Since June 8, 1928, Rev. Francis J. Wilk has been actively building up the resources of St. Hedwig’s Church of Providence, Rhode Island.
St. Hedwig’s parish, which has a Polish membership of about one thousand souls, was organized in 1916. In that year the old Church of the Redeemer, located on North Main Street, was purchased as a place of worship for the newly-formed parish and Father Dutkiewicz was made the first pastor. The task of organizing and laying firm foundations for the future growth and development of St. Hedwig’s was vigorously undertaken and splendidly carried to completion by the energy and devotion of Father Dutkiewicz. He practically rebuilt the church inside and out, and refurnished and redecorated the interior, putting in new seats to provide for about four hundred people, new windows to admit an abundance of light, installing three new altars, a large central one and two side altars, and building a choir loft, fitted with a fine-toned organ and providing seating for some one hundred singers. A side chapel which seats two hundred and fifty, was so arranged that it could be thrown open to form part of the main body of the church, raising the seating capacity to six hundred. The exterior of the building was painted and the interior thoroughly and artistically redecorated. More important still, the religious life of the parish was strengthened and developed, its various societies organized and well-started in the way of growth and service, and the membership increased. Father Dutkiewicz continued to serve St. Hedwig’s until May, 1928, when he was transferred to Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and Rev. Francis J. Wilk was appointed pastor of St. Hedwig’s.
Rev. Francis J. Wilk was born in West Warren, Massachusetts, and attended the schools of his birthplace and of Three Rivers, Massachusetts, until he had completed the grammar school courses. After graduating from the eighth grade, he went to Orchard Lake, Michigan, where he entered high school, and was graduated therefrom in 1916. As he had decided to devote his life to the service of the church he then began his special preparation for his high calling, spending two years in the study of philosophy and four years in theological training. He was ordained in the Cathedral in Providence, Rhode Island, by Bishop Hickey, March 11, 1922, and appointed to serve as assistant to Father Malecki in St. Joseph’s Church at Central Falls. For a period of six years Father Wilk served ably in that parish, remaining until May 9, 1928, when he was made administrator of St. Stanislaus Church of Woonsocket. Soon after going to Woonsocket he was made a pastor and on June 8, 1928, assigned to his present charge as pastor of St. Hedwig’s Church of Providence. From that time to the time of writing (1930), Father Wilk has been active in the work of improving and enlarging the church property and in building up the spiritual life of his people. The interior of the home-like nine-room rectory he has had remodeled, papered, and painted, and put in excellent condition throughout. The membership of the parish has increased to about one hundred and sixty-five families, aggregating one thousand souls; and there is a Sunday school with an enrollment of about three hundred pupils, who are taught by Father Wilk for nine months of the year. During July, August, and September, when the average attendance is only about one hundred and fifty, the children are taught by the Bernardine Sisters. The various church societies are prosperous and active, and every department of the parish work is going steadily forward. For the benefit of the church a dramatic circle has been organized for producing plays.
Father Wilk is held in very high regard, not only by his Polish congregation but also by the community in general, regardless of religious affiliation. St. Hedwig’s is fortunate in having so able and so devoted a pastor.
Source: Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.