By Dave Jolivet

SOUTH DARTMOUTH — While most of us are trying to find ways to keep cool during the dog days of August, 11 men, each in various stages of their priestly study and formation, are preparing to head back to class and  working at parish assignments across the Diocese of Fall River.

Each of the 11 are studying and gaining parish experience to eventually become priests for the diocese.

Four of the men, all entering fourth Theology at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton shortly, will attend school in the fall during the week and work at parishes on weekends.

Deacon Matt Laird, 28,  is a Sandwich resident, who along with his mom, Kathleen, dad, David and two younger sisters are parishioners of Christ the King Parish in Mashpee. Kathleen also works at the parish.

Deacon Laird spent this past summer interning at St. John the Baptist and Our Lady of Grace parishes in Westport.

He attended St. Francis Xavier Preparatory School in Hyannis and went on to St. John Paul II High School, also in Hyannis.

Besides his family, both schools made a big impact on his faith life, as did a trip to the then-diocesan mission in Guaimaca, Honduras. Deacon Laird went to Holy Cross College in Worcester, earning a degree in biology.

Deacon Bill O’Donnell, 41, hails from Harwich, where he, his mom, Patty, dad, William, and a younger brother and sister, were parishioners at Holy Trinity Parish in West Harwich. Sadly, his dad passed away in 2015.

While attending Harwich High School, he attended an ECHO retreat on the Cape that left a lasting impact on him. He is still involved with the program. He also attended Stonehill College, graduating with a BA in marketing.

During the upcoming academic year, he will assist at Holy Family Parish in East Taunton on weekends.

Deacon Gregory Quenneville, 36, grew up in South Attleboro, a parishioner of St. Theresa’s Parish there. His family, mom, Elizabeth, dad, Donald and two sisters, have been very supportive of his decision to enter seminary.

Deacon Quenneville attended Attleboro High School and went on to Massasoit Community College in Brockton, earning a degree in psychology. He received his master’s in social work from UMass. Before his entering seminary, he was a social worker working at the Veterans Administration in Brockton.

His summer days were spent at St. Mary’s Parish in South Dartmouth. Deacon Quenneville said that working as a counselor with people helped him realize the great joy of helping and supporting all kinds of men, women and children, leading him to enter seminary.

“My time in the seminary has been overwhelmingly positive,” he told The Anchor. “I have enjoyed the opportunity to study Catholic Theology in detail to come to understand more deeply the teachings of the Church in order to be able to bring the faith to others. The years of seminary formation provide the opportunity to come to know Our Lord personally through prayer. It is this aspect that is most important in preparing to serve the Church as a priest and is what I have been most grateful for as a seminarian. 

“This summer I have been serving as a transitional deacon at St. Mary’s in South Dartmouth. I will continue this assignment throughout the coming academic year. My time has been spent preaching at Mass, preparing parents to have their children baptized, and baptizing children. I have also brought Holy Communion to the homebound. I have gained a greater appreciation for the importance of preparing parents to have their children baptized. This provides a great opportunity to provide catechesis on this Sacrament as well as discussing with parents what it truly means to raise a child in the faith.”

Deacon Laurent Valliere, 39, is originally from Warwick, R.I., but later, with his mom, Maureen and dad, Laurent, became parishioners of St. Stanislaus Parish in Fall River.

He attended Toll Gate High School in Warwick and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Religious studies from Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn. Deacon Valliere took a teaching position at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth, and it was there he had the growing sense that he was being called to enter seminary.

“I frequently reminded my students that your occupation is not your vocation,” he told The Anchor. “Too many times people try to fit their vocation around their occupation, instead of first saying ‘yes’ to God, and then finding an occupation that is complementary to their vocation. With God’s grace, and the promptings of the Holy Spirit, I finally decided to practice what I taught. It has been a longer journey for me, but now that I am an ordained deacon, I have the peace that I had been seeking for all of those years.”

This summer was spent at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Acushnet. He and Deacon Laird are musicians and part of the band, Vatican III.

Four of the diocesan seminarians are entering third Theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange, N.J. They are: Brian Connors, John Garabedian, Chris Hughes and Thiago Menezes Santos.

Brian Connors comes from a family of his mom, Janice, dad, Michael, and two brothers. In his 20s he entered the Catholic faith, receiving the Sacraments of Initiation. He is a parishioner of Holy Family Parish in East Taunton. He has attended a number of faith-filled retreats and routinely helped out at his parish.

During his formation, Connors has served at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Westport, and this summer at the Cathedral of St. Mary the Assumption in Fall River.

Christopher Hughes is from Sandwich where he is a parishioner of Christ the King Parish in Mashpee, as are his mom, Joanna, dad, Daniel, and his brother and sister.

He attended St. John Paul II High School in Hyannis, and was involved in many activities there.

In his home parish, Hughes has been an altar server, lector, special minister of Holy Communion, sacristan, taught in the Faith Formation program, was on the parish council and was involved in youth ministry. He has also been involved with diocesan retreat programs on the Cape.

The last few summers he has assisted at St. John Neumann Parish in East Freetown, Christ the King Parish in Mashpee, and most recently, this summer at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Acushnet.

John Garabedian was raised in Mansfield, and is a parishioner of St. Mary’s Parish there with his mother, Claire, father John, and two sisters.

He attended Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, where he regularly attended daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration and the Sacrament of Confession. He was also a baseball player at Bridgewater.

His faith life was also strengthened when he and his family visited the Vatican and various holy sites in Rome.

His summer assignments have included at St. Anthony Parish in Falmouth, Our Lady of Grace Parish in Westport, and this summer at Holy Name Parish in Fall River.

Garabedian told The Anchor, “My time at seminary thus far has been very fruitful. God is forming my heart and increasing my joy and desire to become a priest despite the ups and downs of daily life. It has been an excellent opportunity to learn about my faith and grow through interesting classes, enjoyable pastoral experiences, Spiritual direction, and holy friendships.

“This past summer, I had the privilege of being assigned at Holy Name Parish with Father Jay Maddock and Father Daniel Nunes, where I had a positive experience of serving the lovely parish community. I did some things like serving at daily Mass, giving weekly reflections, making Communion calls, and helping out at the local food pantry. I also have been blessed to have some time to catch up with friends and family and am picking up the game of golf.

“I look forward to this upcoming semester, particularly Candidacy and, God-willing, ordination to the diaconate next spring.”

Thiago Menezes Santos was born in Aracaju, Brazil, where his family, father, Sergio, mom, Laura, and sister still live.

His family has always nurtured his faith life and while in Brazil, after his First Communion in 2006, he joined The Missionary Childhood, a group that helps young people minister to their peers. At the same time, it awakened a calling within him to enter seminary.

Before that move, he was a catechist and an altar server in his parish in Brazil. He also served there in childhood ministry and was a member of the parish youth group.

Santos studied philosophy at Our Lady of Conception Major Seminary in Aracaju for three years. It was there where he met Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., who encouraged Santos to think about serving as a priest in the U.S., particularly in the Diocese of Fall River.

Since coming to the diocese, Santos has served at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fall River, and most recently at the Taunton Catholic North collaborative, made up of St. Jude, St. Anthony and St. Mary’s parishes in Taunton.

Entering Second Theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange, N.J., Bryan Bangs is a very active member of Corpus Christi Parish in East Sandwich, along with his mother, Joanne, dad, Robert, a sister and two brothers.

A recipient of the Diocese of Fall River’s Pope Pius X Award, he taught in the parish Faith Formation program and was a member of the youth group there. He also twice participated in the Quo Vadis Days retreat sponsored annually by the diocesan Vocation Office.

He briefly entered the Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary order in Powell, Wyo., but didn’t feel that was his calling, but his desire to become a priest didn’t ebb.

With continued support from many people, Bangs entered seminary, after graduating from Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J.

Bangs has assisted at Santo Christo Parish in Fall River, and this past summer he served at St. Louis de France Parish in Swansea and St. Patrick’s Parish in Somerset.

Lucas daCosta grew up in New Bedford, and with his mother, Fatima, father, Daniel, and sister, he is a member of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Acushnet.

Always active in his parish, daCosta had a strong yearning to increase his faith life at an early age.

He holds the Eucharist, Adoration, Confession and a devotion to Our Lady near and dear to his heart.

After high school, he traveled to Portugal to work on his Portuguese. After that daCosta attended four years at Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Providence, R.I., and also studied at Providence College there.

His first summer assignment was this year at Santo Christo Parish in Fall River.

“During my four years of minor seminary in Providence, I have been blessed to be around great holy priests who have exemplified the virtues which all priests should live by and who have served as great role models,” he told The Anchor. “I have been able to participate in various pastoral opportunities which have strengthened my love for the ministerial works of the Church and for the people of God.

“This summer I was lucky enough to be assigned to Santo Christo Church in Fall River where I was warmly welcomed into their beautiful community. In my time there, I was able to learn about parish life and was immersed in Portuguese ministry, which is very close to my heart. I am very excited to start at St. John’s Seminary in the fall, where I will be studying Theology. I am very excited for the opportunity to deepen my knowledge of our faith, learn about ministry and continue the formation of my own Spiritual life with the help of such a great institution.”

Shayne Dias is entering his senior year of college seminary. He lives in Westport with his father Victor, mother, Dina and a sister. His dad is from Angola and his mom is a native of Sao Miguel in the Azores. As a result of those heritages, Dias is fluent in Portuguese.

He attended Bishop Connolly High School in Fall River and also studied at Rhode Island College in Kingstown, R.I.

He has been very active in his parish of Santo Christo in Fall River.

He has assisted at a soup kitchen, has been a youth group leader, and did volunteer work in a nursing home. 

As he discerns a vocation to the priesthood, Dias said in his biography on the diocesan Vocation Office website that he finds strength in helping marginalized people to have a better life, and what excites him most about the thought of becoming a priest is bringing the Sacraments to God’s people.

Dias spent this past summer working and took a college course.

A prayer for vocations

O God, Who wish all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of Your truth: send, we beg You, laborers into Your harvest, and grant them grace to speak Your Word with all boldness; so that Your Word may spread and be glorified, and all nations may know You, the only God, and Him Whom You have sent, Jesus Christ Your Son, Our Lord, Who lives and reigns world without end. Amen.