DocuNB: Final Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in New Bedford

Editor’s note: Today we introduce another new community-based feature, DocuNB, an occasional series of short videos that document the vivid culture of New Bedford by training the camera on evocative scenes of everyday life. If you have ideas for a short documentary on a city scene, please send them our way at tips@newbedfordlight.org.

For 117 years, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church on North Front Street was a gathering site and place of worship for the region’s Polish-American community. But with diminishing participation, the Diocese of Fall River decided last year to close the church that was founded in 1905.

“No one likes change,” Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha of the Fall River Diocese told those in attendance at the final Mass. “But change is also so much a part of our lives.”

Parishioners listened, some holding small children, some taking cellphone images of the ornate interior and many wearing protective COVID-19 face masks. They carried memories of their families, the weddings, the first Holy Communions, and so many Sunday mornings at Mass — sometimes punctuated by a trip to a nearby Polish bakery.

“When we face changes, we need to look at not just a door closing to us, but looking at the opportunities that lie ahead,” da Cunha said. “And looking at the new door that will open before us.”

About Robby MacBain

“The power of video lies in the way it plays out over time,” says DocuNB creative producer Robby MacBain. “By watching and listening to a video over a given duration, we are experiencing the flow of sensory information in a way that might approach what the subjects in the video experienced when it was filmed.”

Allowing the action to simply play out with minimal intervention “lets patterns and nuances of everyday life rise to the surface,” MacBain notes.

The approach takes patience and a willingness to observe. “Although I have an idea of where and what I might want to film, the actual subject matter is something that emerges in the creative process — it cannot be forced.”

MacBain says the goal in creating a DocuNB story “is to reveal the richness of life and diversity of perspectives in New Bedford.”

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