Cardinal O’Malley), Louis Gelineau, Chorbishop Norman Ferris, George Coleman, and Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V.
Bristol Community College President John Sbrega was a recent guest speaker, as was Ronald Correia, Northeastern states vice president of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and the Diocese of Fall River President of the Society; Richard Lafrance, CEO of Lafrance Hospitality, a national hospitality enterprise; Rev. Robert Lawrence; and Bishop da Cunha were the most recent speakers.
Sports figures such as Boston Red Sox players Walt Dropo, Russ Gibson, Dick Radatz, Jerry Remy and retired professional baseball umpire Jim Duffy have been guest speakers.
Public figures have included state representatives, a state senator, mayors, several school superintendents, and former Ambassador William Porter.
Two former school superintendents are active members: Jim Gibney and Joe Martins. Robert Nagle, another school superintendent, was club president in the 1980s. Norman Valiquette has been the longest serving president of the First Friday Club.