Grant for $5,000 will help restore St. Mary's carriage house

Grant for $5,000 will help restore St. Mary's carriage house

The old carriage house at St. Mary's Church, with plenty of holes and even plants growing out of it, will be restored in part through a $5,000 legislative grant. Pictured here are, from left, Pawtucket Friendly Sons President Dennis Keough, Rev. Mark Sauriol, pastor at St. Mary's, Rep. Mary Duffy Messier, and Tom Rogers, who will lead the restoration effort. (Valley Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

PAWTUCKET - Tom Rogers and his friends have worked long hours over the past five years to restore the Old St. Mary's Cemetery. Now, thanks to a legislative grant of $5,000 from the Rhode Island General Assembly, they'll have the chance to take aim at the next phase of this project, the restoration of the original carriage house on the property.

Rogers, the member of the Pawtucket Friendly Sons of St. Patrick who won the 2013 Rhode Island Cemetery Association Blue Ribbon Award, said the carriage house restoration has long been needed. With many other projects on the checklist now complete, and plants growing through the roof of the building and animals finding a home on the second floor, the time has come, said Rogers.

State Rep. Mary Duffy Messier, of House District 62, won a $5,000 legislative grant this year through new House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello's office for the restoration of the carriage house. Messier said she applied for the grant because she believes the restoration represents a good cause.

St. Mary's Cemetery, behind the historic St. Mary's Parish and between Pine and George streets, is full of recognizable names in Irish and Pawtucket history. Famed James McNally Wilson and John Gordon are two of the thousands of Irish buried here, including 13 Civil War soldiers who died in the line of duty. Those buried in the cemetery represent every county in Ireland.

The old carriage house that once housed horses and carriages is a centerpiece of a Catholic church and former school complex that was once the center of activity for Irish families in Pawtucket, said Dennis Keough, president of the Pawtucket Friendly Sons. Old horse feeders are still hanging on the wall inside the structure.

The $5,000 legislative grant will help restore the carriage house and help keep animals out, said Rogers. The $5,000 will cover the first phase of a lengthy project, patching up the holes in the building's slate roof and partially restoring the steeple. He said this first $5,000 will hopefully jumpstart a lengthy "community-based" fundraising effort designed to create a permanent fund for maintaining the carriage house.

"This is just the beginning of what we want to do," he said.

The carriage house is an important structure in the history of St. Mary's Parish and the church's cemetery, said the Rev. Mark Sauriol, pastor at St. Mary Church. Today it is used for storage of many old artifacts, including the desks at the old St. Mary's School, as well as the equipment for maintaining the cemetery.

Phase two of the restoration project will involve cleaning out and rehabbing the interior of the building, said Rogers.

Rogers said he and the Pawtucket Friendly Sons remain committed to the St. Mary's property because it represents such an important piece of Irish and Pawtucket history.

Pawtucket industrialist David Wilkinson was the one who made the original St. Mary Church, school and cemetery a reality. Wilkinson, whose name is on the stone building at the downtown Slater Mill site, had been assured by his Catholic workers that they would settle permanently in Pawtucket if they had a church where they could worship. In 1828, Wilkinson and his wife, Martha, deeded the parcel of land on George Street, which became the site for one of the first Catholic churches built in the state.


Whatever happened to the separation between church and state?

Not only do the churches not pay taxes, but are they now being given our tax dollars? And to a church that owns more Rhode Island seaside mansions than God?

Roger Williams must be rolling over in his grave. Are there no constitutional lawyers in the Attorney General's office?

Constitution of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations


Section 3. Freedom of religion. -- Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; and all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness; and whereas a principal object of our venerable ancestors, in their migration to this country and their settlement of this state, was, as they expressed it, to hold forth a lively experiment that a flourishing civil state may stand and be best maintained with full liberty in religious concernments; we, therefore, declare that no person shall be compelled to frequent or to support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatever, except in fulfillment of such person’s voluntary contract; nor enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in body or goods; nor disqualified from holding any office; nor otherwise suffer on account of such person’s religious belief; and that every person shall be free to worship God according to the dictates of such person’s conscience, and to profess and by argument maintain such person’s opinion in matters of religion; and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect the civil capacity of any person.

Of course God owns all the mansions and He doesn't need the cash. But I do not think it is a violation of Church and State because they are viewing the Church for its historical value of which is significant. Should the government be in the business of keeping historically valuable entities afloat? It's certainly more valuable then a playground.
I am glad Churches do not have to pay taxes. They actually help our society and culture. If people followed the teachings of Christ and His Church, they wouldn't be the ones murdering in Woodlawn, or being Dead Beat Dads in Fairlawn and they wouldn't be stealing tax payer money in the General Assembly. Pawtucket needs Christ. So hopefully St. Mary's will be faithful to preach and do the truth and hopefully our City will be influenced for the Good.