Diocese of Providence coping with church closures

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — There are currently 141 churches within the Diocese of Providence, which is down 14 from 1997.

That trend will only continue, forcing many parishioners to find a new spiritual home, a problem the Diocese is all too familiar with.

Earlier this month, the Diocese announced the closure of St. Brigid’s Church in Johnston, just one of three others to close within the last two years.

St. Brigid’s Church became a mission of St. Rocco’s after declining attendance but the decision was made to close it permanently. It goes up for sale July 1.

This isn’t the first parish Father Angelo Carusi of St. Rocco’s had to close – the first being St. Teresa’s in Providence in 2009.

“With St. Teresa’s and also with St. Brigid’s, it came down to the finances,” Carusi said. “It’s never easy. I don’t like to do it, I don’t want to do it but practically speaking, it has to be done.”

In addition to St. Brigid’s, there are three churches currently vacant and up for sale, including Sacred Heart in Woonsocket, St. Leo’s in Pawtucket and St. Patrick’s in Cumberland.

Chancellor of the Diocese of Providence, Father Timothy Reilly said they consult with the parish priest prior to its closure canonically. Then, it goes up for sale.  

“The last thing we want is for someone to stop going to church altogether. That’s never the answer, we need you more than ever,” Reilly said.

The Diocese continues to maintain church property until they are sold or demolished.

“We still keep our insurance on the building,” Reilly said. “We have our maintenance, our security. The fire alarm will stay on. Smoke detectors will still be in place.”

Demolishing a church is the last option, according to Rielly. He said the Diocese works to sell the church to either another religious group or developer. The last church to get demolished was St. Casimir Church in Warren nearly 15 years ago.

“We have to be a little bit more wise and prudent with how we are going to deal with the shortage— not just of priests, that’s an important factor, but that lack of people in the pews, the longtime lack of sacramental practice,” Reilly said. “It’s all coming together and it’s not a pretty picture.”

As for St. Brigid’s, it’s legacy will live on. Statues of the Station of the Cross will be sent to a church in the Caribbean that was ravaged by a hurricane.

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