CRANSTON — St. Paul’s School celebrated its 100th anniversary on Friday, Sept. 15 with a gala at Rhodes at the Pawtuxet.
The event was attended by approximately 500 guests, including faculty and staff of St. Paul’s School, parishioners of St. Paul’s Church, and current and former clergy. The majority of those in attendance were students or alumni, ranging from current students to those who graduated as early as the 1940s. The gala began with a light reception, followed by a dinner for guests, which was also accompanied by a raffle, a silent auction, and various other events.
“We’ve got a great school, and obviously it shows in the longevity of it,” said Father Thomas Woodhouse, pastor of the parish. “We have great staff, great teachers. We’ve got a lot of promise, we’ve got a lot of history, we’ve got a lot of potential.”
He said that the large turnout emphasized the closeness of the faith community and the parish’s role as an anchoring point of the larger community. “It’s a strong community, and everybody sort of centers on St. Paul’s,” Father Woodhouse commented.
“I think it’s a joyous celebration of all the generations that have come to our school, and it’s the legacy and the charism that continues to carry on the wonderful Catholic education experience at St. Paul’s school,” said Principal Cindy Richard.
Henry May, a member of the Class of 1955, became a member of the parish and began to attend the school after moving to Cranston from Smithfield. The connection he formed with St. Paul’s during this time still remains strong. Even though May no longer considers St. Paul’s his home parish, he still frequently attends daily Mass at the church.
“It was a great atmosphere. The nuns were fantastic,” May said.
He noted that part of the reason for the school’s longevity was its rootedness in the Catholic faith and the strong bonds formed by students and parishioners.
“There’s a deep commitment to the Catholic faith. A lot of the people no longer live in Edgewood, but they still support St. Paul’s school financially,” May said.
Mark Hannon graduated from St. Paul School in 1973.
“It was a great school. I had a lot of fun at St. Paul’s. I learned a lot of very good lessons growing up at the school. I had great teachers. It was a great facility,” he said.
“They’ve got to be doing something right to go a hundred years. It was a great education. They got us where we are today.”
The example of St. Paul’s school attracted Catholics from throughout the state to attend the gala in support of the school.
“I came to support a local Catholic church and a local Catholic school,” said Matthew Silva, a teacher at Sacred Heart Catholic school in East Providence, who also serves as the head of the religious education program at St. Anthony’s/Christ the King in West Warwick. Even though Silva never attended nor worked at the school, he believes that all Catholics need to show a sense of solidarity with their fellow Catholic communities.
“I think these events are great. I think that we all must support each other,” Silva continued. “Any church and school that make it to 100 years is certainly something to celebrate.”
Also in attendance were Allan Fung, the former mayor of Cranston, and his wife, Rep. Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung (District 15), who presented the school with an award commemorating its 100th anniversary.
“This is fantastic to see this crowd. My wife and I are very excited to be a part of 100 years of celebration,” said the former mayor. “St. Paul’s has been a part of the parish, a part of the legacy of Cranston all these generations.”
“It’s wonderful that St. Paul’s has made it this far. One hundred years of Catholic education, making sure that kids start off really well,” said Fenton-Fung. “I think the best part is not only to celebrate tonight, but what the next 20, 30 years will look like.”