2. 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 service record.

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 about Avila's missing parish.

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

4.   Distinguished Priests: Background in the Official Catholic Directory

5.   Clergy Burial Grounds: Retirement and Death in the Official Catholic Directory

6.   Heal the Sick: Chaplains and Treatment in the Official Catholic Directory


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.