996 Brayton Avenue
P.O. Box 113
Somerset, MA 02726
Rev. Jeffrey Cabral, JCL
St. John of God Parish
Father Furtado lived on First Street at the home of John Quintal. The first rectory of St. John of God was a house at the corner of First Street and Brayton Avenue.
Records of the parish indicated that 22 children received First Holy Communion in 1927. Bishop Cassidy administered confirmation in 1929 to 147 young adults. The first record funeral was in 1929.
In 1956 construction began for a new rectory to be situated at the corner of Brayton Avenue and Second Street. The rectory remained there for 18 years only to be moved to 996 Brayton Avenue, the site of the first parish rectory. The brick building, which is equipped with living quarters, offices, and a meeting room, arrived at its present location on Christmas Eve of 1974.
Over the years 6 Pastors, 14 curates and 3 deacons have served St. John of God. The pastors included the founder of the parish Rev. Augusto Leal Furtado who served from its beginning until his retirement in August of 1969. Fr. Furtado was transferred for a short period of time to St. Michael’s Parish; Fall River in November 1944. Rev. John Rezendes served St. John of God from November 1944 until January 1945.
Rev. Luiz G. Mendonça was appointed to replace Msgr. Furtado after his retirement in 1969. Fr. Mendonça served the parish until February of 1974 and was later transferred to New Bedford to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which was his home parish before priesthood. Rev. Daniel L. Freitas was assigned to St. John of God as its fifth Pastor in February 1974 until his retirement of 1996, at which time Rev. Raul M. Lagoa the present pastor was assigned to St. John of God.
On June 3, 1974, Fr. Daniel L. Freitas presented his plans for the renovation of the new parish buildings. In September of 1974, the rectory began its preparation for the “promenade” to the other side of the street. Four steel beams, each 55 feet long, were placed beneath the first floor of the rectory. After the beams were secured by other smaller steal beams that were crossed and screwed on, a “bed” made of wood was placed below the beams – thus forming a tray that supported the whole building. The rectory was placed on makeshift tray and was lifted up by four gigantic hydraulic jacks. Underneath the tray was another “bed” of wooden beams, and between the two were the steal rollers that permitted the moving of the structure. On Christmas Eve, the rectory arrived at its present site.
When the rectory finally arrived at its new destination, it had already been decorated for the Christmas season with “ribbons” of multi-colored lights and a crucifix at the top. Although the job was not complete, parishioners “rejoiced” upon seeing the rectory in its new location.
The design of the church was simple but yet very complex. The new church would have two basic shapes, a square for the Church and a rectangle for the Center are joined together by an angular connector. The bell tower is a focal point serving to anchor the building at a juncture of these two shapes.
The simplicity of the plan, however, is obscured by a complicated structural system. An example of this is the church roof which is framed as two triangles and which rises in height as it approaches the Sanctuary. The design visually reinforces the Sanctuary’s importance.
There are nautical themes in the design, the most obvious being the sail panels in the tower. These refer to the Portuguese as a seafaring people who brought the word of God to distant shores. Also, the extreme end of the Sanctuary resembles the bow of a ship and in fact is often referred to as the “prow” of the building. It is hoped that the new Church would be a source of pride to the Parishioners of St. John of God.
On March 27, 1977, Bishop Daniel A. Cronin presided at the groundbreaking ceremonies and construction began the following month.
The next fourteen months were filled with orientation and coordination of efforts as well as making decisions at the right time without loss of time. All of this served to challenge the uncontested leadership qualities of the Rev. Daniel Freitas.
On April 15, 1978, the new complex began to utilize, with the parochial hall being temporarily adapted for religious services. The parochial hall was used for daily masses, Sunday masses, and other religious services until May 29.
The first curate to serve St. John of God in 1946 was Humberto Medeiros later to be Cardinal of the Boston Archdiocese. Father Medeiros administered the needs of the parish during Fr. Furtado’s absence when he went to the Açores to visit his family from June of 1946 to November of the same year. The following curates who served St. John of God Church were: Revs. Manuel P. Costa, Manuel Andrade, Jorge de Jesus Sousa, Lourenço Avila, Bento Fraga, who served for 14 years, John J. Oliveira, Henry S. Arruda, Arthur DeMello, Stephen B. Salvador, John Gomes, Joseph Costa, Timothy Reis, and David Andrade.
The social life of the parish can be found in the activities and organizations within the parish structure. Many of the traditions of St. John of God parish can be traced to the Azorean Islands and Portugal. A typical example of this is the Holy Ghost feast, which was an important celebration during the beginnings of the Church an has continued with modifications and variations to the present.
Among the fund activities many of the senior parishioners will remember the chicken suppers, the annual minstrel shows, and the monthly whist party. The Malassada suppers have managed to become a tradition since it’s beginning in the 1930’s. The Lawn Party, which is also an annual event, last for 3 days and features Portuguese food and music.
Organizations of St. John of God include the Holy Rosary Sodality, St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Women’s Guild, the Knights of Columbus, the Scholarship Committee, and the Holy Ghost Committee.
Seventy-five years of parish existence has manifest many changes, modifications, and renovations to our present Church and buildings. Years of existence necessitate renovations, maintenance and renewal, not only in properties but also in the “Living Stones,” the people making up our Parish community. Early Parishioners are not just pleasant memories, witness of those before us who by their great faith and zeal built our parish church of St. John of God. Their faith and sacrifice gave noble witness to a growing faith and development, which they passed on, to their children and to their loved ones. Other families became members of this little country church and offered their parochial participation through Faith and Sacraments. With new families came new pastors, and priests, all spiritual ministers dispensing the things of God; spiritual teachers revealing God’s word and doctrine, not only to those already witnesses to their catholic faith, but also to those young in heart and mind who were like fertile ground ready to receive the word of God and the newness of a spiritual life.
During these last seven years, marking up to seventy-five years of spiritual and temporal development under the Pastoral of the Rev. Raul M. Lagoa. We give thanks to Almighty God for Father’s spiritual guidance and direction, as for his tireless effort and leadership in guiding us and encouraging us to renovate our parish church, not only to be in accord with the up-to-date liturgical prescriptions, but also to make it reflect the pride of a faithful people in maintaining their house of worship a Place to behold and to be proud of. Truly, we take pride in the beauty of our parish properties and their landscaping. All are well maintained and provide ample space for parish functions and social get-togethers. Our parish hall with its Religious Education Center provides the best surroundings conclusive for our children’s religious instruction and learning. Our parish church bears witness that it is a house of worship where our parish family unites and give expression to their catholic faith and their Portuguese culture and traditions.
Seventy-five years of parochial existence speaks for itself of the spiritual growth and development of our parish community of St. John of God. It speaks of the spiritual witness and leaders of its pastors, priests, and faithful, of each one who gives living testimony of the power and workings of divine faith and divine grace.
We who now give witness during these days of celebration by our personal practice of faith, continue to activate a living grown faith, and encourage the young amongst us, especially our children, to do their faithful share, to put their faith into action with the same zealous spirit and sacrifice exemplified by their predecessors, and establishing their own faith-filled example as a spiritual legacy to their peers and to those who will come after.
May God continue to bless us, all God’s children, priests and faithful parishioners, with his gifts of Faith, Hope, and Love as we continue our journey of faith as the parochial family of St. John of God.