By Dave Jolivet

FALL RIVER — This year has been a banner year for vocations in thae Diocese of Fall River. In May Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V. ordained one man as a Transitional Deacon, one step closer to the priesthood as well as 15 Permanent Deacons. He also received the consecration of one Diocesan Hermit (see page two).

The joy will grow on June 3 when the bishop will ordain three new priests for the diocese at a Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral at 11 a.m.

The three are Deacons Brian Connors, John Garabedian, and Christopher Hughes. Deacon Thiago Menezes Santos will also be ordained to the priesthood by Bishop da Cunha, but that will take place on June 9 in Deacon Santos’ hometown of Aracaju, Brazil. Deacon Santos was scheduled to be ordained with the other three men, but his father and uncle were unable to obtain visas to the U.S., so Bishop da Cunha will make the trip there to culminate all of Deacon Santos’ hard work and study for preparation to the priesthood.

“I will ordain him at his own parish in Aracaju, Brazil,” the bishop told The Anchor. “Since his family was not able to come to his ordination due to visa restrictions, I decided to go and ordain him there with his family, so that he and his family could have the joy of being together in such an important day in his life and also in their lives. I’m glad that I was able to give them this gift of having him ordained with his family in Brazil.”

The bishop went on to say, “The ordination of four new priests for the Diocese of Fall River is a moment of Thanksgiving, great joy and a hope for the future of our church. It is a great joy for all of us, but it is specially such a great joy and privilege for me to be the Bishop of the diocese and to ordain them to the priesthood. These young men have gone through many challenges in their preparation for this day, especially having most of their formation during a pandemic the likes of which no one in our generation has ever seen. And yet they have persevered, have faced the challenges and are now reaping the first fruits of their faith, their trust in God and their perseverance.

“We all know that these are challenging times for the Church and for the priesthood, and recruiting young men to embrace the life of a priest, a life of service and sacrifice, is not easy in this secularized world. My hope is that the ordination of these four men will serve as an example for other young men to see that is worth offering one’s life to God and to the church in service to God’s people.”

Father John M. Schrader, diocesan Associate Director of Vocations and Seminarians, told The Anchor, “We are beyond grateful for the four future fathers: Thiago, Brian, John and Chris. Obeying the call to serve as Catholic priests is not an easy endeavor in today’s world. Furthermore, they persevered through the challenges of seminary life in a global pandemic. Kudos! As a brother priest, I look forward to collaborating with these men in Christ’s work of sanctification. The plentiful harvest will have a few more valuable laborers in the field. May Christ be alive in our new priests.”

Deacon John Garabedian was born in 1991, the son of John and Claire Garabedian, and he grew up in a close loving family in Mansfield. He has an older sister and younger sister. His home parish is St. Mary’s Parish in Mansfield. Though the family always practiced the faith, his faith grew late in high school and college, especially when his family had visited the Vatican and other famous Christian sites in Rome. Deacon John graduated from Mansfield High School in 2009 and went to college at Bridgewater State University. He graduated in 2013 with a BA with a concentration in graphic design. After college John worked in the area of graphic design and coached baseball for four years. During college and after, John went deeper in knowing and living his faith, especially growing in his living of the sacramental life  through regular Confession, daily Mass, and Eucharistic Adoration. Deacon John played baseball for Bridgewater State University, which also taught him teamwork, perseverance and leadership. As he grew closer to the Lord so did the sense of being called by the Lord to be a priest. He applied to the Diocese of Fall River and was accepted as a seminarian and sent to Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange, N.J. Some of his summer parish assignments have been serving at St. Ann’s Parish in Raynham, St. Anthony Parish in Falmouth, Our Lady of Grace in Westport, Holy Name in Fall River, and Holy Family Parish in East Taunton. Deacon John has finished his studies of theology at Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Seminary. He will be assigned as Parochial Vicar at Corpus Christi Parish in East Sandwich; and as Associate Director of Vocations, effective June 21.

Deacon Brian Patrick Connors, son Michael and Janice Connors, is 33 years old and a parishioner of Holy Family Church in East Taunton. He has two brothers. Deacon Brian graduated from Dighton-Rehoboth High School in 2009 and briefly went to Bristol Community College, but found college was not for him at that time. In his 20s he underwent a conversion and in 2015 received the Sacraments of Initiation. Continuing with his growth in the faith he became very involved in the parish by teaching catechism to children and helping at the parish. He has attended different retreats and helped as well in giving witness to the faith to others. The sense of being called to the priesthood grew. In 2017 Deacon Brian was accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Fall River and was sent to Immaculate Conception Seminary. Deacon Brian has a love for the Church and desire to serve others. Over the summers he has served at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Westport, St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral in Fall River, and Holy Name Parish in Fall River. Deacon Brian has finished his studies of theology at Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Seminary. He will become Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Our Lady Queen of Martyrs parishes in Seekonk effective June 21.

Deacon Christopher Daniel Hughes, son of Daniel and Joanna Hughes, is a 27-year-old from Sandwich and is a parishioner of Christ the King Parish in Mashpee. He has one younger brother and one younger sister. Growing up he was very involved in the church as an altar server, lector, Extraordinary Minster of Holy Communion, catechist, parish council member and was involved in youth ministry. He was also involved in diocesan retreat programs on the Cape. For many years he prayed about whether the Lord was calling him to the priesthood. He was also involved in his high school years at Pope John Paul II High School in Hyannis, from where he graduated in 2013. After high school Deacon Chris went to St. Joseph’s College in Maine, graduating in 2017. Upon graduating Deacon Christopher was accepted by the Diocese of Fall River and began his studies at Immaculate Conception Seminary. Over the summers he has served at St. John Neumann Parish in East Freetown, Christ the King Parish in Mashpee, St. Francis Xavier Parish in Acushnet, and St. Mary’s Parish in South Dartmouth. He has finished his studies of theology at Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. He will become Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of Victory Parish in Centerville and Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Osterville, and chaplain of St. John Paul II High School in Hyannis effective June 21

Deacon Thiago Menezes Santos was born in 1996 in Aracaju, Brazil. His family still lives Aracaju. His father is Sergio Santana Santos and his mother is Laura Teles Menezes Santos. He has an older sister. As a child he joined the children’s choir at his parish and was a member of it for six years, something that he says played a large role in his growing in faith. After his First Communion in 2006, he joined The Missionary Childhood, a group that helped him to learn how to evangelize other children. This awakened within him the possibility of a divine calling. He started to have the desire to be a missionary and it was then that he first felt the desire to be a priest and to give his life to Jesus and the Church. Before he entered the seminary, Deacon Thiago was a catechist for two years and also served as an altar server. In 2015 he was approved to study philosophy at Our Lady of Conception Major Seminary in Aracaju, where he attended for three years. 

In 2018 he started his theological studies in that same seminary but he sensed the Lord might be calling him to serve as a priest in the United States, in particular in the Diocese of Fall River. He saw this as a call from God to go into deeper waters. After prayer and speaking with his spiritual director, his rector, his archbishop, and his parents, he applied to serve the Lord, and sought to serve Him in the Diocese of Fall River. When he was accepted, Thiago was sent to Immaculate Conception Seminary in Orange, N.J. for his continuing formation. 

Deacon Thiago has served at St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral in Fall River and St. Jude Parish, St. Anthony Parish, and St Mary’s Church in Taunton. A year-and-a-half ago Thiago’s mother and cousin died in a car accident in Brazil, and his grandfather died the following spring, and through this tragedy he said he has found the Lord giving him and his family great strength and consolations, as well as a deeper awareness of trust in the Lord. He will be assigned as Parochial Vicar at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, the Parish of Good Shepherd and St. Stanislaus parishes in Fall River; and chaplain of the Brazilian/Cape Verdean Community at Holy Rosary Church in Taunton effective June 21.