St. Joseph’s Church of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, is fortunate in having for its pastor Rev. John F. Barry, who has been in charge since 1919.
St. Joseph’s parish is one of the many which have, from time to time, been set off from St. Mary’s of Pawtucket. From 1844 to 1846 Pawtucket was part of the mission of Father Fitton, who then had for his parish all of the State of Rhode Island except the city of Providence, but was helped out by the priests of the Cathedral. A small church had been put up in Pawtucket in 1829 and later St. Mary’s of Pawtucket was erected as a separate parish. In November, 1846, Father Fitton settled in Newport, and in 1847 Rev. Joseph McNamee went to reside in Pawtucket, where the Irish Catholic population was rapidly increasing. He remained until his death, March 28, 1853, when he was succeeded by Father Delaney. Father Delaney was an able man and a very active one. He enlarged St. Mary’s Church, opened a school, and gave careful attention to his various missions. The congregation grew steadily and one parish after another was set off from St. Mary’s: St. Patrick’s of Valley Falls in 1869; Church of the Sacred Heart, Pawtucket, in 1872; and in 1873, St. Joseph’s of Pawtucket.
In 1873 Father Delaney bought land as the site for a church, and in July of that year the cornerstone was laid. In January, 1874, when Father Kinnerney was made first pastor of the new parish of St. Joseph’s, there was a debt of $52,000 on the unfinished church and services were being held in the Town Hall, but by April of that year the basement was ready for occupancy. Though the people were poor and money was scarce, the sum of $27,000 was raised the first year, and the building of the church went forward. It was dedicated October 8, 1878, but the belfry and tower were not finished until 1891. Meantime, in 1887, land had been purchased for a school, and in 1894 a handsome well-equipped building was erected at a cost of $50,000. In 1885 Dodgeville and Hebronville had been detached from the parish, and in 1888 Rumford also was separated from it and annexed to East Providence. But St. Joseph’s continued to prosper and in a little over twenty years $250,000 had been contributed by the parishioners to parochial work. A parochial school was organized in 1892. In 1905 Rev. D. M. Lowney took charge of the parish. During his pastorate, extending from 1905 to 1918, he was instrumental in redecorating the church, and he also served as auxiliary Bishop to the Bishop of Providence, the Rt. Rev. Matthew Harkins. In 1919 he was succeeded by the present pastor, Rev. John F. Barry.
Rev. John F. Barry was born in Valley Falls, Rhode Island, and received his early and preparatory education in the schools of his birthplace. When his preparatory course was finished he entered St. Charles’ College, at Baltimore, Maryland, from which he was graduated. He then entered the Grand Seminary at Montreal, Canada, for his philosophical and theological training, and was ordained there in December, 1897. His first assignment as pastor was to St. John’s Church of Providence, Rhode Island, in 1915, where he served for three-and-a-half years, up to 1919, when he came to his present charge as pastor of St. Joseph’s Church of Pawtucket.
St. Joseph’s parish now numbers about 4,500 souls and has a parochial school with an enrollment of six hundred and ten pupils, who are taught by fourteen Sisters of Mercy. There are also five Sisters of the Holy Ghost, who attend the sick of the parish in their homes. The church, which seats one thousand people, has a most beautiful interior. The ceiling is supported by seven arches which rest upon fourteen pillars. Twelve stained glass windows, six on each side, admit mellowed light to the main body of the church, while in the rear of the choir loft, which seats one hundred and twenty-five singers and is equipped with a fine toned organ, is a beautiful rose window composed of eight small windows surrounding a circular center window. On either side of the central altar are two more stained glass windows, which add to the beauty of the building and increase its lighting. The central altar is of wood, exquisitely designed and richly ornamented, and there are two smaller altars, one on each side of the church. The highly polished oak communion rail extends across the entire width of the building and harmonizes with the oaken pews. The Twelve Stations of the Cross adorning the walls of the church are most beautifully executed. Furnishings and decorations have been chosen with discrimination and artistic taste, achieving an atmosphere of beauty and peace. The basement is equipped for religious services, altar, choir-loft, and organ, and provides seating for about eight hundred persons.
Since coming to St. Joseph’s Father Barry has built an auditorium for educational and recreational purposes. There is a vigorous basketball team and a Dramatic Club which each year presents a number of plays in this auditorium. The entire plant occupies two blocks, one on each side of the street, the church and rectory on one side, and the beautifully designed brick convent, fitted with all conveniences for the fourteen Sisters who teach in the schools. Adjoining this convent is the White Sisters convent, and on the corner is located the large parochial school building.
The various church societies are active and prosperous and include a Holy Name Society, a St. Vincent de Paul Society, Ladies of Charity, Children of Mary, and several others.
Father Barry has proven himself to be an able and faithful leader, a successful financier, and a Christian gentleman. He is respected and trusted by his people and is popular among them.
Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.