About Our Parish

Parish Trustees

Mr. Ronnie Bruni
Mr. Brian Hunter

Parish Auditors

Mrs. Therese Farrell
Mr. James Riel

Finance Council

Advises the Pastor on financial matters of the parish and cemetery. Responsible for monitoring all income and expenses, and approving the annual budgets. Members: Carl Brunetti, Ronnie Bruni, George Defond, Brian Hunter, Ken Pichette, and Rita Turcotte. Nancy Clancy is the Parish Bookkeeper. Rev. Thomas J. Ferland presides.

Parish Pastoral Council

The PPC is involved in most activities and programs effecting the liturgical and spiritual life of St. James Parish. Members serve at the Pastor's pleasure. Members: Denise Berard, Monique Bilodeau, Marie Briggs, Paul Brillon, Suzanne Brillon, Carl Brunetti, Ronni Bruni, Pam Butler, George Defond, Fern Dery, Philip Desrosiers, Rev. Thomas J. Ferland, Rose Khoury, Brian Hunter, Craig Lacouture, Rosemarie Lemoine, Claudette Lussier, Kathleen Meehan, Joan Morin, Raymond Morin, Kenneth Pichette, Ann Rageotte, Daniel Rageotte, Christine Riel, Richard Riel, Kristin Scribner, Paul St. George, and Eric Stager.

Humble Beginnings

Although Samuel Mann was Manville's most illustrious citizen when the village was named after him in 1831, it was actually another man - Israel Wilkinson - who brought the first business enterprise here. The Unity Furnace, located on the banks of the Blackstone River, depended on iron ore deposits from Cumberland's Iron Mountain. The foundry gained widespread fame for its production of cannon during the Revolutionary War period.

Samuel Slater added to the industrial growth of the area when he built his first cotton mill in Pawtucket in 1790. It was 1812 when Manville got its first mill - the Union County Factory. As these and other industries expanded, more and more workers were needed. French-Canadians began to flock over the border, swelling the Catholic population of Rhode Island. One large group - most of whom were from Quebec - settled in Manville about 1865.

They had been preceded by English immigrants early in the century - Episcopalians who had built Manville's first church - the Emmanuel Church of Manville. Irish had migrated to the community when their homeland was devastated by the potato famine of 1838. They formed the first Catholic population and early Masses were held in their homes. The first Mass in Manville was said in the home of one John Connelly at the corner of Winter and Railroad Streets in 1848.

In 1872, Manville became part of the town of Lincoln and the Manville Mill was constructed. This was the largest mill under one roof to be erected in America. It was the main edifice in a company-owned complex that included seventy-four brick box-like employees' dwellings and a granite dam which tapped water power to operate all three of the firm's mills.

The year 1872 was also an auspicious year for Roman Catholicism in Rhode Island. The Most Reverend Thomas F. Hendricken was consecrated first Bishop of Providence on April 28th and the Reverend James A. Fitzsimmons was appointed first pastor of the newly-constituted Parish of St. James on November 1st.

Although three Bishops had chosen to live in Providence, Rhode Island had been a part of the Hartford, Connecticut Diocese, which was formed in 1843 to serve the burgeoning Catholic population of Connecticut, Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. Although a Catholic priest had not even visited our state until the French landed at Newport during the Revolutionary War, bringing with them several chaplains, within less than a century the area of the Hartford Diocese numbered one hundred churches, ninety-five priests, and two hundred thousand Catholics. A new diocese was imperative.

St. James had originally been a mission of the first Catholic church in Rhode Island, St. Mary's in Pawtucket, which was dedicated in 1829. When St. Patrick's was established in Valley Falls in 1861, this parish assumed the St. James Mission.

But on November 1, 1872, Bishop Hendricken designated a new parish to be comprised of Ashton, Berkeley, Albion and Manville. The parish was named after its first pastor's patron saint and this energetic young priest was directed to begin construction of a church building.

Although his initial treasury was meager, Father Fitzsimmons immediately purchased an acre of land from Renseler Mowry. He then formed a syndicate and bought - on credit - enough lumber to build a church costing about $4,500. Work began and progressed so quickly that within ninety days the basement was ready to serve as a chapel. At this point, Father Fitzsimmons secured a $7,500 mortgage loan to complete work. The church, which measured seventy-eight feet wide by one hundred and twenty-eight feet deep, boasted a belfry of one hundred and twenty-nine feet in height. It was blessed by Bishop Hendricken in impressive ceremonies in the Spring of 1873.

When the parish was incorporated as St. James Church of Manville on March 10, 1874, the papers were signed by Bishop Hendricken, the Reverend L. S. McMahon, vicar general; Father Fitzsimmons and trustees James Aylesworth and F.X. Boucher.

That summer. Father Fitzsimmons was transferred to Ashton, since another split had made Manville a parish on its own. The Reverend Antoine D. Bernard came to take his place.

Father Bernard served a fruitful pastorate of fourteen years, during which time the parish continued to grow and the parish debt continued to diminish.The year before our second pastor left St. James, Bishop Hendricken died. His Excellency's funeral was the first religious service held in the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, whose construction he had directed. His death on June 11, 1886, preceded by two weeks the building's dedication.

A Building Parish

The Most Reverend Matthew Harkins was bishop when Reverend Eugene Bachand assumed the pastorate of St. James in January of 1888. During his tenure a rectory was built, improvements were made to the church, and plans were formulated for a parish school. Even before construction began on this project, however, in March of 1892, Father Bachand passed away. He was buried in the church cemetery at the rear of the present church.

When Reverend Joseph Hormidas Beland came to Manville in June of 1892, he directed the construction of the school and invited the Sisters of St. Anne de Lachine, Canada, to teach here. Four nuns arrived on September 4,1893, and set up their living quarters within the new building. On September 7th they enrolled three hundred and sixty-three students for the opening term of St. James School, which was dedicated by the bishop on the last day of that month. Those first four Sisters were the Reverend Sister Marie Philippe, Superior and Principal; Sisters Marie Lutgarde, Marie Clementine, and Marie Jerome.

Before Father Beland's transfer in 1894, he also had an organ installed in the church and supervised improvements to the rectory.

Reverend L. Joseph Jourdain continued the work begun by his predecessors and during his brief tenure the church was extensively decorated. Father Jourdain suffered from poor health in these two years, and he was taken to his Eternal Rest on July 20, 1896.

Our next pastor, Reverend Eugene Lessard, served a long and fruitful pastorate over a period of which saw the creation of a new diocese - Fall River - in 1904, the death of Bishop Harkins on May 25, 1921, and the succession to that chair by the previously appointed coadjutor bishop, Most Reverend Reverend William A. Hickey..

Soon after Father Lessard's arrival in Manville on July 28, 1896, he decided that there was no longer room for nuns' quarters in the school. The enrollment was steadily increasing so more classrooms were necessary.. The number of teaching Sisters was growing accordingly and there simply was not enough space for them in the crowded accommodations.

Plans for a new convent were drawn up and within a year the edifice was ready for occupancy. Right Reverend Monsignor Matthew Harkins blessed the new building on October 24. 1897.

A few years later, in 1903, the rectory was enlarged and remodeled. The school was also renovated and expanded that year.

Times were good in Manville. The Manville Company had become one of the two largest cotton manufacturers in the state, and it shared its prosperity with the community. In 1909, the firm established a playground for local young people and contributed toward the beautification of village properties. The public library was also a gift of the Manville Company. When the residents of Manville celebrated their centennial as a cotton producer in 1912, the three mills were employing a total of two thousand workers.

A Giving Parish

The world, the village, the Parish of St. James were just recovering from the pangs of a World War when disaster struck another way that touched each parishioner personally.

On the night of November 10, 1919 - Armistice Eve - the beautiful Church of St. James was completely devastated by fire within just one hour. The conflagration, which was blamed on the short-circuiting of some electrical wires, threatened other parish buildings, but the efficient work of the combined fire companies of Manville, under the direction of Chief Seraphin Fortier, and Woonsocket , narrowly saved the rectory, school, and convent from the voracious flames.

A curate, Reverend Ernest E. Olivier, was hailed as a hero when he braved the fire and smoke to save the host and ciborium. His attempt to rescue the sacred vessels and vestments was thwarted.

Total damage was estimated at $75,000, part of which was covered by the insurance company.

Father Lessard was now faced with the task of finding a suitable location for Sunday Masses. Fortunately, the owner of the Bijou Theatre at the corner of Winter and Girouard Streets, Napoleon Trahan, Jr., sympathized with Father Lessard's plight. He donated the use of his theatre building on Sunday mornings for seventeen months. During the week, religious services were held in a classroom of  the school. Marriages were performed in the convent chapel.

It was during this period that Manville became the first community in the United States to honor its war dead by erecting a monument to their memory. A group of local citizens conducted a campaign for funds to build the monument.

In the meantime, the people were contributing sacrificially toward the larger, more beautiful House of Worship planned for St. James Parish. Weekly collections amounted to eight or nine hundred dollars and sometimes more. In less than a year, the collection money, plus the insurance proceeds, totaled $75,000.

The church was started in 1920, but its construction ground to a halt several times over the years due to scarcity of funds. The basement alone, which was ready for use as a chapel on May 6, 1921, cost $60,000, plus another $10,000 for furnishings.

After the basement chapel was in full operation, $50,000 was subscribed by parishioners for the completion of the upper church. All pledges were paid within three years. In fact,the financial report of December 21, 1924, showed a parish surplus of $59,217.24.

Soon after - in 1925 - Father Lessard suffered a paralytic stroke from which he never fully recovered. It was in this same year that he had four more classrooms added on to the school and had an asbestos brick veneer installed on both the school and the convent. He was a zealous leader of men who would not succumb easily to physical incapacities.

On February 19, 1927, Reverend Francis X. Desmarais was appointed administrator, easing the burden on a pastor who was now too ill to shoulder the entire responsibility. When Father Lessard died on April 3, 1929, his beautiful church was still not completed.

A New House of God

Father Desmarais, who had served as administrator for many months, was appointed pastor of St. James on July 12, 1929. It was during his tenure that the church superstructure finally welcomed the anxious worshippers.

The cornerstone of the new building was blessed on November 11, 1930, the edifice was completed in February of 1932, and it was dedicated on April 17th. The parish debt at that time was about $27,000. The church had cost $150,000. The final years of its completion were years of economic hardship as the Depression gripped our nation.

When Bishop Hickey died on October 4, 1933, the Most Reverend Francis P. Keough was named as his successor. His dedicated service was recognized by the Pope in 1947 when he was appointed Archbishop of Baltimore.

It was Bishop Keough who officiated at the blessing of the new main and side altars of St. James Church on December 13, 1939. The parish was celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of its pastor's ordination. Father Desmarais donated the Main Altar, created of imperial marble, in honor of St. James the Apostle, patron saint of the parish. The new side altars were dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and to St. Joseph.

Celebrations - Social and Spiritual

Soon after Reverend Joseph Dumont became our pastor in 1944, the Sisters of St. Joan of Arc came to our parish to staff the rectory kitchen and assume the other household chores. Their service over these many years has been a tremendous influence for good at St. James. Each priest who has so much as visited our pastoral residence has been impressed by their saintly devotion.

It was in September of 1947 that Reverend Ovila H. Brouillette assumed the St. James pastorate. In that same year, Bishop Keough of Providence became Archbishop Keough of Baltimore. The new bishop was appointed in 1948 - Most Reverend Russell J. McVinney, the first native-born Rhode Islander to hold this episcopate.

Father Brouillette was also a native of Rhode Island, having attended the School of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Central Falls as a youngster. Over the years in school and seminary and parish work, he had excelled in his classical studies. His mastery of the French, English, Italian, and Portuguese languages had prompted his placement in communities where such knowledge could be of service.

Now, at the age of fifty-six, he had found a parish home that was to be his for twenty-one years. And he had found a people who were as well-known for their sacrificial generosity as he was for his devout spirituality.

At the time of the 75th Anniversary celebration of St. James Church. in November of 1950, this Christian community consisted of one thousand families and a debt-free complex that included church, rectory, school, convent, sexton's house, and cemetery, plus a treasury with a cash balance of $84,000. From its humble beginning, St. James had made colossal strides under the administration of nine dedicated priestly servants.

In testimony to their gratitude, the church was overflowing with worshippers at the Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday, November 12th. Later, about three hundred and fifty persons attended the Diamond Jubilee banquet in the church auditorium on Division Street. One of the illustrious speakers on that occasion was Reverend Monsignor Camille Villiard, a son of the parish who was then serving as pastor of Notre Dame Church, Central Falls.

At that juncture of history, the parish was justifiably proud of its many vocations - fifteen priests, five Brothers, and fifty-four Sisters, of which thirty were members of the Order of St. Anne - the teaching Sisters who directed St. James School.

One of the ongoing accomplishments of Father Brouillette's tenure was the establishments of the St. James Youth Council in April, 1952, under the leadership of Reverend Roger L. Marot, a young and zealous assistant. Just within its' first five years, in addition to parties and dances and plays, the Council sponsored the formation of the C.Y.O. Drum and Bugle Corps, Girl Scout Troop 188, Basketball. Baseball, and Softball Teams that copped eight championships, the first Legion of Mary adult praesidium meeting, Cub Scout Pack 1 Manville, the first Diocesan Cheerleaders Tournament, and the elections, in February of 1955 of the first Youths of the Year - Albert Latour and Jeannette Berard and, in December of 1956, of the first Adult of the Year - Rita Courtemanche. This organization was also responsible for the opening of the TV Room, the C.Y.O. Center on Sampson Street, the renovation of the school gymnasium, the Youth Council Library, and the Mother of Youth Center on Ascension Street in Woonsocket.

By this time, it was 1957, and the St. James Parish joined its beloved spiritual leader in the celebration of his Fortieth Anniversary of Ordination and his Tenth Anniversary as their pastor. A grand reception and banquet on September 22nd was a fitting testimonial of his flock's devotion. Another tribute was paid him on December 2nd with the dedication of the Father Brouillette Center of Our Lady of Smiles.

Building Again

While the Parish of St. James continued to thrive socially and spiritually, Manville was suffering the bleakest period of the village's history. The Manville-Jencks Company had sold out to Textron when their firm was in financial trouble in 1945. But the company continued its downward trend. When it was sold again several years later, two thousand workers lost their jobs as the mill was closed down and then offered for resale gradually in sections.

As the new buyers began to come in and hope began to rise for a brighter future, the flood of 1955 washed the Blackstone River through the mill structures and tore out the connecting bridge. As if this disaster were not enough, the clean-up crew accidentally ignited a blaze that required the efforts of six hundred firefighters before the smouldering ruins of what was once Manville's lifeblood were finally snuffed out.

It might be said that St. James Parish set the pace for the rest of Manville in the area of rebuilding, for it was not long after the joyful celebrations for Father Brouillette that a disaster of another sort began brewing for our parish.

The word was out in 1958, but official papers were served in January of 1959. The fourteen-room brick and frame St. James School was condemned as a fire hazard. The original structure had been  built in 1893. It was now serving nine grades with an enrollment of four hundred and ten, but repairs would not - could not- suffice. An entirely new building was the only answer.

And so the work began. Plans were formulated for a new school and excavation began immediately. A new convent was designed; that summer, ground was broken behind the new school site for this second brick edifice.

On February 27, 1960, the $318,576 school was opened, after fourteen months of scattered schooling for St. James' three hundred and sixty students. Its modern facilities were described in a glowing report by The Providence Visitor:  "In addition to its fourteen large classrooms, the school contains a spacious principal's office, library, health room, teacher's room, two storage rooms and a multiple purpose room, measuring thirty six feet by fifty feet. The latter room, which is used as a lunchroom, is adjoined by a well-equipped kitchen.

"Pastel colors are used in every classroom which measure thirty six feet by twenty eight feet and contain wardrobes and closets for teaching supplies. Lighting is fluorescent and the floors are of tile and terrazzo. Acoustical tile is used for the ceiling and generous use is made of glass to provide as much natural lighting as possible. The corridors, which are tiled, have opaque glass domes to allow diffused sunlight to enter.

"Other popular features include a complete communication system with FM radio and other electronic devices connecting every classroom. A forced heating system incorporating a ventilation system is used which allows fresh air to enter one side of each classroom and which sucks out stale air through the top of each wardrobe. This ventilating system has the extra benefit of drying out the pupils' wet clothing on rainy days as the clothing hangs in the wardrobe."

When Bishop McVinney blessed the school on Sunday afternoon, May 1, 1960, he also confirmed two hundred and twenty five parish youngsters and conducted the cornerstone-laying ceremonies for the new convent which was ready for occupancy later that year. this building's split-level plan made it architecturally unique among New England convents. Its total cost was $180,386.

The people of St. James had again been faced with a tremendous challenge and again, through prayer, perseverance, and sacrifice , had met it boldly. The impressive additions to the parish complex were just two more visible symbols of an inward grace shared by a dedicated people.

Another occasion that will long be remembered was the celebration of Father Brouillette's Fiftieth Anniversary of Ordination in 1967. At the concelebrated Mass on Sunday, September 24th,  Father Brouillette was the first to use anew Main Altar, purchased by parishioners with their anniversary gift donations. The beautiful addition to the church was installed facing the people, in accordance with the new liturgical requirements.

Saturday, June 19, 1971 saw the people of St. James again enjoying a celebration with their pastor. But this time it was a Silver Jubilee and the man being feted was Reverend Albert H. Brindamour, who had assumed the spiritual guidance of the parish on November 6, 1968, having come from a decade of service at St. Ann's in Woonsocket.

Less than eight weeks later, the "building Bishop," Most Reverend Russell McVinney, died unexpectedly. His successor, the Most Reverend Louis E. Gelineau, D.D., was appointed in 1972, the centenary year of the diocese.

The year of of 1972 brought another shock to the Parish of St. James - this one affecting everyone more closely, but no one could truthfully say that it was entirely unexpected. Many attempts had been made to increase the dwindling enrollment of St. James School. tuition could not be raised any higher or even those attending, would be forced to leave. Supporting the school was draining the parish treasury and there was no solution in sight.

A special meeting was called on Sunday, January 23, 1972. Originally scheduled for the school cafeteria, the turnout was so large that the gathering was convened in the church auditorium. About one hundred and fifty parishioners were present on this emotional occasion when Father Brindamour had the unpleasant task of announcing the forthcoming closing of St. James School.

 

 

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