History of Missionaries of Sacred Heart in RI 1899 to 1989

Bishop Harkins requested the Missionaries of Sacred Heart to come to RI in 1899. Beginning in 1899 to 1974, the Canadian Province of the Missionaries of Sacred Heart served here, and from 1974 to 1989, the American Province of the Missionaries of Sacred Heart served the diocese.

The Missionaries of Sacred Heart were charged with four separate missions in the State of Rhode Island:

1. St. Joseph’s parish in Natick.

2. Administering to the needs of the Italian people and the formation of Sacred Heart Parish, Natick.

3. Formation of St. Francis Church, Hillsgrove.

4. The State Institutions

St. Joseph, Natick

The following Missionaries of Sacred Heart were pastors at St. Joseph’s Church:

1. Fr. Daniel Lahane served St. Joseph’s Parish from 1899 to 1904.

2. Fr. Peter L’Esperance from 1904 to 1941.

3. Fr. Laurent Bourke from November, 1941 to June, 1974.

4. Fr. Gerald Sommer from 1974 to 1977.

5. Fr. William Ellis from 1977 to 1989.

Other notable priests who served at St. Joseph’s are:

Around 1905, Fr. Gene B. Guillarme, Curate at S. Joseph’s was asked by the Bishop to administer to the great number of Italian people in the Pawtuxet Valley who were working in the B.B. & R. Knight cotton mill, and who were parishioners of St. Joseph’s. Father Guillarme died suddenly in 1923 while on a sick call in East Natick, and on the day of his funeral, the largest mill in the Pawtuxet Valley, the Natick Mill, was closed for the day. Over 1000 people paid their respect to this dedicated priest.

Fr. Peloquin served as Curate from 1923 to 1944. He died at St. Joseph Parish.

Fr. Cornelius Vullings served from 1946 to 1949 and 1952 to 1957 and was responsible for the translation of the liturgy for the Triduum of St. Ann from French to English, and he taught Religion at St. Joseph’s School in the 7th, 8th, and 9th grades.

Fr. James Byrne served as Assistant Pastor from 1957 to 1964 and was active in CYO.

Fr. Lawrence Gosselin served as Assistant Pastor from 1967 to 1975. He was active in the parish and in the Pawtuxet Valley CYO.

Fr. James Campbell was the Assistant Pastor from 1975 to 1977.

Fr. Gerald Sommer served as Assistant Pastor from 1977 to 1986.

Two Brothers of the Missionaries of Sacred Heart served at St.Joseph’s. They were Brother Matty Dreisch and Brother Michael Tomsik.