This year marks the 50th anniversary of Franciscan ministry in Providence, R.I. As we celebrate our history, we stand on the threshold of an entirely new ministry for the friars of Holy Name Province. On May 17, ownership of our current building at 58 Weybosset St., transferred from the friars to a local developer. On June 1, Holy Name Province will assume the pastoral care of St. Mary’s Parish.
St. Mary’s Parish dates back to 1853 and is one of the oldest parishes in Providence. It was established to serve the working class people of the Olneyville section of the city. In those days, it was primarily an Irish parish.
The parish has seen many ups and downs over the years and is currently home to a wide variety of worshippers. People still come from the West Broadway and Olneyville neighborhoods. Many people drive back to their old neighborhood to worship at St. Mary’s, and still others come to be part of a beautiful, historically significant church. Most recently, the Korean Catholic Community of Rhode Island has found a home at St. Mary’s.
Both the church and rectory have been placed on the National Registry of Historical Places. The parish is in the center of a historically rich neighborhood in Providence – Broadway and the West End. It is surrounded by local businesses, beautiful old homes and recently renovated condominiums.
The friars and the community at St. Francis Chapel are very excited about this new chapter in our history. The building we have occupied for more than 10 years no longer meets our needs – either ministerially or fraternally. For many years now, worshippers at St. Francis have asked for the services of a parish to baptize their children, educate their children, get married and be received into the church – all the ministries of a parish. Until now, that has not been possible. This move to St. Mary’s will help us to do even more urban ministry and to reach out to more people.
The friars will continue to maintain the chapel in downtown Providence. It will be a place for daily worship and confessions. All weekend liturgies and other parish and ministerial events will take place at St. Mary’s. We will also maintain The Poverello Center – a place for food and wellness – in the Olneyville section of Providence.
As we prepare to move, we realize that the building at 58 Weybosset St., has played a short but important role in the history of Holy Name Province. Many friars have lived and ministered in this building, and many friars spent their novitiate here. The friars will continue to live in our current building until the rectory at St. Mary’s is ready.
All friars are invited to come to Providence to visit the building, remember your time here and get one more look at the recreation room with the most spectacular view in the Province!