WOONSOCKET — Parishioners got the official word in church Sunday morning: All Saints Roman Catholic Church will close its doors at 323 Rathbun St., and the congregation will merge with St. Joseph Church, 1200 Mendon Rd., by Feb. 7.
Both parishes asked for the merger, a news release from the Diocese of Providence said. The dwindling number of All Saints parishioners, which went from 748 in 2019 to about 134, could not meet the escalating cost of staying open or catching up with long-deferred repairs, estimated at more than $1 million.
All Saints has no upcoming Baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations, or weddings, the news release said.
St. Joseph Parish will assume the territory and parishioners of All Saints, as well as its sacramental records.
“The merging of a parish and the permanent closure of a church building is always a sad and painful occasion and never the desire of any bishop or priest, " said the Rev. Ryan J. Simas, who is pastor of St. Joseph and administrator of All Saints, "but it is my hope and prayer that the coming together of these two communities will create a stronger and more faithful Catholic Church in Woonsocket...."
The Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of Providence commended Simas and the members of both parishes "for walking together and working together to bring this merger to completion.... I pray that the parishioners will see this change not as a set-back, but rather as a new chapter in their journey of faith, a new beginning filled with wonderful possibilities."
All Saints Parish was created in 2007 with the canonical merger of Our Lady of Victories, St. Aloysius Gonzaga and St. Ann parishes.
From 2015 to 2019, the parish in Central Woonsocket recorded 171 Baptisms, 118 First Communions, 117 Confirmations and six weddings. Many of the initiation sacraments were for Spanish-speaking families that have relocated to Holy Trinity Parish, the diocesan decree said.
The church building has water damage inside, drainage issues, and mortar deteriorating on its facade. Repairs would cost an estimated $1.32 million.
The 1957 building that had been the St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church "is relegated from sacred to secular (but not sordid) use" and "loses its former status as a sacred place." All items will be inventoried and made available first to St. Joseph Parish and then other parishes, a decree from the bishop said.
The decree takes effect at 11:59 p.m. Feb. 7. Parishioners wishing to "make recourse against this decree have the right to do so," in writing, with supporting documentation, and within 10 business days of receiving notice.
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This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Bishop Tobin: Woonsocket RI Catholic Churches to merge