Providence, Rhode Island

Capital of Rhode Island. It is stated that as late as 1680 there were no Catholics in the colony founded by Roger Williams in Providence, although religious liberty was established there from 1636. The few who came there, for lack of priests, either left or fell away. The first appearance of Catholic worship was in 1780 when the French under Rochambeau were stationed there and the army chaplains celebrated Mass publicly. During 1813 Mass was said in a private house but it was not until 1837 that the first Mass was celebrated in a Catholic church built for that purpose. A second parish was erected in 1842, and the great increase in immigrants consequent to the famine in Ireland in 1843 necessitated the erection of several new churches, and those English-speaking parishes which are still important were erected in the fifties. From 1844 to 1847 Providence was the episcopal residence of the diocese of Hartford. An orphan asylum, convent, and schools were established, but the vigor of the Knownothing movement and the apparent poverty of the parishioners prevented any appreciable growth of religious structures. The first bishop of the newly created diocese of Providence, Thomas Francis Hendricken, consecrated on 28 April 1872, began the erection of the new cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, which was completed during the episcopacy of Right Reverend Matthew Harkins, consecrated on 14 April 1887. Under the latter's encouragement and advice several charitable organizations were founded, notably Saint Maria's Home for Working Girls, founded in 1894 through the generosity of Joseph Banigan; Saint Joseph's Hospital in 1891; Saint Vincent de Paul Infant Asylum in 1892; Working Boys' Home in 1897; House of the Good Shepherd in 1904. The great influx of Italian and Polish immigrants necessitated the building of exclusively Italian and Polish churches. Catholic educational institutions in the city include La Salle Academy, Saint Francis Xavier Academy, Elmhurst, and Providence College.

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