FALL RIVER, Mass. — The Fall River Diocese is mourning the loss of Father John J. Perry, 62, pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Centerville and Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Osterville, who passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, February 11 in Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River.
Born in Fall River, the son of the late John and Marie C. (Carvalho) Perry, he was a graduate of Bishop Connolly High School in Fall River. A native of Holy Rosary Parish in Fall River, Father Perry studied at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton and was ordained a priest on June 11, 1983 by Bishop Daniel A. Cronin in St. Mary’s Cathedral.
Father Paul A. Caron, pastor of St. Pius X Parish in South Yarmouth, was ordained the same year and was a classmate of Father Perry.
“I have known John since 1978 when I went into the seminary,” Father Caron told The Anchor. “From then even to this day, he has always been a level-headed and kind pastoral person. He was always even-tempered and a comfort to be around. And in his own sublime way, he had an amazing sense of humor. He was always understated, but always present during a conversation. He was never afraid to give an opinion, but always respectful.”
“It was very shocking, disorienting, and just kind of all of a sudden,” said Father Matthew Gill, who has served alongside Father Perry as parochial vicar for the past year-and-a-half. “It’s definitely a big loss. He was a very big presence. He just had a great way about him. It was more than just being agreeable and pleasant — he was a wonderful person and a good priest. He was definitely a real Spiritual father to me and many other priests. I think that’s what is so painful about this loss.”
Father Caron shared how Father Perry was very handy in dealing with the church properties under his pastoral care.
“He could probably re-wire or re-plumb any house and have a great time doing it,” Father Caron said. “He was also a great source of information on the latest in technology and gadgets — although he was not a huge fan of smartphones!”
In fact, Father Gill fondly recalled getting a lesson in how to fix an electrical socket from Father Perry.
“I remember he said: ‘Did you want to come over to church and give me a hand? I need to look at an electrical outlet.’ I didn’t really know much about it,” Father Gill told The Anchor. “So, we get in there and he’s pulling out the socket, and asking me for tools, and I’m standing by, and he was finagling with different wires and I started to think: ‘Oh my goodness, what have I gotten myself into?’ But he certainly did love electrical things, mechanical things, all of the above. And he was very good with that kind of thing.”
Over the years, Father Caron said he remained good friends with Father Perry and they were recently in touch as they both were dealing with medical issues.
“John and I spoke the day before I had foot surgery on January 21 and he was four days away from having his own surgery,” Father Caron said. “I called him several days after his surgery to check up on him and he was doing fine. We both talked about our own recoveries … and he was looking forward to going to the doctor to have all the tubes taken out of him. Unfortunately, God had other plans for him.”
Father Perry served as parochial vicar at Holy Name Parish in New Bedford and Our Lady of Victory Parish in Centerville before being named pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish in Fall River in 1996. In 2006 he was named pastor of St. Jacques and Immaculate Conception parishes in Taunton, which later became St. Jude the Apostle Parish in 2007. In June 2014, Father Perry was appointed pastor of Our Lady of Victory and Our Lady of the Assumption parishes.
“He was beloved by so many here,” said Father Jay Mello, pastor of St. Joseph and St. Michael parishes in Fall River. “I can speak on behalf of all the parishioners here in Fall River where Father Perry served for 10 years as pastor in expressing our complete shock and tremendous sadness. While there are so many broken hearts here, there are also beautiful memories of a dedicated and compassionate priest who loved his priesthood, his parish and those whom he served.”
Father Mello recalled when he was first appointed pastor at St. Joseph’s Parish, Father Perry was one of the first persons to call and congratulate him.
“He offered not only his congratulations and his support, but also advice and the willingness to help with any questions I might have as a new pastor,” Father Mello said. “I still remember him telling me how much he loved his time here at St. Joseph’s.”
Deacon Robert Faria of St. John of God Parish in Somerset fondly remembered his time with Father Perry in Taunton.
“He was a wonderful priest and he did a great job merging the former Immaculate Conception and St. Jacques churches in Taunton to become St. Jude Parish,” Deacon Faria said. “He was always friendly and helpful to all.”
Seminarian Matthew Laird remembered Father Perry as a “kind and gentle soul.”
“He was a great supporter of me and would always be willing to talk when we were together for some diocesan function,” Laird said. “He was very hospitable to our band, Vatican III, when we did a show at his parish last year, inviting us all over to the rectory after the show. It was inspiring to see the positive dynamic between him and Father Matthew Gill as they worked together.”
“I remember one of my first weeks here, he said: ‘I think my job is to train you how to be a pastor. I think that’s my job,’” Father Gill agreed. “He just had a real practical sense of wisdom about him. I would bounce things off of him very often, and he was very good at giving advice.
“Sometimes, I would tell him this is what I did today, and he’d say: ‘That’s right, that’s exactly what you should have done.’ But other times he would say: ‘You know, maybe next time you might want to think about this or consider it from this angle.’ And later on, I would think, that’s a good way of looking at it! He was just very practical about things.”
In addition to serving as director of Diocesan Cemeteries, Father Perry’s other diocesan assignments have included being the director of Continuing Formation for Clergy; chaplain to two police departments as well as to Cape Cod Community College and the Daughters of Isabella in New Bedford; and auditor of the diocesan Marriage Tribunal. He was also a Third-Degree Member of the Knights of Columbus, Council No. 2525 in Hyannis.
Father Perry is survived by his sister, Nancy M. Blythe and her husband Kevin of Fall River; two brothers, Michael L. Perry and his wife Melissa of Somerset and Robert J. Perry and his wife Catherine of Fall River; nieces and nephew, Kory Marie Silva, Nina Blythe, Jenna, Robyn, Rachel and Michael Perry; two great nieces, Merilyn and Margaret Silva and a cousin, Lisa Carvalho.
“I feel horrible for his family and for his parish families of Our Lady of Victory, where he spent so many years as an associate and as a pastor, and also for the people of Our Lady of the Assumption in Osterville,” Father Caron said. “This is going to be very difficult for them. I pray for him and his family. May God give them consolation and John the reward of his great life in eternal rest!”
“I think the people of Centerville and the people of Osterville and in West Barnstable, they just had a love for their priest,” Father Gill added. “And I know he had a love for them. I think that’s some of the greatest praise that you can give a priest: he loved his people and they loved him very much, and God was able to work through him for the years that he was here.”
Father Perry’s Mass of Christian Burial was held February 17 at St. Joseph Church, with burial following at St. Patrick’s Cemetery, both in Fall River.
Memorial contributions in his honor may be made to the St. Vincent de Paul Societies of St. Joseph’s Parish in Fall River or Our Lady of Victory Parish in Centerville.
For online tributes, please visit www.waring-sullivan.com.