CRANSTON — As a senior priest for the Diocese of Providence, Father Raymond B. Malm is officially retired.
But Father Malm, who retired in 2015, is as busy as ever, and continues his work in promoting nonviolence, caring for AIDS patients and advocating for the rights of undocumented migrants in the Newport area as the pastor emeritus of St. Joseph Church.
In recognition of his service to the undocumented in Newport, the RI State Council of Churches presented Father Malm with its Reverend Hebert Bolles Life Achievement Award during the organization’s Heroes of the Faith Breakfast on Nov. 1.
In accepting the award, Father Malm read from an essay written by the president of the Tenement Museum in New York City, reflecting on the life of “Bridget,” a 15-year-old girl who immigrated to the United States from Ireland at the turn of the 20th century.
“The refugees fleeing the endemic violence and lack of economic opportunity in Honduras and the rest of Central America are like Bridget, leaving behind everything they’ve ever known, undertaking a perilous journey to an unwelcoming destination, because whatever risks of this decision, borne of desperation, must be better than staying home,” Father Malm said to a packed ballroom at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet, which hosted the Rhode Island State Council of Churches’ 9th annual Heroes of Faith Breakfast.
Since retiring from active ministry, Father Malm has been assisting the undocumented migrant community in Aquidneck Island. He also works with the Family Preparedness Program, which helps migrant families protect their children if their parents are arrested or deported.
“We need for sponsors of kids, to take care of them if the parents are arrested, and reunite them with the parents if they are deported,” said Father Malm, who urged people to get involved in the effort to keep migrant families together.
“If we don’t do this, and the parents are arrested, the children go into foster care, and their parents will never see them again when they are deported. Think about that,” he said.
Father Malm also serves on the boards of Amos House, AIDS Care Ocean State, Dorcas International and the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence. In 2013, he helped bring the Good Friday Walk for Hunger to Newport.
In recent years, Father Malm has received numerous awards. He was given the Living the Dream Award from the State of Rhode Island Martin Luther King Holiday Commission.
The Women’s Resource Center recognized him as one of 20 “Men who Make a Difference.” He also received the Philanthropist of the Year award from AIDS Care and the Sister Ann Keefe Community Service Award from the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence.
Father Malm was born in Providence and attended local parochial and diocesan schools. After attending Pope John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts, Father Malm was ordained a priest on Nov. 6, 1976, and assigned to St. Joseph Church as an assistant pastor.
In September 1983, he was transferred to St. Michael the Archangel Church in Providence, the parish of his youth, where he remained as administrator of the ministry team for 25 years.
Further reflecting on the life of the 19th century Irish immigrant Bridget, who went on to marry and raise a family in New York, Father Malm said the Central American migrants who today walk through jungles and deserts to make it to the United States are seeking the same opportunities for a better way of life for themselves and their children that Bridget sought and obtained.
“It’s a wonderful testament to the welcome we had many years ago at the turn of the last century,” Father Malm said. “We need to learn from that.”