Beacon Staff In a release issued this week by the Diocese of Providence, due to a steady decline in the number of parishioners and sacramental activity; given the sharp decrease in the number of priests available for parish assignments; following
In a release issued this week by the Diocese of Providence, due to a steady decline in the number of parishioners and sacramental activity; given the sharp decrease in the number of priests available for parish assignments; following thorough consultations with the affected parishes and with the diocesan College of Consultors and the Council of Priests, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin approved a request from the respective pastors that St. Catherine and St. Francis of Assisi parishes be merged canonically into SS. Rose and Clement Parish, effective July 1.
The consolidation comes as no surprise.
In a Feb. 14, 2017 “town hall meeting” held at Hendricken High School, 150 parishioners from ten Warwick parishes gained an insight of the decline of church events across the diocese. They learned statewide mass attendance for a single Sunday in November of 2005 was 126,900 compared to 105,100 eight years later; that in 1975 64 percent of Rhode Island births were baptized Catholics, a number that dropped to 28 percent by 2012 and that state marriages for the same period dropped from 52 to 16 percent Catholic.
Declines at St. Catherine in Apponaug and St. Francis of Assisi in Hillsgrove are cited in the decree issued by the diocese. It reads that recent attendance at St. Catherine for both Sunday masses totaled 47 persons. The attendance at St. Francis of Assisi was 86. At SS. Rose and Clement there were 183 people.
As of June 30, Father Pierre Plante will retire as pastor of St. Catherine and St. Francis of Assisi parishes, and believes that merging his two congregations and their resources into SS. Rose and Clement Parish will serve to strengthen the overall Catholic presence in Warwick.
“Having one parish office will make administrative tasks run more efficiently and joining together volunteers in various parish ministries and activities will make a more vibrant parish with even greater outreach to the wider community in Warwick," Father Plante said in the release.
Father Andrew Messina, pastor of SS. Rose and Clement Parish, said he is looking forward to the integration of the three parishes.
“We extend a very warm welcome to all who wish to join us. Working together, with the grace of Almighty God and the assistance of our Blessed Mother, good things will result,” Father Messina said.
“I commend Father Messina and Father Plante for their hard work throughout this process,” said Bishop Tobin. “Each pastor saw the advantage in uniting these communities, and I am confident that an even stronger and more dynamic parish will emerge at SS. Rose and Clement.”
All sacramental records for St. Catherine and St. Francis of Assisi parishes will be transferred to the office of SS. Rose and Clement Parish, 111 Long St., Warwick, where they will be permanently maintained.
Father Robert Marciano, pastor of St. Kevin Church, called the merger of Catholic churches “the wave of the future” and wise.
“We can’t keep open for ten to 20 people,” he said. In Warwick St. Rose of Lima combined with St. Clement. Father Marciano is serving both St. Kevin and St. Benedict and St. William closed in 2017.
“The new generation is not joining [the church],” he said. He said the church is “redesigning itself to meet the needs…they [the people] go where they are fed.”
The SS. Rose and Clement church building will remain as the primary worship site. The St. Catherine and St. Francis of Assisi church buildings will remain available for occasional use, as pastoral needs demand.