In the 1960’s the town of Dartmouth and the adjacent West End of New Bedford grew rapidly in population. Many new homes were built, bringing young families into the area. Bishop James L. Connolly believed a new parish was needed to serve this expanding community. On November 17, 1969, a new parish was established and placed under the patronage of St. Julie Billiart who had been canonized earlier that year. Hence, our parish became the first in the United States dedicated to this new saint.
St. Julie Billiart Parish was formed and populated from the mother parishes of St. Mary’s in South Dartmouth, St. Lawrence in New Bedford, and St. George in Westport. It was bound by Buttonwood Park on the East, the Westport town line on the West, the Dartmouth town line on the North, and Sharp Street on the South. Soon after it establishment about 600 families became parishioners of St. Julie Billiart Church.
Bishop Connolly appointed Rev. John F. Hogan as the first pastor of St. Julie’s. Father Hogan worked on the plans and sought land on which to build a church. After considering a few sites, the DeMello Farm on Slocum Road was selected. The property was adjacent to Bishop Stang High School and contained a house and barn. The house would serve as the rectory, but the church needed to be built.
Ground was broken in the spring of 1970 and the church began to take shape. A long driveway was cut in from Slocum Road, and a parking lot was laid out to the North section of the church. During the construction phase, Masses were held in the Bishop Stang cafeteria and the Dartmouth High School auditorium, as the parish awaited a consecrated space to celebrate Holy Mass. After months of anticipation, St. Julie Billiart Church was ready for occupancy. Bishop Daniel A. Cronin dedicated the new house of worship on October 11, 1971.
Between 1980 and 1990, the parish census more than tripled to more than 2,000 families. The parish had already purchased a large parcel of land on the south side of the church, the former Poole property, in 1981. The house on that site was sold and moved, and in 1984 the upper parking lots were situated on a portion of that land. The Mary Garden was also constructed at that time. It was the last major project undertaken by the founding priest of St. Julie Billiart, as Father Hogan died on August 7, 1986.
Monsignor Patrick J. O’Neill was appointed pastor after the death of Father Hogan. Monsignor O’Neill realized that St. Julie’s would have to consider an expansion program to enlarge our church and parish facilities. The last Mass in the originally-sized St. Julie’s Church was held on June 28, 1992. It was followed by a Eucharistic procession to Bishop Stang High School to prepare for a new construction phase when weekend Masses would be held in the Stang auditorium (and daily Mass was offered in the Bishop Stang Chapel).
St. Julie Billiart Church celebrated its return to its enlarged church during a Weekend of Thanksgiving on June 26 and 27, 1992. The new parish office wing was blessed by Monsignor O’Neill at a special ceremony on June 26. The blessing of the new wing was Monsignor O’Neill’s last official act as pastor; he had announced his retirement in May following a long illness. (Monsignor O’Neill died on July 8, 1995. His funeral Mass was celebrated in the new parish church on July 13, 1995).
At the retirement of Monsignor O’Neill, Bishop Sean P. O’Malley appointed Father Brian J. Harrington pastor of St. Julie’s. On June 28, 1993 Father Harrington, began to serve this parish of now over 2,300 families.
In October of 1995, the parish family of St. Julie’s gathered together to celebrate its Silver Jubilee. The celebration began with an evening at White’s on the Watuppa attended by Bishop Sean O’Malley, past and present priests and deacons of St. Julie’s, and many parishioners. The following day, the 25th Anniversary Liturgy was concelebrated at St. Julie’s with Bishop O’Malley as the principle celebrant.
In June of 2006, Fr. Gregory A. Mathias was assigned to be the new pastor of the St. Julie Billiart Church. In the winter/spring of 2008, a new steeple and roof was installed in order to remedy problems with heat loss, etc. In November of 2009, St. Julie’s celebrated her 40th anniversary with a home-coming of priests and pastors who had served her well.
Fr. Gregory A. Mathias served as pastor of the parish until the year 2012 when the reins were given over to Fr. Richard Roy who served as pastor from 2012 – 2020. During Fr. Roy’s pastorship, he oversaw many needed parish renovations which modernized the parish hall and kitchen. Fr. Roy also led the planning of the celebration of St. Julie Billiart’s 50th Anniversary, while five years earlier he recounted the contribution of St. Julie Billiart Church to our local religious history for Dartmouth’s 350th Anniversary celebration in 2014.
Fr. David Pignato is the present pastor, beginning here in August of 2020. He was joined at the parish by a second priest, Fr. Steven Booth, who became Parochial Vicar of St. Julie Billiart in October, 2020.