Last Year at St. Anthony's:
Looking Up a Priest in the Official Catholic Directory
José Maria Bettencourt e Ávila is alleged
by survivors to have abused hundreds of boys on Cape Cod, while
he was the administrator of St. Anthony's in East Falmouth (see
picture at left) for 20 years. He was transferred in 1964 and allegedly
abused many other boys at his next assignment.
On this page, we use Ávila's final year at St. Anthony's to answer
these basic questions:
* How do I look up a priest in the Official Catholic Directory?
* How do I make a basic list of the priest's entire career?
How do I look up a priest?
If you wanted to create an assignment record for José Ávila,
you would begin with a year during which you knew he was working as a
priest. Let's pick 1964. First find him in the Official Catholic Directory
for that year, looking first in the alphabetical list of "Secular
and Regular Priests of the United States." This list takes up hundreds
of three-column small-print pages in each Official Catholic Directory,
toward the back.
"Ávila" is not listed, but if you check his middle name
"Bettencourt," you will find this entry:
The abbreviation FR stands for the Fall River diocese; a full list of
abbreviations for dioceses and archdioceses is at the front of the Official
Catholic Directory. It is a peculiar feature of Ávila's entries
in the Official Catholic Directory that he was constantly adjusting
his name and how it was indexed. Was this to make it more difficult to
trace him, or was it an expression of his interest in his Portuguese identity?
Note that in this index entry, his name has been misspelled Avilla.
Using this index entry, turn now to the 1964 Fall River diocesan pages
in the same volume. Each diocese has its own pages in the Official
Catholic Directory, and there are about 1000 diocesan pages in each
Official Catholic Directory volume. Through the 1967 volume,
archdioceses are grouped together alphabetically in the front of the book,
with dioceses following. Starting in the revolutionary year of 1968, dioceses
and archdioceses are presented in a single alphabetical sequence.
In the Fall River pages, you'll find a list of diocesan officials, and
after them the Fall River parishes, beginning with those of the cathedral
city, followed by the parishes outside the city of Fall River. Those "outside"
cities are listed alphabetically by city or town, and the entry for East
Falmouth is as follows (note the discrepancy in spelling between this
entry and the index):
How do I create a year-by-year record?
If you were building an assignment record for Ávila, you would
now write or type on a work sheet:
1964 - St. Anthony's, East Falmouth - Administrator
Note that the Official Catholic Directory lists, as
best it can, the assignments for January 1 of the year it is reporting.
So Ávila's appearance in the 1964 Catholic Directory means
that he was at St. Anthony's on January 1, 1964. This means that Ávila's
listing in the 1964 Directory indicates that Ávila also worked
at St. Anthony's for at least part of 1963.
You would then work forward through each year of the Official Catholic
Directory to the last year in which Ávila is listed, and backward
until you find his first appearance, writing the same information down
to create a year-by-year basic
list of Ávila's career.
This list can then be consolidated and supplemented from other sources
to create an assignment record, in which each assignment is listed with
start and stop dates, titles, and comments. Here is Avila's
The assignment record shows that there is a mystery about Avila's history:
newspaper articles reveal that he served in a parish that is never mentioned
in the Official Catholic Directory, although the Directory
is usually quite reliable about such things. If you are curious, read
Links to the entire Guide:
1. How to Create
a Assignment Record in a Few Easy Steps
2. Last Year at
St. Anthony's: Looking Up a Priest in the Official Catholic Directory
2a. Are There
Gaps in the Parish Records of the Official Catholic Directory?
3. Parish School
and Festival: Transfers in the Official Catholic Directory
Priests: Background in the Official Catholic Directory
Burial Grounds: Retirement and Death in the Official Catholic Directory
6. Heal the Sick:
Chaplains and Treatment in the Official Catholic Directory