Fall River, Diocese of
FALL RIVER, DIOCESE OF
The Diocese of Fall River (Riverormensis ) is the suffragan of the metropolitan See of Boston, with jurisdiction over most of southeastern Massachusetts. Fall River, subject to the bishop of the providence, R.I., diocese from 1872 to 1904, was established as a separate see on March 12, 1904.
The Pilgrims were the first settlers in the area, landing at Provincetown on Cape Cod in November 1620. Very few Catholics settled there until the 19th century, when the rise of industry, particularly textiles, created such a demand for labor that hundreds and later thousands of English–Irish immigrants were welcomed. Portuguese, recruited from the Azores for the whaling industry that flourished in Nantucket and New Bedford before the Civil War, later entered the textile industry, and French–Canadians arrived in great numbers at the invitation of mill owners. Between 1820 and 1904, there were 44 parishes established in the area, 18 of them for non–English–language groups. Successive waves of Italians, Poles, Germans, and Lebanese followed, so that of the 13 parishes founded by Fall River's first bishop, nine were national. Catholics soon constituted more than 50 percent of the total population. Under the direction of successive bishops, a well–knit, integrated series of services and institutions provided for every level of need.
William Stang (1854–1907), scholar, theologian, and pulpit orator, was consecrated in Providence, May 1, 1904, as Fall River's first ordinary. During his brief career, he wrote pastoral letters entitled "The Christian Family" (1905), "Christian Marriage" (1906), and "Christian Education" (1907); summoned the first diocesan synod in June 1905; and enforced the Acerbo nimis on catechetical instruction, two months after its publication by Pius X. His successor, Daniel F. Feehan, (1855–1934), consecrated Sept. 19, 1907, in Fall River, was particularly concerned with the need for expansion. He established 36 new parishes, 23 of them national, and provided orphanages, day nurseries, camps, and welfare agencies. Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) activities in Fall River stem from his encouragement of them in the late 1920s. In 1930 he was granted an auxiliary, James E. Cassidy (1869–1951), who succeeded as ordinary on July 29, 1934. Cassidy, the workingman's advocate, a stern upholder of temperance and an apostle of charity, founded homes for the aged, CYO centers, and a home for the cancerous poor. In his last years, he presided at the founding of Stonehill College (1948), a four–year coeducational institution conducted by the Holy Cross Fathers.
James L. Connolly (1894–1986), a native of Fall River, was consecrated in 1945, as coadjutor with right of succession; he succeeded to the see on May 17, 1951. It was during his tenure in office that the Anchor, a diocesan weekly, was inaugurated in 1957. His successors, Bishop Daniel A. Cronin (1970–1991) and Bishop Sean O'Malley (1992–) witnessed a dramatic increase in the Catholic population, as well as in the number of parishes. The Fall River diocese includes the largest Portuguese community in the United States.
Bibliography: Archives, Diocese of Fall River. f. j. bradley, Brief History of the Diocese of Fall River (New York 1931).
[j. l. connolly/eds.]