By John Lynds
While the community fought hard to keep beloved Sacred Heart Parish Priest, Father Wayne Belschner, his move to Deedham has lead to arrival of a new leader of the church who said he’s ready to continue the good work Father Belschner did in the community.
Fr. Eric Bennett, a 36-year-old native Rhode Islander, arrived at Sacred Heart in August and has settled in nicely to his new assignment here in East Boston.
“What I love is when you look out from the alter you see Spanish speakers, Italian speakers, Vietnamese speakers, the community is a real melting pot of people,” said Fr. Bennett, who also speaks Spanish and Italian aside from English. “The first couple of weeks doing the Italian Mass was a little rough but the parishioners here were cheering me on so it was great.”
Fr. Bennett was born and raised in Rhode Island and is one of eight children, three sisters and five brothers. His parents, Dudley and Kathleen (Foley) Bennett still live in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.
Growing up, Fr. Bennett attended local public schools in East Greenwich before enrolling at Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick, Rhode Island.
After high school, he was a student at Boston University’s Sargent College. Upon graduation from BU, he worked as a physical therapist first at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD., and then at the Eliot Nursing Home in Natick.
He completed pre-theology studies at St. John’s Seminary, Brighton before being sent to Rome. He was a deacon at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Chelsea during the summer of 2011 and prior to his return to studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
He was officially ordained in June 2012 and celebrated his first Mass at St. Patrick Parish, Natick back in June 24 2012.
Fr. Bennett then moved over to Gates of Heaven Church in South Boston in November 2013 before being assigned to Eastie.
In Southie, Fr. Bennett said the strong community that surrounded the church prep him for Eastie.
“It really is the Mission of the Church to help,” said Fr. Bennett. “We are here if you come in and if you need assistance we want to be here for you.”
As for filling Fr. Belschner’s shoes in the community, Fr. Bennett said while no one could duplicate Fr. Belschner’s larger than life personality he has arrived with his own set of gifts and talents that will hopefully continue Sacred Heart Parish down the right path.
“Before I left South Boston I told parishioners that it really is a privilege to wake up every day and know I’ve been asked by God to walk with people in their journey,” he said. “That is really what gets me out of bed in the morning and really why I wanted to become a priest. Some may say that is a bland existence but I consider it a joy because on any given day someone can come to the church and ask for my help in a time of need.”
While he admits he’s not trying to replace Fr, Belschner and brings his own style to Sacred Heart it a style that is rooted in helping people, the parish and the community.
“He is a priest who is very committed to his prayer and helping people grow in holiness,” said Very Reverend James A. Flavin Episcopal Vicar of the Central Region Archdiocese of Boston. “I am happy for the people of Sacred Heart. It is a wonderful parish and Fr. Bennet will be blessed with so many good and loving people. “