Biography of Rev. Joseph Boehr, C. S. Sp.

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From 1923 to the present writing (1930) the Rev. Joseph Boehr has been the able and devoted pastor of the Church of the Holy Ghost at North Tiverton, Rhode Island.

Holy Ghost parish was formerly a mission of St. Anthony’s Church of Portsmouth, which, in turn, was a mission of St. Joseph’s Church of Newport. The original St Joseph’s parish in Newport has been called the “Cradle of Newport’s Catholicity,” for on August 20, 1837, Bishop Fenwick, of Boston, dedicated the first Catholic church in Newport and placed it under the patronage of St. Joseph. Ten years later plans were made for a new stone church on Spring Street and when the new church was completed it was called St. Mary’s instead of St. Joseph’s, and the old church building was sold and removed. When, however, conditions favored the formation of a new parish in Newport, a new St. Joseph’s was set off from St. Mary’s, January 15, 1885, with the Rev. James Coyle as pastor. During the second pastorate, that of the Rev. Louis J. Deady, it became apparent that a church was needed in the eastern section of the town of Portsmouth, and in 1901 Father Deady began the construction of the present St. Anthony’s Church. After the building was finished a priest of St. Joseph’s went there for Mass on Sundays and Holy days, and this was continued until St. Anthony’s of Portsmouth was made a separate parish, May 1, 1908. Six years later, in 1914, St. Anthony’s parish built at North Tiverton a church which it served as a mission until 1923, when the Church of the Holy Ghost at North Tiverton was made the center of a new parish and placed in charge of the Rev. Joseph Boehr, its present pastor, who had already been attending the mission from St. Anthony’s.

Rev. Joseph Boehr was born in Alsace-Lorraine, received his education there, and was ordained in Paris on October 28, 1894. In 1895 he went to a section of Africa south of the equator and there for fourteen years he was engaged in arduous but most interesting and successful missionary work among the natives. As the language spoken among the Europeans there and by some of the natives was Portuguese, Father Boehr found his perfect command of that language a great help to him in his work, and he also learned several of the dialects spoken by the natives. While still in Africa he was appointed to Little Compton, Rhode Island, then a mission of St. Anthony’s. He came to America in September, 1909, and served at Little Compton until November, 1910, when he was transferred to St. Christopher’s Church at Tiverton, Rhode Island. There he served ably until January, 1918. Though residing at Portsmouth, he had charge of the mission at North Tiverton, where the Holy Ghost Church had been built in 1914, and when that district was set off as a separate parish in 1923, Father Boehr was made first pastor of the Church of the Holy Ghost.

Holy Ghost Parish numbers about eight hundred souls. The church, which seats about five hundred people, is well built, and is furnished with seats of polished walnut. It has the usual three altars, a main central one and two side altars, all of very neat design, and all its appointments and furnishings are well chosen and well adapted to the needs of the parish. The basement seats about four hundred. A hall for social and religious purposes was built in 1917 and this forms a center for the social activities of the parish. In 1924 Father Boehr built a fine new rectory containing sixteen rooms and equipped and furnished with every possible convenience and comfort. He also purchased four lots, each containing forty square rods, on Judson Street, on which the church and hall are located. He has also purchased three lots on Hooper Street and on one of these there is a cottage. The parish in 1930 had a Sunday school with an enrollment of about two hundred and fifty pupils. In Holy Ghost Parish three languages are spoken—English, French, and Portuguese, and sermons are delivered in all three languages. Both Father Boehr and his assistant, the Rev. Joseph V. Sabaniec, speak all three languages fluently. The church societies include the usual Holy Name Society, Children of Mary, St. Anne’s Society, and an Altar Society, and all are prosperous.

Father Boehr is one of the most energetic and hard-working pastors in Providence Diocese and no labor which can benefit his parish is too large or too small for him to undertake. He is beloved by his people, and his varied and unusual experiences make him a most interesting and entertaining associate and have given him a breadth of vision which is invaluable in his work.

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