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Learn About Our Church

Santo Christo Parish has served the Portuguese Catholic community in Fall River, Massachusetts, since 1892. Learn more about the early leaders and development of our Catholic church.

 Fall River In the 19th Century

 In the 1870s, Fall River was quickly becoming one of the most industrialized cities in the country. Many Portuguese families came to work in the cotton mills, leaving the opportunity to practice their Catholic faith as a community. In order to receive sacraments, they would travel to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in New Bedford, the first Portuguese parish in North America. This costly and lengthy trip was how they preserved religious traditions for more than 10 years.

Early Meetings

On March 10, 1874, the first meeting was held to establish a Portuguese mission in Fall River. This dream was not fulfilled until two years later on March 10, 1876. Reverend Antonio M. Freitas, a native of Sao Jorge Island in the Azores, was the pastor of St. John the Baptist. He established the Mission of St. Anthony in Fall River and held the first masses at the Hibernian Hall, an Irish club on the corner of South Main and Spring Streets. Initially, priests from St. John traveled to celebrate mass and administer sacraments, but their visits became less frequent until the mission closed on March 3, 1878.

 St. Anthony

 The patron saint of this early mission, St. Anthony, was born in Lisbon but lived most of his life in Padua, Italy. Most Portuguese refer to him as St. Anthony Of Lisbon, but he is better known as St. Anthony Of Padua.

 Without a Mission

 After the mission closed, the Portuguese community attended mass at either St. Mary's Church on Spring Street, St. Anne's Chapel on Hunter Street, or St. Louis Church on Bradford Avenue. They struggled with the customs and language barriers at these Irish and French churches and felt alienated from the Catholic community. At this time, Protestants from the Baptist Temple, located where our church now stands, also attempted to convert the Portuguese.

Second Attempt

 Ten years later, efforts were initiated to reestablish the Mission Of St. Anthony. The Reverend Antonio Gomes da Silva Neves, the pastor of St. John the Baptist, appealed to Bishop Matthew Harkins of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, to establish a Portuguese mission in Fall River. For the next three years, the mission was under the direction of the pastors of St. John the Baptist. Priests like Reverend Manuel C. Terra would come to the mission on the weekends and reside at the homes of local Catholics.

 An Official Parish

  As the mission continued to grow, the burden on St. John the Baptist Church became greater. With the encouragement of Father Neves, the mission officially became a parish on June 26, 1892, with Reverend Candido de Avila Marins as its first pastor. Upon the suggestion of Father Neves, the parish received the name, Senhor Santo Christo dos Milagres.