FALL RIVER — In a Mass on the cusp of Pentecost, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V. ordained four men as transitional deacons, taking them one step closer to becoming priests for the Fall River Diocese. The four men, Matthew F. Laird, William J. O’Donnell III, Gregory K. Quenneville and Laurent M. Valliere, will be entering their fourth year of seminary studies at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton this fall and are scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood for the diocese sometime in 2022.

From left, Reverend Misters Laurent Valliere, Gregory Quenneville, William O’Donnell III, and Matthew Laird kneel while the bishop says the consecratory prayer at their ordination Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral on May 22. (Photo by Deacon Alan Thadeu)

At the Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fall River on May 22, the bishop rejoiced at the fact that it has been 20 years since the diocese last ordained four men at the same ceremony. “That is a source of great joy,” said the bishop to the socially distanced gathering that included priests, deacons, seminarians and families of those being ordained. “How wonderful it is on the eve of the feast of Pentecost. Today the Holy Spirit is given to you in the Sacrament of Ordination, so that you, too, maybe empowered to share the Good News of Christ to your brothers and sisters.

“As the Apostles were selected, chosen, gifted and empowered for the mission, you also have been selected, chosen and have been given your ‘yes.’ So we want to thank you for having accepted the Lord’s call to become servants of the Gospel. It is the Lord Who called you, Who chose you, and selected you for this ministry.”

The bishop told the men not to be afraid to be themselves, to be human, vulnerable and imperfect. “Power comes from God, not from us,” he reminded them.

“Your generous response will bring joy to you and many fruits to the mission of the Church here in the Diocese of Fall River. Your generous response will bring joy to you and to all you serve.”

At the conclusion of the joyous event, Bishop da Cunha told the congregation the fact that four men were just ordained shows “God is blessing us. He never abandoned us and never will.”

Looking at his “four sons,” the bishop said, “Well, we made it, right? My dear deacons; Matt, Bill, Greg and Larry, what a joy it has been, what a blessing for our diocese.”

The bishop also thanked the parents of the men for allowing them to become deacons for the diocese to spread the Gospel message.

Laird, 28, is the son of David and Kathleen Laird. He lives in Sandwich and his family are parishioners of Christ the King Parish in Mashpee. Laird is a 2011 graduate of Pope John Paul II High School in Hyannis. He received a degree in biology from College of the Holy Cross in Worcester in 2015.

During his college years Laird 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 him to the priesthood. He entered St. John’s Seminary in Brighton where the formation has helped him grow. Due to some underlying health issues, Laird 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 Valliere, Laird has a gift for playing musical instruments and he is part of a jazz band with Valliere and two priests which they call Vatican III.

O’Donnell III is the son of Patty O’Donnell and the late William O’Donnell Jr. O’Donnell hails from Harwich, with his home parish being Holy Trinity in West Harwich. O’Donnell is 41 years old. After graduating from Harwich High School, he attended Stonehill College in Easton, receiving a BA in marketing in 2000.

Over the years O’Donnell had grown in his faith through prayer, the Sacraments, and especially through the Mass. He also took some classes in the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization in Boston in 2012. Over the years friends and priests have encouraged O’Donnell to consider the priesthood and to listen to the Lord to see if He was calling. After a journey of sensing the calling, stepping towards the call but then struggling with taking the step to enter the seminary, then having to care for the family business after his father’s death, he then took the leap of pursuing the priesthood and entered St. John’s Seminary. 

Quenneville is from South Attleboro and his home parish is St. Therese of the Child Jesus in South Attleboro. Quenneville, 36, is the son of Donald and Elizabeth Quenneville. A graduate of Attleboro High School, he later went on to receive an associates degree from Massasoit Community College in Brockton; a bachelor of science degree in psychology from the University of  Massachusetts, Amherst, in 2007; and his masters in social work from Rhode Island College in Providence, R.I.

Quenneville worked in Brockton for the Veterans Association. After college is when 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. Also in his profession of counseling people, he has discovered the joy of working and guiding many different personalities and in different age groups and is very comfortable with the thought of carrying this out as a priest. Many have supported Quenneville seeking to enter the seminary and becoming a priest. He has a strong certitude that the Lord is calling him and embraced the call and entered seminary

Valliere, 39, the son of Laurent and Maureen Valliere, is originally from West Warwick, R.I. He is a parishioner of St. Stanislaus Parish, part of the Catholic Community of Central Fall River. Valliere is a 1999 graduate of Tollgate High School in Warwick, R.I. In 2003, he graduated from Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn., with a BA in religious studies.

Over the years Valliere had that 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 as the clarity of the calling to the priesthood was not there and he returned to teaching high school, for which Valliere has a gift. After teaching for a few years, he still had that sense the Lord was still calling and by God’s grace the strengthening of the call came and he returned to studying for the priesthood. He still fosters his talent for music and along with Laird as they are part of the (soon to be complete) clergy jazz band Vatican III where Valliere plays the bass guitar. 

Father Kevin Cook diocesan director of Vocations contributed to this story.