WOONSOCKET – All Saints Church is expected to close its doors early next year, the latest of the city’s Catholic churches to face closure amid declining enrollment and financial strain.
The Rev. Ryan Simas, administrator of the parish, confirmed to The Valley Breeze on Tuesday the Rathbun Street church is expected to close in January or February of next year. At that time, the parish will be merged with St. Joseph Parish on Mendon Road.
Parishioners learned the news during a town hall-style meeting Sunday night in the parish hall. Representatives of the Diocese of Providence, including the Rev. Timothy Reilly, chancellor, the Rev. Nathan Ricci, assistant chancellor, the Rev. Msgr. Raymond Bastia, vicar for finance and planning, and Gary Ferguson, diocesan director of facilities, were present for the meeting, according to Simas.
Simas said the closure comes after a yearlong review of the church’s finances and enrollment. Members of the parish’s Board of Trustees and Finance Council, he said, requested the presence of diocesan officials at the meeting.
“For about a year now, we’ve been studying the finances of the building, the finances of the parish, the shape of the building structurally as well as the sacramental life of the people,” he said.
“Our records show that really the parish has been in decline for 10 years or so. To that end, finances have become rather grim.”
Two years ago, he said, there were more than 700 registered families in the parish. Today, that number stands at 134 families and 237 individuals.
The church also does not currently have any students in its religious education program and has not held any recent weddings, he said. In the past year, the church has hosted three baptisms and 20 funerals.
Many parishioners were upset at the changes and expressed their disappointment following the meeting. Simas said he expects some individuals to begin attending St. Joseph Parish, where he serves as pastor, and others to find other parishes.
“Many were upset. They’re obviously very sad to hear that they might possibly lose their church building, but there was also a good number of them that looked at it very rationally and logically and said we see this decline, we’re not surprised,” he said.
All Saints Parish is the result of a 1998 merger between three parishes, including the former St. Ann Church on Cumberland Street and the former Our Lady of Victories Church in the North End. The community is located at the former St. Louis Church on Rathbun Street, also known as St. Aloysius.
The closure will also force the relocation of New Beginnings soup kitchen, which operates out of the church’s basement. New Beginnings Executive Director Jeanne Michon told The Breeze on Monday she was told she has six months to vacate the church. The organization has been seeking a new location since earlier this year.
Simas said he does not know what will happen with the church building after the parishes merge. The next step, he said, is for the Board of Trustees and the Finance Council to submit a formal request to close the church. If Bishop Thomas Tobin approves the request, he said, the closure will likely take place in mid- to late-January.
Simas said the changes will not affect the status of St. Charles Borromeo Church, which does not hold regular Masses but remains open for special events.