As one of the first Portuguese immigrants to be ordained a Catholic deacon in the Fall River Diocese, Buildings and Grounds Custodian Eduardo Pacheco has baptized youngsters, begun a family support group and rounded up altar servers for Portuguese-language Masses over the past two years.
He has performed this work of faith while holding down two jobs, caring for an ill wife, and maintaining an air of humility which has earned him admiration in the Boston College offices he visits daily.
Pacheco's deeds and modesty have won him something else: the 1999 Boston College Community Service Award, presented to him by University President William P. Leahy, SJ, at a campus dinner last night.
"What I am doing is special because it is for God, but it is something I choose to do," said the 12-year B&G employee, whose reaction to winning this year's award will surprise few who know him. "I don't deserve [the award]. I regret that I don't have time to do more.
"I am very thankful for the award and for BC," said Pacheco. "I am very happy to work here."
On College Road, where Pacheco is a housekeeper, staffers who nominated him for the service award said his warmth and manner have brightened many a day.
"He always has a smile or a kind word each morning," said Administrative Coordinator Susan Hynes of the Academic Vice President's Office. Her colleague, Computer Support Specialist Gail Howe, added, "Eduardo is a kind and gentle man who is a true asset to BC and College Road."
"He's a gentle gentleman," said Community Affairs Director Jean McKeigue, "always thinking of other people in whatever he does, whether they are the people of his parish or the people of College Road. I think he's a wonderful reflection of BC."
As a boy growing up in the Azores, Pacheco said, he was so pious that family and friends pegged him as a future priest. While a desire to marry and raise a family proved a stronger calling, said Pacheco - who emigrated to New Bedford in 1964 at the age of 25 - his religious faith has seen him through some tough times over the years.
In 1987, he lost his job of 22 years at a textile mill and was on the verge of losing his home when he managed to land a job at Boston College. He drives more than an hour each way to and from the University, while working five nights a week at a second job cleaning office buildings in New Bedford. His wife, Rosalinda, with whom he has two children, suffers from debilitating asthma which recently put her in the hospital.
But Pacheco says "the call of God" has been a revitalizing force in his life. Two years ago, after more than three years of study at night, he realized a long-standing dream when he was ordained a Catholic deacon in the Fall River Diocese.
He now distributes communion, leads prayer groups and presides over baptisms at Our Lady of the Assumption Church, a New Bedford parish populated largely by immigrants from Cape Verde, a former Portuguese colony on the westernmost point of Africa. Pacheco has recruited altar servers for the Portuguese-language Mass at the church, and helped start a chapter of Our Lady's Team, a group that seeks to strengthen family life in the parish. He has also baptized several teenagers who had not been christened as infants.
Pacheco said he has been enriched by his assignment to a parish whose culture is different from his own.
"It's like being in a different country," he said. "It is a challenge and I'm still learning. I am very thankful to God for our team. We can already see the fruit of our work."
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