New convent dedicated in Lincoln

New convent dedicated in Lincoln

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, sprinkles holy water as he blesses a new chapel at the convent at St. James Church on Division Street in Lincoln. The new convent will be home to three women from the Sisters of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, founded in Kerala, India. (Breeze photos by Nicole Dotzenrod)

LINCOLN – For the first time in more than 30 years, a convent will serve St. James Church on Division Street in Manville.

The news was made official last week with the rededication and blessing of a new chapel in the former rectory building.

Bishop Thomas Tobin, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, partook in the chapel’s first Mass last Thursday, May 31, welcoming three women from the Sisters of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, a Catholic Religious Women Congregation founded in Kerala, India, in 1908.

The Rev. Thomas Ferland presides over both St. James and St. Ambrose Churches, choosing to live at the latter rather than renovate the large St. James rectory for his own use.

Though he couldn’t imagine doing the work for himself to live there, he said he was happy to do it for the sisters. The three-story building stood vacant for more than two years before renovations began, which took five to six months of daily work replacing carpets, painting walls and doing other repairs.

“I know the sisters are going to feel at home here, and that they are going to inspire and encourage our community to be a more faithful following of our lord Jesus Christ,” he said.

“It’s perfect,” Sister Jessin Madathikkunnel, 35, said of the home she will share with Mother Superior Tizy Androth, 58, and Sister Linsa Neendukunnel, 30. While the house is large, she said she looks forward to monthly gatherings with sisters from her congregation from Connecticut who will take turns visiting.

She had been waiting four years to form a convent, which requires three sisters and a private residence. Since the sisters arrived from India, they have stayed at St. Theresa’s in Burrillville while searching for a home to establish themselves.

“We were praying for a good place,” Androth said of the wait. “This is a blessed, holy place. The parishioners have been so welcoming.”

The sisters will work in ministries serving the sick in local nursing homes, saying they’ll be spreading God’s message in the local community.

The sisters thanked Bishop Tobin for his kindness and concern for them during their transition, and for granting permission for a convent in Rhode Island that is willing to accept immigrants. Their congregation, SABS, has a presence in 10 countries across the world, with 620 convents, more than 5,000 sisters, and 350 candidates.

While North America historically sent missionaries into foreign countries, the trend has flipped in more recent years, with religious organizations sending faith servants to the U.S. Statistics show the number of nuns and religious sisters is shrinking while growing more diverse.

“They’re paying us back now for bringing the faith to them,” the Rev. John Kiley said.

Sister Elizabeth Castro, director of the Office for Religious at the Providence Diocese, said it is up to the bishop, and the government, to decide whether to welcome immigrants to serve in local Catholic communities.

“Bishop Tobin is a blessing ... he is so warm and welcoming,” said Castro.

“It’s nice to know that this community is prospering,” Tobin said, joking that it must have something to do with the founder’s name also being Thomas. “It’s wonderful to know that this place that served as a home for priests for several years now will serve as a beautiful home for the convent, a place of adoration and prayer for the sisters and for all of us to come together.”

Sister Jessin Madathik-kunnel does a reading during the first Mass at the new chapel at St. James Church. She will live in the convent at the church with two other religious sisters.
Clergymen, parishioners and Sisters of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament stand with Bishop Thomas Joseph Tobin on the steps of the new convent at St. James Church in Manville.