WEST – In September 1938, a powerful hurricane hit the southern New England coast, causing extensive damage and leaving parts of the community unrecognizable. Among the destruction caused by the storm, an article from the time noted that “only a hole in the ground marks the site of the Sainte-Claire chapel”, which had only been built 22 years earlier.
From the rubble arose a community spirit to be rebuilt, and a new mission chapel was erected on Crandall Avenue in 1940. Under the church’s first diocesan pastor, the Reverend Phillip McKenna, the parish was canonically established under the legal name “St. Clare’s Church Corporation” in 1946 and St. Clare’s Church in Misquamicut was born.
As ward members prepare to celebrate the congregation’s 75th anniversary in mid-August, parishioners and church board members said last week they couldn’t be more proud of the history of the church and of the sense of community and camaraderie that the parish has been able to provide for three quarters of a century.
“To me, this community is very much like family,” said Bruce Coon, organist and church member for 29 years. “There are good, caring people and active, helpful leadership. This place is like home.
For the past 75 years, St. Clare has been a staple in the community of Misquamicut. The focal point of the Crandall Avenue neighborhood, the church served as the central congregation and place of worship for local residents, expanding over the years to improve parking and add a rectory and parish center.
With restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic having been lifted in recent months and church masses returning to a more traditional experience, Joseph Iacoi said the church community is ready to celebrate its history at the picnic church annual August 15.
The annual picnic, which will take place from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., is $ 10 for adults and $ 5 for children. Church officials said another celebration is also expected to take place around Christmas.
Iacoi, a 45-year-old member who chairs the annual picnic committee, said parishioners are also engaged in a fundraising campaign that will help fix the roof and provide the church with the facilities it needs to continue. to provide a variety of religious and community services for years to come.
Rev. Peter D’Ambrosia, who took office as pastor when Rev. Kenneth Suibielski retired to Florida in 2019, said his experience over the past two years had “been only positive.” He said that although the community may be small, the church has a number of dedicated and faithful men and women, and morale is good as voters slowly return on a more regular basis.
“It’s an exciting time for everyone,” D’Amrosia said. “We are coming out of COVID, there is a lot of optimism and it looks like things are picking up. It is something to look forward to.
Over the years, many things have changed while others have remained essentially the same, said several parishioners. Lillian Giordano, who served for 11 years as church secretary and has been a member since 1979, still remembers the days before digital when multiple Rolodexes contained the names of each contact and the ballots were hand-typed and printed weekly.
There were no computers when she served – Giordano noted that if the pandemic had occurred two decades earlier, it wouldn’t have meant a virtual presence or online communication – and there was a lot more face-to-face interactions.
Giordano said that even with the changes, one thing has always remained the same: the church community provided a heartwarming and supportive system that has always made them feel welcome and included.
“What kept me here?” It’s a lot of things, ”she said. “The people, the priests… I was lucky and loved being a part of it all the time. When I worked here, I never woke up in the morning feeling like I didn’t want to go to work.
Joan Swain, who has been a member since 1965 and was the ward’s first female speaker, said over the past five decades she has found that her love of community and loyalty to the church has never ceased. to grow.
Swain said that regardless of the challenge, one of the unique aspects of the St. Clare community is that members have always put aside their differences in order to do what is right for the church and to help others. people in need in the community.
“When you are connected to such a dedicated and caring group of people as we have here, where everyone is ready to come together for the good of the church, how can you turn your back on that? ” she said.
As the St. Clare community looks to the future, Iacoi and D’Ambrosia said the biggest need is a roof replacement. Both said the parish recently launched a fundraising campaign and will use the funds to install an aluminum roof, bolster maintenance needs and continue to prepare for whatever the coming years may bring.
And if the community continues to be blessed as it has, D’Ambrosia said he was eager to see how the emerging leaders will celebrate again in another quarter of a century.
“I will be retired for a long time, but our goal is to put this parish in a position where it can comfortably move towards the possibility of celebrating its 100 years,” he said.