By Dave Jolivet
TAUNTON — Much has changed at Annunciation of the Lord Parish over the last century-and-a-half, including two pandemics and a merger, and now sharing a weekend Mass schedule with a neighboring town’s parish. One fact that hasn’t changed, however, is the faith and resiliency of the Catholics who have attended holy Mass and other events there since 1873.
On April 22, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., along with six current and former priests of Sacred Heart Parish, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish and Annunciation of the Lord Parish, celebrated a Mass in thanksgiving for the 150th anniversary.
Following the Mass nearly 200 parishioners gathered for a reception and dinner.
In 1832, St. Mary’s Church was established and fulfilled the need for Taunton Catholics for nearly 50 years. But it was obvious a new parish was needed to adjust for the increasing city population.
In 1873 Sacred Heart Parish was established. Since the Diocese of Fall River was not yet a reality, the church was originally part of the then-Diocese of Boston. In 1874, it became part of the newly founded Diocese of Providence. .
Slightly more than 30 years later, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish became a reality in 1905, a year after Pope Pius X established the Fall River Diocese.
Sacred Heart Parish (1873) and Our Lady of Lourdes Parish (1905) both thrived and became entrenched in the lives of Catholics in Taunton for decades, including weathering two global pandemics — in 1918 and 2020.
Both parishes experienced a number of improvements and enhancements to their respective structures, including the construction of sturdy and functional new churches. And both parishes established parish schools — Sacred Heart School, staffed by Sisters of the Holy Union; and Our Lady of Lourdes School, run by the Sisters of Mercy.
The City of Taunton experienced many changes over the years as well. The arrival of several ethnic populations; the rise and fall of many businesses; and the ebb and flow of its population.
Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Lourdes parishes adapted with the times and the changes and remained essential places of worship for countless Taunton area faithful.
Sadly, in 1972, Sacred Heart School had to close its doors when the Holy Union Sisters could no longer remain committed to staffing it.
As is often the case in inner cities across the diocese and the country, changes in demographics and a decreasing priest population made it difficult to sustain some parishes.
On June 21, 2001, the Diocese of Fall River merged Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Lourdes parishes to create a new Annunciation of the Lord Parish.
The three parishes have had many dedicated and faithful priests leading the flocks there. Father David Deston, the current Parochial Administrator, succeeds a plethora priests committed to the parish faithful.
A recent parish history compiled by sacristan Phil Cronan concludes with, “We are a venerable part of the Taunton Catholic community, yet we are forever young as each new generation discovers the love of God revealed in His Divine Son, the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As we look to our future together, we are confident that His love will sustain us.”