Newport ruling threatens sisters' long standing ministry of compassionate care


At the turn of the 19th century a small band of religious women known as “The White Sisters” fled religious persecution in France.

Upon arrival to the United States they soon made their way to the seaside resort city of Newport, R.I. They did not travel to Newport to rest and idly sit by, but rather to minister to the sick and elderly. By 1927 the St. Clare Home for Aged Women was established and since then has become a vital ministry of caring for the elderly who are ill or infirm.

Seeking to build upon this legacy of charitable service to the community of Newport, the St. Clare Home proposed to renovate and expand its 47-bed skilled nursing facility on Spring Street to meet the evolving long-term care needs of the community. The project would add 13 skilled nursing beds and 40 new independent/assisted-living units and adult day care while transforming St. Clare Home into a "Green House" model nursing care facility. Tragically for St. Clare and the City of Newport, the Zoning Board, responding to the unfounded criticisms of a small, vocal group of opponents, rejected the proposed plan for expansion.

It is apparent that a small group who view Newport as only a seaside resort serving the powerful and affluent have found some like-minded among the members of the Newport Zoning Board. Casting aside a sound proposal, trampling upon a historic legacy of service, and crushing a commitment to welcome even the powerless and poor, this small group has seemingly had their day. However, the commitment of the church to serve the weakest among us with love and to honor the dignity of our elders has not diminished and the fight for the very existence of the St. Clare Home continues.

We call upon the good people of Newport—especially those in the Catholic community—to join the cause of St. Clare and express their outrage at such an unjust and unfortunate decision by the Zoning Board. They need to call to account their neighbors who have attacked the very mission of St. Clare’s to serve the elderly and infirm of Newport. The Zoning Board and their allies who have attempted to extinguish the beacon of light that St. Clare represents to Aquidneck Island must realize the gift of St. Clare Home to their neighborhood and the greater Newport community.

The residents of St. Clare both past and present deserve better from their local officials and neighbors.

The legacy of the White Sisters who came to Newport in the hope of finding religious freedom and a welcome to serve must be preserved. America’s First Resort must welcome her residents and visitors with not only than slogans, but with actions.

The time to expand and improve the mission of St. Clare has come and must not be derailed by a small group committed only to serving the needs of a select few. Save St. Clare must be the clarion call heard across all of Aquidneck Island!