St. Mary’s on Broadway Celebrates 150th Anniversary

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PROVIDENCE — St. Mary’s Church on Broadway in Providence celebrated the 150th anniversary of its dedication with a special Mass and dinner on July 11.

“It’s wonderful to see so many faithful from the past … that have been at St. Mary’s that have contributed a lot and to see them with the new parishioners that have come in because of the Extraordinary Form,” Father John Berg, FSSP, the pastor, told the Rhode Island Catholic.

The celebration comes almost one year after the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) assumed leadership of a parish that was at risk of closing.

In his homily, Father Berg spoke of the history of a parish that was founded to serve Irish Catholic workers in Olneyville. The digging of the foundations begun during the Civil War and the parish was dedicated on July 11 after a nearly two-hour sermon. Its first pastor, Father John Quinn, is “fittingly buried in front of the church,” according to Father Berg.

He noted that less than 5 percent of the volume of the church was space for parishioners; the rest was for God.

Father Berg spoke about two main purposes of the church building. The first, he said, was as a sanctuary “for man to know his proper place” and his “relation to God.” Father Berg also spoke of the church as an “antidote for our sorrows.”

“But this church in all of its glory was not built simply to humble man — it was meant to remind him of the glories that he is called to through grace. It was meant to represent heaven, as we read from the Book of the Apocalypse of St. John: ‘the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband,’” Father Berg said, according to the prepared notes for his homily.

“Perhaps it is hard for us to imagine the impression St. Mary’s made on someone who had never seen such brilliant colors shining in from the stained glass. There was no TV, no internet, no saturation of images,” Father Berg added.

The anniversary Mass filled the sanctuary with visitors and regular parishioners.

Sonia Pflieger, who is 74, has been a parishioner at St. Mary’s for over 40 years. She was encouraged by the arrival of the FSSP at the church and the renewal of the Latin Masses at St. Mary’s. “I see so many young people,” she said. “They are the future.”

One of those younger members is 28-year-old Emmanuel Goguen, who drives from Massachusetts with his wife Mary to attend Mass at St. Mary’s.

“I think it’s a good testament to the church in Providence and this beautiful church that’s been here so long. It makes me encouraged in my faith and our community here,” Goguen said.

Among the visitors were John and Maggie Sweeney, from Massachusetts. John said the church reminded him of those that he grew up in Ireland. His wife, Maggie, said the event “was very meaningful” and “brings back all the reverence that has been lost.”

“This beautiful building is still here,” said Georgia Hitti, a regular parishioner, who says she has found support as a single mother in the new community that has formed at the parish.