Archbishop Ford was born in the City of Boston, Massachusetts on the thirteenth day of May in the year 1952, the son of the late James E. and Bernardine R. Ford. He is the eldest of three children; he is the brother of Paul R. Ford of Boston and the late Ruth Ann Ford.
He was baptized at the Gate of Heaven Roman Catholic Church in South Boston on May 26, 1952, thirteen days after birth; he received his First Holy Communion in Saint Brigid’s Church on May 30, 1960 and subsequently he received the Sacrament of Confirmation on April 14, 1966 also at Saint Brigid’s Church.
He grew up in the section of the city known as South Boston and was a communicant member of Saint Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church, having attended the Nazareth School, the parish’s parochial school which was conducted by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth whose Mother House is located at Nazareth, Kentucky from whom he received his elementary school education. He served as an Altar Boy, sang in the choir, later serving as an usher and a member of the Holy Name Society at Saint Brigid’s Church, where he also later taught in the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine program for younger children from the public schools.
In 1970 he graduated from the Christopher Columbus Central Catholic High School for Boys, located in Boston’s historic North End, which was conducted by the Franciscan Friars Minor of the Immaculate Conception Province.
During his high school years he volunteered at a program serving meals to the homeless, working alongside of two future well-known humanitarians of Boston: Paul Sullivan, founder of The Pine Street Inn a shelter program for homeless men; and Kip Tiernan, founder of Rosie’s Place, a homeless shelter for women. He also taught a number of Hispanic youngsters who had come to Boston from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, how to speak, read and write English, in a literacy program that later became known as the “Dos Culturas” Program in Boston. Several years later he again worked with this program serving as the Summer Activities Director.
While still in high school he began what would ultimately become for him an eight year commitment of working with emotionally disturbed, abused, abandoned and neglected children resident at the Nazareth Child Care Center in Boston. His work there would eventually develop in later years into more extensive work with “at risk” youth throughout the city in various programs, settings and modalities, also encompassing youth suffering from mental health issues, homelessness, parental neglect and abuse, as well as criminal and delinquency issues, over the next forty years.
He entered the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular in August of 1970 at Mount Assisi Monastery in Loretto, Pennsylvania and began his studies for the Sacred Priesthood there, attending classes at Saint Francis College. Returning to Boston he entered the Franciscan Friars novitiate there, receiving the religious name of Dismas (though he continued to retain and use his Baptismal name) and made his simple profession of vows on April 20, 1972. Three years later he made his solemn profession for life as a Franciscan Friar, having entered the Old Roman Catholic Church earlier that year.
During his early years, as a Franciscan Friar, Frater Edward served as a local advocate for many of the “at risk” youth he was working with, advocating for them in the courts, with probation officers and with various state programs and social service agencies. He served on numerous local community and state committees and worked with many state and local agencies throughout his many years of dedicated service. He was extensively involved in community work with inner-city youth and struggling families, organizing activities for the youth and programs to address the needs of the community concerning housing, nutrition, health and social services, teaching such things such as ways of stretching a budget for families on limited incomes and seeking donations from stores and individuals to assist the needy in their plight. He continued his teaching activities in the schools and religious education programs of the city and organized “after-school” and evening recreational/educational programs for the youth throughout the area, bringing together yougsters from different racial, ethnic, religious and economic backgrounds and neighborhoods and helping them to see in each other genuine friends and an acceptance of those who differed from their own background all the while fostering a sense of “oneness” that they would not have experienced if not for those opportunities he provided for them. He served as a counselor and “father-figure” for many of those youth whose own fathers had either abandoned them or who were emotionally or physically absent.
During the intense racial busing crisis in Boston during the 1970’s, when school buses and their occupants were often subjected to acts of violence and intimidation, Frater Edward, together with many other clergy in the Boston area, accompanined those buses and served as escorts to protect the children from any acts of violence while entering or leaving the schools and thus took up a positon outside the school doors to ensure the safe passage of these children into and out of their schools and buses. He also took an active role in attempting to defuse some of the racial strife rampant in certain Boston neighborhoods between Black and Hispanic groups as well as the Hispanic and Anglo speaking communities of the Boston neighborhoods of the South End and of South Boston, neighborhoods where he had been working extensively with each of these groups.
During these years Frater Edward continued his theological studies for the Priesthood, through Saint Francis Seminary, then headquartered in New York, and was placed under the aegis of Bishop Burns. He was assigned to Father Mark MacNamara as his local Mentor and continued his studies, eventually earning degrees in Sacred Theology and Canon Law. During these seminary years, Frater Edward was assigned to several local parishes where he assisted the clergy in the liturgical services, taught in the religious education programs of those churches, organized various parochial youth programs of outreach and activities and leading numerous youth retreats. While he was still “de familia” in the Friary at Boston and continued serving in the local parishes there, he also was missioned to and traveled to Middletown, Rhode Island where he was instrumental in helping to establish a new parish dedicated to the traditional forms of Catholic doctrine and worship in the area of greater Portsmouth, Rhode Island serving the regions of Rhode Island, southeastern Massachusetts and eastern Connecticut
On May 24, 1975 at Marsh Chapel, on the campus of Boston University, he was ordained to the Diaconate, having previously received the First Canonical Tonsure and the Minor Orders of Ostiariate, Lectorate, Exorcistate, Acolythate and the Subdiaconate.
By mandate of the bishop, Frater Edward organized Saint Raphael’s Parish in Boston and served there as Deacon-in-Charge until his ordination to the Sacred Priesthood by Bishop James Edward Burns in Boston on October 22, 1977, at which time he was also named as the pastor of the same parish. In the ensuing years, in addition to his own parish of Saint Raphael in Boston, Father Edward traveled throughout the New England area, saying Mass, organizing Mass Stations and Missions in various locations, such as: Casco, Raymond, Naples, Portland and Orono in Maine; Merrimack and Manchester in New Hampshire; Boston, Amherst, Worcester, Fall River, Brockton and Provincetown in Massachusetts; Providence and Charlestown in Rhode Island; Hartford and New Haven in Connecticut. He also traveled to various cities in New York and New Jersey on behalf of the mission work of the Old Roman Catholic Church and together with clergy from other parts of the country brought numerous scattered Old Roman Catholic communities in New York, New Jersey, California, Washington, Virginia, North Carolina and Canada together within the framework of the North American Old Roman Catholic Church.
On May 30, 1978, with special dispensations being granted, Father Edward was consecrated as a Bishop and was given the title of Titular Archbishop of Amida and soon thereafter was appointed as the first Bishop of New England, due to the rapidly advancing illness of Bishop Burns, who, suffering from the debilitating effects of diabetes, was going blind, had already lost one leg, was in danger of losing his remaining leg, and thus was unable to continue his ministry as before. Archbishop Ford now worked vigorously to extend and expand the work of the Old Roman Catholic Church. Archbishop Ford was appointed by the then Primate, the late Archbishop James H Rogers as the chairman of the Canon Law Committee, and of the Clergy Insurance and Pension Committee. He served on many other committees for the church and also served as both an Advocate and later as a Synodal Judge in the Primatial Curia and Courts of the Church. He was instrumental in re-organizing the program of studies for Saint Francis Seminary and has authored numerous booklets, pamphlets, brochures and articles for use in the Church and is also the author/compiler of the Church’s Catechism: Our Catholic Faith and Practice.
For several years in the early 1980’s, at the request of the late Archbishop Rogers, and with permission granted by him, Archbishop Ford re-located his residence to Virginia in order to assist with and to oversee the development of the work and ministry of the Old Roman Catholic Church in both Virginia and North Carolina. Through his efforts and the efforts of several other clergy and religious, missions were established at Norfolk and Newport News in Virginia, and at Hertford, Edenton and Lumberton in North Carolina. An attempt to revive a former Old Roman Catholic Church in nearby Fayetteville, North Carolina which had been closed in the early 1960’s was not as successful, though the Mission of the Holy Cross in Lumberton was close by enough to accommodate the spiritual needs of the faithful in Fayetteville.
Throughout his many years as a Franciscan Friar, Archbishop Ford has served in various capacities within the Order: local Guardian (superior); Provincial Definitor (councilor); Master of Novices, Censor Librorum and most recently as Minister Provincial. He has ministered in the parochial ministry, chaplaincies, and education apostolate at the elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels.
Arms impaled. In the dexter: quarterly Argent and Or a cross throughout Azure cantoned of four Greek crosses potent Gules (NAORCC); overall on an escutcheon in pretense Azure fimbriated Argent a barrulet wavy Argent between in chief a Greek cross fleury and in base a mullet of six points both Or.(Diocese of New England)
In the sinister Argent a Latin cross throughout Azure charged on the upper arm and the two arms to dexter and sinister with an escallop shell and on the lower arm with a mullet of six points all Or; overall on an inescutcheon per fess Azure and Or in chief the Franciscan conformities Proper and in base three nails disposed in a pile inverted surmounted by a crown of thorns all Sable; on a chief Gules a sword point downward Argent with the pommel and hilt Or and a royal sceptre Argent topped by a jewel Or in saltire enfiled by an ancient crown Or between two crescents to dexter and sinister Argent. (Abp. Ford)
The shield is ensigned with a bishop’s mitre Or and Argent and a crozier and a patriarchal cross placed behind the shield palewise both Or. Above this is a galero with cords 30 tassels disposed on either side of the shield in five rows of one, two, three, four and five all Vert.
On a scroll below the shield is the motto: Lucrum Christi Mihi.
When a Bishop’s coat-of-arms is designed, it is the usual practice to include various symbols and emblems that are descriptive of him and which signify special aspects of his family, life, and vocation. If the Bishop is not an Ordinary, (i. e. if he is not the Diocesan Bishop), his personal coat-of-arms fills the entire shield. When he is the Diocesan Bishop, it is customary to impale (i.e. to divide the shield in half and place the two coats-of-arms side-by-side) his personal arms with the coat-of-arms of his Diocese. In a very real sense, the coat-of-arms serves as a pictorial description or signature of the Bishop.
When describing the coat-of-arms it is described from the perspective of the person behind and carrying the shield, and thus the right side of the shield (dexter) is actually the left side as we look at it, and vice versa. The position of honor is the dexter side, and it is here that the coat-of-arms of the Diocese is placed.
In the coat-of-arms depicted above, Archbishop Ford has incorporated four different coats-of-arms into his own. They include the coat-of-arms of The North American Old Roman Catholic Church, the coat-of-arms of the Diocese of New England, the personal coat-of-arms of the Archbishop, and a variation of the coat-of-arms of the Franciscan Friars of The Third Order Regular.
The dexter side displays the coat-of-arms of The North American Old Roman Catholic Church, of which Archbishop Ford is the current Metropolitan-Primate. That coat-of arms is a shield which has been quartered in silver and gold, the colors of the Papal flag which is displayed in many parishes of the Roman Catholic Church from which The North American Old Roman Catholic Church is descended, and which it considers itself to still be an integral part of. In each quarter is found a red cross potent. Overall the entire arms of The North American Old Roman Catholic Church is divided by a large blue cross.
This large cross indicates that it is under the banner of the Cross of Jesus Christ that we, as soldiers of Jesus Christ, wage a Holy War against sin, the flesh, and the devil or Satan. It reaches to the edges of the shield to indicate that we are charged by our Divine Savior to take His message of Love and Salvation to the four corners of the earth, and to make disciples of all nations.
The four quarters represent the four Sacred Gospels upon which our Catholic Faith is based.
The silver represents the purity of the Catholic Faith and the human nature of our Lord, while the gold represents the preciousness of our Catholic Faith and also the Divine nature of Jesus Christ. The large cross is colored blue to represent our dedication to the Immaculate Mother of our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ. For it was by her cooperation with God’s plan for salvation that the Savior of the world was born and thus enabled to take on our human flesh and nature.
The crosses potent are formed by joining four “T” shaped crosses, known as a Tau from the Greek letter of that name. This was an ancient symbol associated with the Old Testament passage of Ezekiel where he is told to: “Go through all the city…and mark the Tau on the foreheads of all”. It is also said to be the form of the staff used by Moses to mount the bronze saraph or serpent upon. Additionally it is also emblematic of the Franciscan influence which has been associated with The North American Old Roman Catholic Church since the Primacy of Archbishop Carmel Henry Carfora. Three of the seven men to hold the office of Primate have been Franciscan Friars.
The red crosses potent are so colored to represent that we are committed to spend our blood, sweat and tears in labor for the spread and propagation of the Gospel and the Catholic Faith. They are placed in the center of each quadrant to indicate that the focus of the Gospels is Jesus Himself, and that it is He alone Whom we preach and teach. They do not reach the edges of their quadrant to indicate that our mission is yet unfinished and that we are committed to continuing the work and ministry of our Divine Savior.
Overall, the combination of the blue and red crosses form a stylized version of the Jerusalem Cross, which indicates the birthplace of our Faith, on the First Pentecost in the year 33 AD
As Archbishop Ford is also the Ordinary or Diocesan Bishop of The Diocese of New England, he bears the coat-of-arms of that Diocese in a special positon of honor which is known as an escutcheon. It is a smaller shield placed in the center of the arms of The North American Old Roman Catholic Church.
The Arms of the Diocese of New England bears a blue shield to indicate the dedication of the Diocese to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patroness of the Diocese. It is bordered by a small silver band to indicate that we are surrounded in all we do, by the loving protection of Almighty God.
The principal charge in the shield is a Greek cross with fleur-de-lis tips, all displayed in gold. This indcates our profession of faith in the saving power of the cross of Christ, which is the foundation and bedrock of our Catholic Faith and which we treasure more than gold. The fleur-de-lis ends represent the fact that the Catholic Faith was first brought to the territory which comprises the Diocese of New England by French missionary priests.
Beneath the cross is a silver wave to symbolize the fact that the coastal waters of the area of the diocese plays such a vital role in the life of the region, and is also an allusion to the waters of Baptism by which we receive the grace of Eternal Life in Christ Jesus.
In the base of the shield is placed a six-pointed Creator’s Star. This is a traditional depiction of the star of Bethlehem which announced the birth of our Divine Savior. The six points represent the six states which comprise the Diocese of New England.
Overall, the star represents the birth of Jesus, the cross represents His death, and the Gold and Silver represent His Resurrection and Victory…thus the three principal feasts of the Church (Christmas, Good Friday and Easter) are represented and the entire message of our salvation is proclaimed in the Arms of the Diocese.
On the sinister or left side of the shield is displayed the personal arms of Archbishop Ford.
The traditional coat-of-arms of the Ford family from Ireland displays a silver shield with a blue flanche, three golden roses and two blue martlets. Archbishop Ford’s arms have taken the traditional family arms and differenced them as follows.
The silver shield has been retained. The blue flanche has been changed to a blue cross to represent the Archbishop’s vocation as a priest of the Catholic Church. The three golden roses have been changed to three golden scallop shells, which are the traditional emblem of St James the Greater, who is the Archbishop’s secondary Baptismal patron Saint. The shells have been placed in the upper arms of the cross to indicate that St James has historically been identified as kin to our Lord. In the lower arm of the cross has been placed a golden six-pointed star taken from the arms of the Diocese of New England to indicate that the Archbishop is a son of that Diocese, and that it was to that Diocese that he was first appointed as Diocesan Bishop.
In the upper third of the shield, known as the chief, is a red field on which is placed a golden crown out of which, in a saltire position, issues a silver scepter with a golden head and a silver sword with a golden hilt. This is the traditional emblem of St Edward the Martyr, King of England, the Archbishop’s primary Baptismal Patron Saint. The red signifies the struggle, loyalty and fidelity to the Faith even in the face of death. The saltire position represents the cross of St Andrew and the cross of St Patrick which are incorporated into the flag of Great Britain, which includes Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales, over which King Edward the Martyr reigned. It also represents a part of the Archbishop’s family heritage…his father’s family coming from Ireland, and his mother’s family having Irish, Scottish, English, Welsh, and Dutch origins.
On either side of the crown is placed a silver crescent to indicate the Archbishop’s personal devotion to the Holy Mother of God, and the tips are pointed heavenward to indicate the direction to which we focus our gaze, and to which we aspire eventually to go.
Centered on the lower portion of the Archbishop’s coat-of-arms, in an escutcheon, is a differenced version of the coat-of-arms of the Franciscan Third Order Regular, of which the Archbishop is both a Friar and the Minister Provincial.
It consists of the traditional emblem of the Franciscan Order, known as “The Conformities”. On a field of blue, is displayed the bare arm of Our Lord Jesus Christ crossed over and in front of the gray robed arm of St Francis of Assisi, both bearing the marks of the Stigmata or Sacred Wounds which were made by the nails in Our Lord’s hands when He was crucified, and which St Francis, who is known as “The Mirror of Christ”, bore as a precious gift from God, in imitation of his Divine Savior. Projecting above the crossed arms is a golden cross.
The base or lower portion bears the Crown of Thorns and the traditional three Nails of Our Lord’s Passion, all displayed in black, and placed upon a golden field. The Crown of Thorns and the three Nails are the traditional symbol of the Third Order of Saint Francis, and tradition has it, that St Louis IX, King of France, who is the principal Patron Saint of the Third Order, rescued these sacred relics from the Holy Land in 1239 during the Crusades.
The Archbishop’s motto is also the traditional motto of the Ford Family…”Lucrum Christi Mihi”, which when translated means: “To me, Christ is gain (the reward).” It is an allusion to the scriptural passage in Philippians 1: 20-21 “According to my expectation and hope; that in nothing I shall be confounded, but with all confidence, as always, so now also shall Christ be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me, to live is Christ: and to die is gain.”
Ensigning the Archbishop’s coat-of-arms is the traditional double barred Archepiscopal Cross in gold. Over the arms of the Diocese is placed the precious mitre and over the personal arms is placed the crozier of a Diocesan Bishop, with the curve pointed outward to indicate that he exercises proper jurisdiction over his diocese.
The Pontifical Hat is displayed above the entire coat-of-arms in a green color , which is the traditional color for bishops and archbishops. On either side are fifteen tassels displayed in five rows. This configuration is common to Cardinals who display their hat and tassels in red, to Patriarchs who display their hat and tassels in green and gold, and in our jurisdiction, to Primates, who display their hat and tassels in solid green.
An Archbishop who is not a Primate has ten tassels on each side of the shield, while a Bishop has six tassels on each side.