Church History

Welcome to the St. Joseph – St. Therese Parish webpage. We are a Latin Rite (Roman) Catholic family of faith in the north end of New Bedford, Massachusetts.  Founded as a new parish in 1999 by Bishop Sean O’Malley, the parish was a merger of the parish families of the former St. Joseph Parish and the former St. Theresa Parish.  While we are a “merged” parish, the reality is that the events of 1999 actually saw a reuniting of two parishes that had originally been one!

St. Joseph Parish was founded in 1910 during the tenure of the Most Rev. Daniel F. Feehan as Bishop of Fall River. Bishop Feehan named the young Rev. Jovite Chagnon, a curate (parochial vicar / assistant pastor) of St. Anthony Parish in New Bedford to become the founding pastor of this new parish community.  It was a fitting choice since the parish was carved out of what had formerly been a part of St. Anthony.  Serving the French-Canadian immigrants who had come to the city to find work in the mills, the new parish had a territory that began at Nash Road to the south, and continued in Bristol County to the town line of Berkeley where it met the border of the next nearest French-Canadian territorial parish, St. Jacques (James) Parish in Taunton. Fr. Chagnon remained as pastor until his death in 1954 having overseen the construction of a temporary church, a rectory, a school, a convent, a larger church basement, and finally the current church building - St. Joseph Church, which has remained the worship site of St. Joseph – St. Therese Parish.  To do this, he saw to the purchase of one whole city block directly across from Brooklawn Park.  The church, which was constructed of white brick in a Romanesque fashion, was designed by the architectural firm of McGinnis and Walsh of Boston.

Because of the growing number of French families coming to the north end of the city, the parish was divided once more in 1926.  At this time, St. Joseph parish’s northern most point stopped at Tarkiln Hill Road.  Points north became the territory of the new St. Theresa’s parish which was named after the recently canonized St. Therese of Lisieux, a French Carmelite nun.  Bishop Feehan appointed the Rev. Joseph N. Hamel, who like Fr. Chagnon was born in French Canada, as the founding pastor of this new parish family.  He likewise served as the pastor until his death in 1956.  Fr. Hamel acquired a piece of property that would be home to the parish church complex, a rectory and a convent.  The church structure was a remarkable design that provided a parish hall on the basement level, a 6 grade parish school on the first level, and the worship space on the second level.  Believed to have been designed by the Fall River architect, and French-Canadian native Louis Destremps, the upper level worship space had what is considered a trademark element of “Destremps Church’s”: a floor that sloped downward from the back pews toward the sanctuary.  Since the worship space / church was on the second floor, the church was widely known as the church that had a dumbwaiter to bring the caskets of deceased parishioners upstairs for funeral masses. 

When the two parishes were reunited in 1999, Rev. Roland Bousquet, who was pastor of St. Theresa’s Parish entered into retirement after a long and fruitful priestly ministry.  The task of pastoring the new parish entity fell to Rev. Roger Levesque who had for five years been the pastor of St. Joseph.

Since that time, Fr. Levesque has retired and the parish has been under the care of Rev. Philip N Hamel.  Fifteen years into the merger, the parish continues to grow and remain a place where our faith is celebrated and nourished with both the sacraments and the word!  If you should find yourself in the vicinity of New Bedford’s north end, be sure to visit us and worship with us.  We are proud of our Catholic faith, and proud of our parish family!