Closing of Fall River’s Saint Anne’s Basilica Is a Sin [OPINION]
A church built and paid for by the French Catholics of southeastern Massachusetts in 1892, Saint Anne's Roman Catholic basilica opened nine years later in 1901. The blue marble was brought down from Proctor, Vermont and the massive church has been a beacon of pride for millions of Catholics over the 112 years of serving the community.
Saint Anne's will have its last mass this Saturday, November 30.
I am a member of Saint Julie's of Billiart in Dartmouth and before that, I belonged to Saint Anthony's of Mattapoisett, where I once taught catechism. It did not stop me from receiving special permission to have three of my four sons baptized in Saint Anne's.
I've had a connection to this most beautiful and holy place for over 25 years. One time, after a surveillance that I had been on in Fall River, I decided to finally go inside this epic place of worship which I'd seen from Route 195 and from any of hundreds of spots in the area. The twin steeples soar 160 feet above South Main Street and overlook Kennedy Park and then the Taunton River as one of the more dominant landmarks of the city of Fall River.
I've gone to midnight masses on Christmas morning there. I make it a monthly habit to go downstairs to the shrine to pray for people and for myself. I've been to confession there. The downstairs history is as remarkable as the incredible architecture upstairs in the main church.
The church's organ has three Casavant manual organs and 4,512 pipes. Saint Anthony's has nothing over this organ; no offense to the equally beautiful New Bedford parish. The comparison is apples and oranges, as the architecture is quite different.
Stories of the many dozens of crutches left behind by the lame and sick during a healing mass early in the 20th century have several differences in the lore, but almost everyone comes to the same conclusion: something miraculous happened there.
Saint Anne's is a casualty of the secular movement, like most places today, in Fall River. So many parents today in Fall River couldn't be bothered to take their children to learn the will of God as the Catholic Christian believes.
I shutter to think of the words:
"My people have been silent, because they had no knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will reject thee, that thou shalt not do the office of priesthood to me: and thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I also will forget thy children." - Hosea 4:6
The church has some self-inflicted and yet-to-be-corrected wounds, too. I do believe the Roman Catholic Church has the authority, as handed down by Christ to Peter and Peter to his successors, but this modern church leadership has failed to convince the flock that the devastating issue of church pedophiles is being taken seriously, and that all measures that can be taken are being taken to end it. The fallible men who lead the church are not doing everything in their power to bring the flock back to the churches on Sunday, by sometimes giving us all the impression that we need to get over it and stop talking about it.
It is sad and tragic that on my watch here in 2018, I see so many from my generation and the ones which follow abandon the faith that has been in the families of most of these people here for almost 2,000 years. Portuguese and French Fall River residents have Roman Catholic lineage that likely goes back almost to the very beginning. It is possible that some here are descendants of those who actually heard an apostle preach.
None of that matters today, though. People are walking away from Christ and now worshiping material things, or ignoring their upbringing to remain faithful. There is no time for this God. New Americans are also joining our nation and are immigrating from more diverse places than ever before. Islam, Buddhism, and Hindu religions are taking root all over America, as are many protestant Christian denominations, Mormon and other faiths as well.
I don't fear those faiths, as I see my own as perfect and invite them all to compare. I do fear the growth of the faithless atheist. I mourn for the child who will not know much about the teachings of Christ, as doors such as the incredibly beautiful St Anne's shutter for the last time.
The Fall River Diocese claims to need over $13 million for restorations. They might as well need $13 billion the way people are giving today. Again, a lot of this is due to the church failing to protect children to the satisfaction of the average observer.
Lord, we need another miracle—but who is there left to ask you for it?
Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @RadioKenPittman. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.