Haverhill parish celebrates five years since merger

All Saints Day was special for Marge Fargnoli, and not just because it is the day when the Church remembers the saints in heaven.

On Nov. 1, Fargnoli and 1,600 other members of All Saints Church in Haverhill gathered to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the parish’s founding at a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley.

All Saints was formed after four ethnic parishes in Haverhill merged: St. Joseph, St. Rita, St. George, and St. Michael.

"I'm extremely happy," said Fargnoli, who previously belonged to St. George Parish. "I'm in God's house and I get the Eucharist just like I did at the other church."

The ceremony was concelebrated by Father Dennis T. Nason, founding pastor, as well as Fathers Keith P. LeBlanc, James Carroll, Mark G. Derrane, James M. Broderick, Joseph J. Svirskas, James A. Field, Michael Randone, and Richard T. Burton. Deacon Richard R. Bowley assisted.

"I thank God for you," Father Nason told parishioners. "Thank you for making All Saints Parish what it is today."

In his homily, Archbishop O’Malley talked about the meaning of All Saints Day in the Church.

"The feast of All Saints is the Church's celebration of the unknown soldier," Archbishop O'Malley said. "Today, we celebrate the fact that they were countless ordinary people who lived extraordinary lives."

''Pope John Paul II,'' Archbishop O'Malley continued, ''has beatified and canonized so many saints for one reason: He wants to remind all of us the universal call to holiness ... All of us are called to being saints."

The archbishop told the story of how St. Francis of Assisi asked one of his followers, Brother Leo, how he happened to find God. Brother Leo replied that God had made him lazy and, unlike his more enterprising siblings, he enjoyed listening to the birds and looking at the stars and the planets. It was while he was listening and gazing at creation that he became curious about who had created the world and consequently discovered God.

"We need to have time and space for God in our lives," Archbishop O'Malley concluded. "That is why it's important to come together as a worship community."

During the liturgy, the choir, directed by Bill and Betty Ann Henderson, jubilantly led the congregation in song.

The gift bearers represented the first parishioners to receive sacraments at All Saints Parish five years ago.They were: Anthony Iannalfo, baptism; Colleen Garvey, First Communion and Reconciliation; Elizabeth Hefferan, Confirmation; Glenn and Andrea Fogarty, matrimony; Lewis and Hortense Burton, parents of Father Burton, the first native son to receive Holy Orders.

While parishioners credit Father Nason for the success of the parish, the priest said, “It’s a team effort.”

Various customs and rituals of the different ethnic groups have been successfully incorporated in All Saints parish, such as the blessing of the Easter baskets by the pastor and the Polish family tradition of passing of the Christmas wafer on Christmas Eve. When St. Rita Church closed, its youth group came to All Saints and continues to flourish. The cooking talents of the men’s group at St. George are now being enjoyed by members of All Saints.

"[All Saints] has survived because people have worked hard to make it work," said Daune Marinis of Haverhill, formerly of St. Joseph. "We don't think of each other as from St. Michael or St. Rita or St. George; we think of ourselves as from All Saints Parish."