PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Saint Mary’s Church on Broadway is going back in time in order to move forward.
When Jim Forte joined Saint Mary’s a decade ago, the pews were full and morale was high.
“We had a very good crowd of people we had a lot of people attending and it was very nice,” Forte said.
But Forte says changes made in recent years caused more people to leave.
“Then it became a question of survival. We knew that down the road, not being able to sustain it financially, it would have closed,” he said.
Desperate times called for drastic measures.
“In August of 2018, Bishop Tobin invited our order to come in and take over Saint Mary’s,“ Father John Berg, St. Mary’s Pastor said. “We do what’s called the traditional Latin mass, for those who are older would’ve known it in 1962.“
The entire mass, except for the homily, is celebrated in Latin.
“I have to admit I was a bit skeptical because it was a bit different. and most people said oh if you say you’re going a step backward, you’re going back in time,“ Forte said.
It turns out, that’s exactly what the church needed to move forward.
Attendance numbers started increasing as people from all across New England were attracted to the traditional format.
“I would say the average travel time is about 45 minutes for a parishioner on a Sunday,“ Berg said.
“I’ve been attending traditional masses pretty frequently for the past four or so years but there’s nothing like this, I’ve been waiting for something like this to come along, something with the full kind of community life that isn’t offered anywhere near where I live,“ Jack Marriott said.
There is confidence this new niche is enough to keep St. Mary’s thriving.
“No, it will never close now, it will never close,“ Forte said.
Work is also being done to restore the building itself. Renovations to the sanctuary and the church’s bell tower are expected to be completed in the next few years.