The moment I visited the parish, well before I was named its administrator in July of 1990, I saw that there was a lot to do if we wanted to make long-term plans for the future. The first step we took was the acquisition of the property that was between our parking lot and the Lusitano Club Soccer Field. Then we concentrated our attention on the church building getting volunteers to build an access ramp for the handicapped.
Meanwhile, the construction of the new Chapel and of the Sanctuary was nearing completion. I started to organize a construction committee that, with the parish council, helped me to plan a long-term project of renovation. We concluded the first phase of construction, the rectory and parish offices. We avoided the traditional New England models and chose an architectural style that reminded us of our homeland – a Mediterranean architectural style.
We proceeded with a second phase that consisted of the interior renovation of the church building and its Sanctuary. We substituted the dark wooden panels that existed at the back of the Sanctuary and in some of the lateral walls. The lateral confessionals were transformed into small chapels where the statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Sacred Heart of Mary were placed, as well as the electric votive candles from the Sanctuary. At the entrance to the church, we built a small reconciliation room. The partition that separated the Sanctuary from the rest of the church was removed, and the floor in front of the main altar was substituted by dark gray Brazilian granite. The renovation of the Sanctuary was completed with a new main altar with a sculpture of the Last Supper imported from Italy, a new tabernacle from Madrid, new chairs, candleholders, and a crucifix imported from Braga. The pedestals for the tabernacle and for the statue of Our Lady of Fatima and the baptismal font were sculpted in granite by one of our parishioners.
The most ambitious part of the project came next. We wanted something that would provide light and color to the back of the sanctuary and complemented the statue of the Risen Christ sculpted in Braga. We proposed the idea to various studios and of all the projects that were submitted to us, we accepted that of J. Piercey Studios of Orlando, Florida, who sent us a design to be built in Italy in mosaic with the theme: “The Lord Comes in His Glory to Judge the World Surrounded by His Archangels.” We then reached the conclusion that in order to broaden the visual perspective we needed to cover the two lateral altars with panels. Thus, coming from the same studio, we received the panels for the Tabernacle, showing two seraphim in adoration, and to the pedestal of Our Lady of Fatima, a scarlet-oak and “The Miracle of the Sun,” all from Italian mosaic.
The third phase of the project was The Parish Center which included a new chapel for daily mass. Even though we did not have 100% of the needed budget, the most Reverend Timothy McDonnell, Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, gave us permission to begin the construction. What we used to call the “white house” was demolished and the foundation for the new center was laid.
Aside from the contract awarded to A.R. Green, several parishioners committed themselves generously to help and help they did. The project for the Parish Center designed by Reinhardt Associates consisted of 6 classrooms, administrative office, 3 handicapped bathrooms and the Chapel which was named in memory of the Three Little Shepherds of Fátima.
Included in the Chapel are an altar, lectern, tabernacle and cross originally made in Madrid. Also included are the processional statue of Our Lady of Fátima and the four beautiful stained glass windows recovered and restored from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Ware MA. (Demolished in 1999) A statue of Mary feeding baby Jesus (Nossa Senhora dos Remédios) is situated at the entrance of the Parish Center. She has as a background a large handmade and hand painted panel in Portuguese 18th century tiles. This building was inaugurated June 25, 2006.
Suddenly a fourth phase was thrown upon us. The front of the church was caving in. The front stairs, arches and brick walls were falling apart. It was ready to be condemned. We had to engage a new architect (Architects Inc.) to design a project for the exterior of our church that could incorporate the overall look of all the buildings.
Again, it was money we did not have. We went ahead and with the help of several parishioners we were able to start rebuilding. This first part of the construction is now finished. We tried to maintain the original architectural design of the old building.
The second part of the first phase was the stained glass windows: the wooden window frames were rotted and needed substitution and some of the stained glass were broken and in need of restoration. We used aluminum which will last forever.
Last but not least, a new roof will be needed that will defend and conserve the entire restoration.
Unknown to us there was a State Law that we violated with these repairs. The church was not handicap accessible. Therefore, we were not allowed to reconstruct without making provisions. We were called to the State Architectural Access Board in Boston and ordered to do it. We appealed to the same board and were issued a waiver. We did the initial repairs and the two main and costly requirements were postponed until 2013. Two handicap bathrooms and a elevator are required. The two bathrooms will be built in the church hall and the elevator will be the logical access to these bathrooms.