The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence on Sunday annouced that it has approved Cranston's St. Ann Parish’s request to sell its buildings to a local Maronite Catholic community whose worship space was destroyed by fire in 2005. The worship space will remain available to parishioners of St. Ann for weekly Mass and other special occasions.
The Maronite community is Catholic and under the authority of the Pope. For 28 years, the Maronite community worshipped at Pawtucket’s St. George Church until October 25, 2005 when a fire destroyed the church and its adjacent hall. Since the fire, the community has worshipped at St. Raymond Church, Providence. For years the Maronites have sought a permanent location to establish and grow their community.
St. Ann reports significant debt for expenses such as a loan from the diocese’s interparish loan fund, employee benefits, parish assessments, pensions and insurance. Proceeds from the $850,000 sale price of the church and rectory will be applied to the parish’s debt.
“This decision represents the best possible outcome to ensure that the church buildings are available for continued Sacramental use by St. Ann parishioners,” said the Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence. “While a time of sadness for the parishioners of St. Ann, I am pleased they can continue to join together for weekly Mass and other special occasions. This purchase also fulfills a long-standing need of the Catholic Maronite community for a permanent worship space.”
“On behalf of our Maronite community in the Providence area, I express my sincere thanks to Bishop Tobin for making this transition possible,” said the Most Reverend Gregory J. Mansour, Bishop of Saint Maron of Brooklyn. “We also welcome all the good people of Saint Ann with love assuring them that they will always be at home in our new home.”
Diocesan staff will meet with parishioners of St. Ann in the near future to address concerns such as the transfer of sacrament records and future parish membership.
The pastor of St. Ann, Fr. Farrell McLaughlin and parish trustees appealed to Bishop Tobin with regard to the significant financial challenges facing the parish writing, “We, the undersigned members of the St. Ann’s Church Corporation request that you sell off the property and assets of our parish …We have researched three possibilities and this particular choice is the only feasible one. For us to raise the $700,000+ would be impossible…”
Following the formal request by St. Ann Parish to sell the buildings, the Council of Priests, Diocesan Consultors and Diocesan Finance Council were consulted in accordance with Canon Law. The three groups recommended the sale. The purchase is scheduled to be completed by the summer. According to the Maronites, the building may require extensive renovations to accommodate their Liturgies.
According to a 1937 article published in The Providence Visitor, St. Ann Parish was established in 1858. Construction on the present church building began on November 15, 1907 with the first Mass celebrated in the basement chapel on April 11, 1909. The upper portion of St. Ann Church would not be completed until November 25, 1928 when then-Bishop William A. Hickey dedicated the new Church. The parish shares that from the original St. Ann Parish boundaries, nine new parishes were established: Holy Apostles, Immaculate Conception, St. Anthony, St. Bartholomew, St. Brigid, St. Mark, St. Matthew, St. Paul and St. Rocco.