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A Brief History of our Parish

Roman Catholics settled in the Warren area as early as 1840.  Their spiritual needs were served by visiting priests who occasionally celebrated Mass on Croade Street. St. Mary of the Bay Church, the first Roman Catholic parish established in Warren, officially began in 1851 when a small chapel was built and the first pastor, Reverend Hilary Tucker was named.

 In 1881, during the pastorate of Reverend Michael McCallion, St. Mary’s Chapel, the parish rectory and a third building owned by the parish was destroyed by fire.  The pastor and parish made plans to rebuild and the new church was completed and dedicated in 1883. 

During a four-year term as pastor, beginning in 1892, Reverend James Fogarty supervised the building of St. Mary’s Institute. This building, located next to the rectory, served as a parish social center for many years. 

In 1904, Reverend Austin Dowling was appointed pastor of St. Mary of the Bay.  Father Dowling was later named Bishop of Des Moines before being appointed Archbishop of St Paul. 

During the extensive pastorate of Reverend James FitzSimon, many repairs and improvements were made to the parish buildings.  When Reverend George Archambault became pastor in 1946, he directed the purchase of land and a building for use as a convent. He made the initial plans for building a parochial school with the Sisters of Mercy as teachers. Unfortunately, his dream for a parochial school never materialized. 

In 1951, St Mary of the Bay Church celebrated its 100th Anniversary with a town-wide celebration and centennial banquet.

 In June 1967, with Reverend David J Coffey as pastor, Bishop McVinney approved plans for the construction of a new church for St. Mary of the Bay as well as a parish School of Religion.  This was to be the first School of Religion established in the Diocese of Providence. On July 19, 1970, the new and third Church of St Mary of the Bay was consecrated and dedicated to the honor and glory of God under the patronage of His Most Holy Mother. 

During the pastorate of Reverend Bertrand L Theroux, beginning in 1988, it was found that the church steeple need to be removed to prevent further damage from an on-going leak problem. In 1989, the large convent on Main Street was closed and a smaller convent built on church property near Water Street was built for the Sister of Mercy in residence. Also, during his pastorate, Father Theroux and the parishioners of St. Mary of the Bay formulated plans to renovate and modernize the church sanctuary. This extensive interior renovation was completed and a dedication ceremony was held in 1998.  The former convent on Main Street is still owned by the parish and is currently a group home operated by the North American Family Institute serving the needs of at-risk adolescent girls.

 With his appointment as pastor in 2000, Reverend Peter J Gower and the parishioners of St. Mary of the Bay began the exciting task of planning for the parish’s 150th Jubilee in 2001. The year 2001 was a time of great celebration as the parish recommitted itself to carrying on the work of Jesus Christ in the new millennium.

The parish continues its spiritual growth.  In 2006, the parish became a Stewardship parish.  With the establishment of the Pastoral Stewardship Council, the spirit of stewardship began to permeate all parish ministries and activities.  Each year more and more parishioners are coming forward to share their time, talent and treasure to further build up the Kingdom of God.