WESTPORT — More than 260 guests gathered at White’s of Westport on Wednesday, June 7 to celebrate the special role of St. Mary’s of the Assumption Cathedral for the Diocese of Fall River and to raise funds needed for the restoration of this historic Mother Church. Thanks to the generosity of donors and sponsors, the Gala raised nearly $160,000. Lead sponsors were the Carney Family Charitable Foundation, BayCoast Bank, Jim and Maryellen Sullivan Hughes, and Waring-Sullivan, Rock, Nickerson and Doane Beal and Ames Funeral Homes. District Attorney Thomas Quinn III shepherded the evening’s festivities as its Emcee.
The cocktail hour was not only an opportunity to mix and mingle, but also to become educated on the work taking place and the urgent need for repairs. Thanks to Lumen Christi Gala Committee Member Deacon Tom Palanza and New England Stained Glass, a display showcased for guests the renovation in progress with samples of the old and cleaned stained glass, distressed and new lead came (metal strips), and deteriorated versus newly milled window frames. Proceeds from the evening’s Text to Give campaign — led by event co-Chair and co-Chair of the Catholic Foundation, Nick Christ, CEO of BayCoast Bank — will be allocated to continuing the restoration dozens of stained-glass windows at the Cathedral.
Then Cathedral Rector, Father Thomas Washburn shared the importance of the Cathedral and the event created in her honor and led the opening prayer. Bishop da Cunha presented the Luminary Award to John Dawley who accepted on behalf of his parents, Jack and Susan Dawley, whose example of faith, service and philanthropy had a lasting impact on the Diocese of Fall River. Notably, not only did the Dawleys support the WIFI initiative in the diocese’s Catholic schools, which proved crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic as the schools pivoted to online learning, but also supported seminarian education through an endowment established for this important resource for the future of the Church.
Indeed, among those gathered were many active and retired clergy and three newly-ordained priests for the Diocese of Fall River: Fathers Brian Connors, John Garabedian and Chris Hughes. Parishioners and pastors from Christ the King, Mashpee; Church of the Holy Name, Holy Name, Taunton; St. John of God, Somerset; St. John Neumann, East Freetown; St. Joseph Guardian of the Holy Family, Falmouth; St. Margaret’s, Buzzards Bay; and St. Mary’s, Mansfield, were among those in attendance as was Father John Denning, C.S.C., President of Stonehill College.
Another highlight of the evening enjoyed by guests and Lumen Christi Cathedral Gala Committee members Frank Baptista, Kevin Kiley, Carl Sawejko, Carl Taber, Deacon Alan Thadeu, and Dr. Ryan Welter was a special a cappella performance by members of the Cathedral Choir. Madeleine Grace led the performance which included, among others, her husband, choir member and Lumen Christi Cathedral Gala Committee member Dr. Richard Grace. The choir sang four hymns, concluding with the joyous “Malawi Alleluia,” accompanied by the choir’s percussionist, David Heath, who played the West African djembe.
Thanks were expressed to all who joined together from across the Diocese of Fall River to celebrate the Mother Church and Seat of the Bishop. Resources raised for the effort to restore the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption will help provide for a renewed center of worship for generations to come.
More information about the Lumen Christi Cathedral Gala, its sponsors and donors, and the Cathedral’s needed repairs can be found at www.catholicfoundationsema.org/cathedral-gala. Dr. Richard Grace’s video tour of the Cathedral may be found at https://vimeo.com/819639439.