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BELLINGHAM â€” Saint Blaise Church's history as a parish is a relatively short, but rich one, marked by a commitment to faith and a sense of community that makes church.
This coming April, Saint Blaise Church will celebrate its past 50 years as it frames its vision for the future.
Established on April 3, 1962 on the site of the Eugene Webber Farm and first led by the Rev. Father Joseph P. Mahoney, Saint Blaise became the third Roman Catholic church in Bellingham, after Saint Brendanâ€™s in the north of town and Assumption Parish in the south. Saint Blaiseâ€™s longest tenured pastor was Rev. James Connolly, who served in his role from 1973 until his retirement in 2001. It was soon thereafter that Assumption Parish was closed.
Amidst feelings of sadness and uncertainty about their future, parishioners of Assumption Parish, under the leadership of the Rev. Brian McMahon, joined the Saint Blaise Church community, which remain united today as one Catholic community committed to serving the causes of Catholic Christianity.
â€śIn this our fiftieth year as church, we look back to our past with appreciation for that common bond of faith that has carried us through many transitions to the present and we look forward with confidence in our new pastorâ€™s commitment to building community here at Saint Blaise,â€ť said parishioner Ann King. â€śAs many parishioners will testify, Saint Blaise Church has long been a place of community. Our challenge, in the midst of todayâ€™s demands and distractions, is to preserve and foster that community for generations to come.â€ť
The Rev. Albert M. Faretra, recently installed pastor at St. Blaise, has recently addressed this challenge.
â€śWe have to do the work of raising awareness of our past church history to build the future,â€ť he said. â€śWe need to take personal responsibility to build community. It is the only way to assure the future of the Church. Change happens in the home. It must happen there or a parish will go the way of other things that disappear from society because they are no longer needed.â€ť
Rev. Faretra added: â€śThe secular world has taken God out of society and replaced it with sports, money and material possessions. In the past, the Church was central to neighborhoods.â€ť
The reverend describes how, when assigned to Saint Joseph Parish in Belmont, heheld neighborhood meetings in parishionersâ€™ homes to discuss community issues and how the church could better serve its people.
Born in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston to first generation Americans of Italian and Irish heritage, Father Faretra is the oldest of five children. His two brothers, two sisters and several nieces and nephews all reside throughout the suburbs of Boston and were all present to participate in the new Pastorâ€™s Rite of Installation at Saint Blaise this past November.
â€śMy brothers and sisters are very important parts of my life, and from them I derive my strength and faith,â€ť he says. â€śMy family has always been close as it was how our parents raised us. We were supposed to get along, and if problems developed, we were to work them out.â€ť
A product of Catholic education from kindergarten through Seminary, Faretra began his sacramental life at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Jamaica Plain. It was there that he celebrated his First Mass in 1986 â€“ 39 years after his uncle, Father Charles Leahy, also a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, celebrated his First Mass at the same altar.
After graduating from Saint Mary of the Assumption High School in Brookline in 1967, Father Faretra served six years in the U.S. Navy. It was not until June 7, 1986, that he was ordained from Saint John Seminary, at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. Faretra credits his uncle, Father Charles Leahy, who died in 1970 while Faretra was stationed in the Mediterranean, as being the greatest single influence in his arriving at the decision to enter the seminary, discern priesthood and become ordained.
â€śI truly believe that we who minister in the church, both ordained and non-ordained, are and always will be the greatest influence for vocations in the church,â€ť he said.
Since his ordination, Rev. Faretra has served in five ministerial positions â€” two as parochial vicar, one as a high school chaplain and now, for the second time, as pastor. Just prior to coming to Saint Blaise, Father Faretra served as pastor at Saint Joseph Parish in Belmont.
The deep sense of devotion, gratitude and the importance of remaining close that Father Faretra feels for his family carried forward in his address to parishioners at his Rite of Installation.
â€śThe spiritual strength that Saint Blaise parish has received over the years was further empowered by the bringing together of its â€śmotherâ€ť parish of Our Lady of the Assumption six years ago,â€ť he said. â€śAnd, this is truly a memorable day in the life of the Catholic community of Bellingham as we recognize our â€śsisterhoodâ€ť with Saint Brendan parish.â€ť
Ongoing special events continue to mark the parish's 50th anniversary celebration. The Family Events Committee, headed by Rita Pizzi and Pat Braley, has put imagination and hard work together to create a series of family centered events, free of charge and open to the community. Events to date have included a Family Carnival, Movie Night and Community Game Night. Other committees have been hard at work to plan events that will bring parishioners and community residents together in fun and fellowship.
On April 14 there will be a Dinner Dance at the Doubletree Hotel in Milford. Chairwoman Marie Crossland and her committee have put great effort into planning an entertaining and memorable evening for all in attendance. For details and ticket information on this gala event, please call the parish office at (508) 966-1258.
Of very special note is the presentation of the Cantata â€śResurrectionâ€ť on Saturday, March 24 at 7:30 p.m. in the Saint Blaise Church sanctuary. Created by the Rev. Bryan Jeffery Leach and presented by The Saint Patrick Parish Family Players from Saint Patrick Parish in Watertown, this powerful and prayerful presentation tells, in music and song, the story of Saint Peterâ€™s walk with Jesus on the eve of his own crucifixion. Free-will offerings will be accepted.
Throughout its history, the people of Saint Blaise have recognized and responded to the needs of individuals and families in Bellingham and surrounding communities. The parish does this most notably through its administration of the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry and its Thanksgiving Baskets and the Christmas Adopt-a-Family programs. Community service is further provided through our several ministries, including the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, which is assisting neighbors who struggle with needs such as utility, rent and mortgage expenses. Monthly breakfasts sponsored by the Society are held in the church hall and are open to the community. Look for postings of these breakfasts and other upcoming events on the front lawn sign at our church, located at 1158 South Main Street in Bellingham or on the parish website.
To commemorate the church's 50th anniversary, a 50th anniversary logo was designed by Michele Debatis-Killion. The design expresses our anniversary theme of â€śLet Us Build the City of Godâ€ť and a key philosophy of Saint Blaise Church that â€śall are welcome here.St. Blaise Parish narks golden anniversary
For information about any of the church's programs, call the Saint Blaise Parish office at (508) 966-1258 or visit its Website at www.saintblaise.org.