• Final service to be held at historic Mass. parish


    NEW BEDFORD (AP) - The first Portuguese Catholic parish in North America will hold its final Mass this weekend, though some parishioners are vowing to fight the closure.

    The last Mass at St. John the Baptist Church in New Bedford is set for Sunday morning.

    The parish was established for local Portuguese immigrants in 1871. But that base either moved away or stopped attending as debt mounted and the church building aged. It now needs $1.5 million in repairs.

    Diocese of Fall River Bishop George Coleman said a three-year effort to boost attendance and raise money failed, and he issued a decree Oct. 20 that officially closed the parish.

    Several parishioners, though, say the parish remains vibrant and are fighting to keep it open. They've filed a formal appeal with Coleman and say they'll petition the Vatican if necessary.

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