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By LINDSAY OLIVIER
NORTH KINGSTOWN â For the second time in two years, North Kingstown has seen the opening of a new Catholic church.
Located less than five miles from St. Bernardâs church, which opened in August of 2009, the new St. Francis de Sales church on School Street welcomed hundreds of parishioners to its first service Sunday.
The Most Reverend Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence performed the dedication of the new church, which is located on the same premises of the former site, and a Pontifical Mass followed soon thereafter.
âI extend my sincere congratulations to you and your parishioners for this wonderful achievement,â Bishop Tobin said. âYou have overcome many challenges to bring the vision of a new church to reality.â
The pastor of St. Francis is The Rev. Bertrand Theroux and The Rev. Andrew Messina is the assistant pastor.
âTo all of you who supported these significant moments that led to this day, to all the professionals who assisted us, to all who visited us and affirmed our vision with your sacrifices, we say thank you,â Father Theroux said.
The old church was built in 1960 and had a seating capacity of only 425. The parish center was added in 1985.
Currently the church has 2,391 families and the new building will be able to seat 850.
Many factors contributed to the building of the new church but many were related to capacity issues. In the past, special liturgies and holiday celebrations have caused congested aisles and standing room only situations for parishioners.
But building an addition onto the existing church wasnât an option because the building was on a slab and there would be septic system interference. In addition, the religious education program wouldnât be able to accommodate more than 500 children, the current sanctuary location had become too crammed for all involved in the liturgy and the gathering space was too limited.
Also, the choir and musicians were confined to a small area of the altar, which became very congested, and there was no quiet room for infants and children and the altar had limited handicap accessibility.
To put all worries to rest, the old church and parish center will not be demolished. Within the church, there are 34 different groups and committees that meet in the parish center but due to lack of space, itâs been difficult to coordinate when and where theyâll meet.
Now with the new church open, the old churchâs pews will be removed and it will soon be used as a hall. The parish center can then be used solely for those organizations. Since the population has been growing considerably over the years, a good portion of the parish center has been used for seating during the masses.
Father Theroux requested there be no columns in the new church because he wanted the congregation to be closer to the altar and he also wanted the location of the pews in a half circle for the same reason.
The general contractor was Pariseault Builders of Warwick, a company that has completed numerous projects within the Diocese of Providence. The architects are the Connecticut-based firm Doyle/Coffin.