PROVIDENCE — During the 14 years Father James Ruggieri has served as pastor of St. Patrick Church, Providence, the parish and accompanying school have dedicated themselves to the Church’s evangelization mission, reaching out to the community and becoming a thriving resource for those wishing to deepen their faith. Parishioners point to the leadership of Father Ruggieri, whose devotion to the parish and humble zeal for the Church’s mission have, they say, greatly impacted all who walk through the doors of St. Pat’s.
According to Father Ruggieri, who will receive a Lumen Gentium Award in the category of Evangelization, it is the dedication of these parishioners that make St. Patrick Church such fertile ground for sharing in the faith. The church serves parishioners from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds, it’s an attribute, he says, that has benefitted parish life.
“Among Latino Catholics, there’s a lot of devotion,” Father Ruggieri said. “I think our diversity really affords us a variety of opportunities to evangelize.”
Those evangelization activities include Bible studies, Life in the Spirit seminars, retreats, symposiums and activities for youth. According to religious education coordinator Maria Batista, Father Ruggieri also shows his dedication to the parish in his time commitment to church activities and the example he sets for parishioners.
“In addition to having so many evangelization activities available to everyone and the meaningful homilies that Father James gives us at every Mass, his life is the best lesson on how to become a saint,” she said.
Along with a zeal for evangelization comes an unwavering support for Catholic education. When St. Patrick School was scheduled to close its doors as a Catholic elementary school in 2009, it was the vision and perseverance of Father Ruggieri, along with a dedicated group of supporters and staff, that allowed the school to transition into St. Patrick Academy, a college-preparatory high school serving students regardless of financial need. According to Father Ruggieri, the school presents a great opportunity for evangelization as faculty and staff strive to create an environment where students can live out the values of the Catholic faith.
“The school helps them to be the young men and women they’re called to be. And they don’t even know it sometimes,” he said.
Like many pastors, Father Ruggieri said his parish faces the difficulty of deciding how best to apply resources when the material and spiritual needs are great. Amidst the challenges of running a bustling parish and serving a Catholic high school, he finds solace in daily Mass and relies on prayer to stay centered in his own faith.
“In the latter part of my life where I’m at now, it’s a priority I’ve come to recognize,” he said. “The other good thing is having good people to share in the work with because I can’t do that by myself. I really think St. Pat’s is blessed by the people who share in the work.”
He considers one of his most important responsibilities as pastor helping to identify the gifts in others around him and offer opportunities for ongoing formation for parish leaders. These leaders often come from among the youngest parishioners, who have impressed him with their initiatives in evangelization and offered great hope for the future of the Church.
“They’re just flourishing and I’m happy to see that,” he said. “I feel that these young people have a passion for spreading the faith and I don’t think that will die soon.”
Over the next several weeks, Rhode Island Catholic will feature profiles of the 17 winners in the 10 categories of the diocese’s 2017 Lumen Gentium Awards, which formally recognize those who ‘toil in the vineyard’ in service to the Lord, and minister to those in greatest need in their parish or community. The honorees will be awarded during a dinner at Twin River Event Center in Lincoln on Wednesday, May 17. Guests wishing to purchase tickets to the dinner — whose proceeds will support diocesan senior priests, many of whom continue to serve in our diocese well into their older years — are asked to register online at www.dioceseofprovidence.org/lumen-gentium-awards. For any questions about the event, please call 401-277-2121.