By Dave Jolivet
FALL RIVER — June 4 will be a day the Fall River Diocese hasn’t seen in 20 years. On that day, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., is scheduled to ordain four men to become priests for the Fall River Diocese. It is the largest ordination in the diocese in two decades.
“I’m encouraged that this is the largest ordination class that we have in 20 years,” Bishop da Cunha told The Anchor earlier, “adding that the number of men in formation to become permanent deacons is very good as well. I hope that’s a trend that will continue, but it’s going to take a lot of work to continue building our vocation efforts. We can’t be complacent about the need to promote vocations, because the need for priests still is very great.”The four men, all of whom attended St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, are: Deacons Matthew F. Laird, William O’Donnell III, Gregory Quenneville, and Laurent M. Valliere.
Deacon Matt is 29 years old and is the son of David and Kathleen Laird. The Lairds live in Sandwich. Deacon Matt has two younger sisters and his family are parishioners at Christ the King Parish in Mashpee (where his mother works for the parish). His parents sought to foster the living of the faith with their children and that has been a major part of Deacon Matt’s spiritual growth. Deacon Matt went to St. Francis Xavier Prep in Hyannis and then graduated in 2011 from Pope John Paul II High School in Hyannis. These schools also had a big impact on his growing in the knowledge and living of his faith. He was in the first graduating class of Pope St. John Paul II. Also, during that time, he went with others from his parish on a mission trip to Honduras and to see the joy, gratitude, and faith of the people there had a great impact on him and stirred the sense of a calling. He went to college where he got his degree in biology from College of the Holy Cross in 2015.
During his college years Deacon Matt was able to work an internship at St. John the Evangelist Church in Pocasset, which helped strengthen his sense that the Lord was calling as a priest. He entered St. John’s Seminary in Brighton where the formation has helped him grow. Due to some underlying health issues, Deacon Matt took a year away from the seminary to serve at Holy Family Church in East Taunton, which was a great blessing for him and the parishioners there. Like Deacon Larry Valliere, Deacon Matt has a gift for playing musical instruments and he is part of a jazz band with Deacon Larry and two priests which they call Vatican III. Last summer and on weekends throughout the year, Deacon Matt served at Our Lady of Grace Church and St. John the Baptist Church in Westport. He has finished his studies of theology at St. John’s Seminary.
“Bill, Greg, Larry and I have a strong friendship, one developed over many years of shared formation,” Deacon Matt told The Anchor regarding the upcoming ordination. “We are brothers in the truest sense. This makes the ordination day all the more meaningful. I look forward to seeing how our friendship, soon to be strengthened by a common consecration to Christ and to His Church, will continue to grow and evolve over our years together.
“I think I speak for the four of us when I say that we are very much looking forward to a full cathedral. Our diaconal ordination, still in the peak of Covid, was limited to immediate friends and family. Now with space regulations lifted, it will be so fulfilling to share the special moments with our ‘extended families’ if you will: the many parishioners and individuals who have journeyed with us in our path to the priesthood during our many summer assignments.”
“The four of us did not make it to this point on our own: each of our vocations was assisted by countless individuals who gave of their time, talent, and treasure to affirm us in our vocational journey. The fact that this is the largest ordination class in 20 years speaks volumes of the generosity of God’s people here in the Diocese of Fall River and is a shining light of hope for the future.”
Deacon O’Donnell is a 44 year-old from Harwich and is the son of William and Patty O’Donnell. His home parish is Holy Trinity Church in West Harwich. Deacon Bill has a younger brother and a younger sister. His parents had run a restaurant (A&W) on the Cape for a number of years until after his father died in 2015. Deacon Bill was raised in the Catholic faith and while at Harwich High School his faith grew much stronger after a powerful experience on an ECHO retreat. He has been involved with the ECHO retreats on the Cape ever since. He graduated from Harwich High School in 1996, and afterward went to Stonehill College where he graduated.
Over the years he grew in his faith through prayer, the sacraments, and especially through the Mass, he said. Friends and priests encouraged Deacon Bill to consider the priesthood. After a journey of discerning a calling, wavering back and forth about when to enter the seminary, then having to care for the family business after his father’s death, he took the leap of pursuing the priesthood and entered St. John’s Seminary in Brighton. Deacon Bill served at Holy Family Church in East Taunton this last year and he has finished his studies of theology at St. John’s Seminary.
Deacon Greg, 37, grew up in South Attleboro and is a parishioner of St. Theresa’s Church in South Attleboro. He has an older sister and younger sister. His parents are Donald and Elizabeth Quenneville. His family is very close and supportive. Greg graduated from Attleboro High School in 2003 and received his associates degree from Massasoit Community College, his Bachelor of Science in psychology from University of Massachusetts in 2007 and his Masters in Social Work from Rhode Island College in 2012. Deacon Greg was a psychologist working in Brockton for the Veterans Association.
After college, he said, his Catholic faith became much greater. His sense of a calling to the priesthood intensified beginning in Lent of 2014, especially through his experience of attending daily Mass. In his profession of counseling people, he said he also discovered the joy of working and guiding different personalities and age groups and is comfortable with the thought of carrying this out as a priest. He said he is grateful to the many who have supported him seeking to enter the seminary and becoming a priest. Deacon Greg entered St. John’s Seminary in Brighton. Throughout this last year he has served at St. Mary’s Church in South Dartmouth. He has finished his studies of theology at St. John’s Seminary.
“My time in the seminary has been very positive. The seminary provides an opportunity to grow in the knowledge and love for the faith,” Deacon Greg told The Anchor. “It is a time of personal transformation where you come to recognize what is truly important and the specific way that God has called you to serve the Church. When approaching an extraordinary moment in life, such as the ordination to the priesthood, it seems natural to look back. To look back at how my understanding of the priesthood has changed and my relationship with God has matured. To consider how God has always planned for this moment even when I didn’t realize it.
“One of the many graces of being ordained is that it allows for the opportunity to look back and recall the various ways that God has been working in your life to prepare you for this most profound moment. The moment when you resolve to become more fully incorporated into living life as the man that God has created you to be.
“It has been a pleasure to be apart of this ordination class. It has been a great blessing to prepare for the priesthood with my three classmates. We have gone through the transformative years in the seminary together which is something that I will always value.”
Deacon Larry is 40 years old and originally from West Warwick, R.I. He is a parishioner of St. Stanislaus Parish in Fall River. Deacon Larry is the only child of Laurent and Maureen Valliere. He grew up having his parents foster his faith, but in his teens years he discovered his heart was focused more on music and playing instruments. Deacon Larry graduated from Tollgate High School in Warwick, R.I. in 1999 and graduated from Fairfield University in 2003 with a BA in religious studies. In his college years he drifted away from the living of his faith, but when he was hired to teach at Bishop Stang High School, his faith was rekindled.
In that period of teaching at Stang his awareness of the need for grace and love for the Lord deepened, he said. Over the years he had a growing sense that the Lord was calling him to be a priest. He entered St. John’s Seminary and after a few years he took some time away from the seminary because, he said, the clarity of the calling to the priesthood was not there. He returned to teaching high school. After teaching for a few years he still had that sense the Lord was still calling. He returned to seminary. He still fosters his talent for music and along with Deacon Matt as they are part of the (soon to be complete) clergy jazz band Vatican III where Deacon Larry plays the bass guitar. Deacon Larry served last summer at St. Francis Xavier Church in Acushnet and through the last year served weekends at Holy Name Church in Fall River. He has finished his studies of theology at St. John’s Seminary.
“I tell everyone that, please God, we will have four new priests this year and four more next year,” Deacon Laurent told The Anchor. “It is a blessed time for the Diocese of Fall River, indeed. The deacons and seminarians are so very thankful for all of the prayers, rosaries, holy hours, and all of the support for vocations. My ability to say ‘yes’ to God’s call has been facilitated by the prayers of the people.”
The biographical information came from the diocesan Vocations Office.