St. Pius V Church celebrates 100 years

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PROVIDENCE — St. Pius V Church marked its centennial anniversary at a special Mass on Oct. 28 celebrated by Bishop Thomas Tobin with the provincial for the Dominican Province of St. Joseph, Father Kenneth Letoile, who is also a former pastor of the parish, concelebrating.

In his homily, Bishop Tobin congratulated the parish on the anniversary, calling it a “very significant milestone.” “What we celebrate today is not just the quantity of years but what we celebrate today moreover is the quality of your faith in this parish,” Bishop Tobin said.

He quoted from Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Lumen Fidei,” about the light of faith. In Rhode Island, he noted, there are 17 lighthouses, according to one list. “It seems to me they missed one because they missed the St. Pius V parish which indeed throughout its history has been a lighthouse shining forth in the community the light of faith,” Bishop Tobin said.

“We’ve had a hundred years here of bringing the word of God, the sacraments, education, prayer, healing, conversion, community and communion to generations of Rhode Islanders,” said Father Augustine Judd, O.P., the pastor. “I hope that the 200th anniversary will be just as joyful as this one.”

After the Mass, the parish held a reception in the church basement. On the main stage a slideshow displayed pictures throughout the history of the church. Next to it, parishioners could record video messages for the 200th anniversary of the Church or browse tables with yearbooks, photo albums, and cardboard posters with more information from the church’s history.

One picture from 1943 showed two girls and a nun. One of them was Sister Catherine McDermott, C.N.D., who came to St. Pius V for the anniversary. “The spirit of prayer in this parish nurtured my spiritual life and nourished my vocation into religious life,” Sister McDermott told the Rhode Island Catholic.

Father Letoile, who grew up in the parish, also credited it with helping him to find his vocation.

“The line in today’s Gospel where the people say to Bartimaeus ‘Arise, Get up. He is calling you’ just really spoke to my gratitude for hearing the Lord’s call among the people of this parish to be a Dominican priest,” Father Letoile said.

Letoile said St. Pius V has a “unique identity” because of its “sibling connection” with Providence College, with which it was founded.

St. Pius V also has its own pre-k through eighth grade school, which one young couple said helps contribute to the sense of a neighborhood community centered around the church. “Immersed in a neighborhood that has a Catholic feel has been really incredible,” said Megan Coyle, whose two young children attend the school.

She said the sisters and fathers can call out her two sons by name as her husband Justin walks them to school every morning. “Here we see people in this community everywhere we go and they know our family and are so kind to us and embrace our family so warmly,” Coyle said.

The reception featured dishes made according to old recipes from members of the parish. The recipes were pulled together in a commemorative cookbook that was on sale.

Ann Lapolla, who was selling the cookbooks, has been a parishioner for 26 years and has served in a number of ministries in the church, including its centennial committee. She is also active in the school, where she runs the morning care program and is a part-time admissions director. “There’s just a connection in the school and the Church that is really quite unique today,” Lapolla said.

“It’s very overwhelming sometimes spiritually to feel a part of something this great,” Lapolla added. “I am honored. I feel like I was called but I’m so humbled to be a part of this because it’s so much bigger than any of us.”

One of the special guests for the occasion was the parish’s oldest living pastor, Father John McKeon, O.P., who was pastor from 1965 to 1971. McKeon told the Rhode Island Catholic that he was “very happy” to be back at the parish and see people he knew from his tenure there. He described St. Pius V as a “great parish.”

One of his former parishioners is Mary Garvey, who has been a member since 1939. Her parents were Irish immigrants who had “great faith” and were “so happy” to be at St. Pius V, Garvey said. She said the parish had meant everything to her family. “It is the greatest parish in the world,” Garvey said.