3. Parish School and a Festival:
Transfers in the Official Catholic Directory

When you look up Fr. José Maria Bettencourt e Ávila in the 1965 edition of the Official Catholic Directory, you will discover a change in his fortunes. He has become the pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in New Bedford, a great old Portuguese parish with a well-established parish school and a festival in honor of the Virgin Mary. In this photograph, the school is at the left, and the banners for the festival are flying.

How did an administrator with an alleged history of sexual abuse obtain a transfer to such a place?

In the Official Catholic Directory for 1965, this huge change in Ávila's life is indicated very simply. His index entry is as follows:

Ávila is still indexed under Bettencourt, as in 1964. The index lists his new parish in a shorthand: (FR) tells us that he is in the Fall River diocese. [5] New Bedford tells us that in the alphabetical list of New Bedford parishes, Ávila's parish is the fifth one. The address of his residence is also provided. When we go to the Fall River diocesan pages and find the fifth parish in New Bedford, this is the entry:

The "5-" corresponds to the [5] in the index. The parish is identified as "Portuguese," i.e., it is a national parish serving an immigrant population. Ávila is one of three priests now, and he is listed first and without qualification, indicating that he is the pastor, not an administrator anymore. There is also a parish school, with an enrollment of 168 boys and 218 girls; they are taught by 12 Sisters of St. Dorothy and one lay teacher.

Nothing in these entries will alert you that Ávila reportedly left St. Anthony's under a cloud; according to our sources, parents in the parish had written a letter of complaint to the diocese.

In the Official Catholic Directory for 1966, another priest has arrived at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Gilbert J. Simões, who is alleged to have helped Ávila abuse boys at St. Anthony's in East Falmouth before Simões was even a priest. Here is the entry showing Simões's first year in New Bedford:

It is surprising that an administrator with an alleged history of sexual abuse was made pastor of a parish that also maintained a school. Perhaps it was felt that the isolated character of this immigrant parish would afford Ávila some cover, and that the distance from East Falmouth would assure that stories of Ávila's alleged abuses in East Falmouth would not find their way to New Bedford.

It is even more surprising that Ávila's alleged lover and fellow abuser from East Falmouth days, Gilbert J. Simões, should be sent to join Ávila in the following year.

Where did Simões come from, and whom did Ávila replace at Our Lady of Mount Carmel? As we will see in the next section, those good questions bring two eminent priests into the story: one an esteemed monsignor and the other a high official of the diocese and a future cardinal.

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


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