New life for treasures of closed churches

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — It seems that some people can find the silver lining of any dark cloud. Father Joseph Santos, pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Providence, R.I., is one of those people. He has been working to collect artifacts and remnants of closed churches from the Archdiocese of Boston for the restoration of the church he oversees.

“Instead of being given away to antique dealers, they are being used as they were meant to be used,” said Father Santos of the items he has received to improve the aesthetic quality of his parish.

Holy Name of Jesus, one of the few churches in New England with special permission to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass every Sunday, lost its pulpit, Communion rail and many other treasured objects to a fire in the church a few years ago.

Rather than being discouraged by the misfortunate occurrence, Father Santos found out where the remains of churches that were closing would be going and asked the archdiocese to help him to give the unwanted sacred remnants a new home in his parish. Father Santos was able to acquire a new pulpit, Communion rail, six bronze candlesticks and two angel candelabras and other small pieces for his beloved parish. The pulpit and Communion rail, which came from Nuestra Senora del Carmen Parish in Lowell, are both valuable antiques at over 100 years old.

“I have been working on [obtaining] them since over a year ago,” said Father Santos, adding that he will now only “have to worry about putting them in place.”

While the church finalizes its plans for renovation, the pulpit and Communion rail will be stored safely in the rectory until their expected installation in 2008. Each of the pieces received by Holy Name of Jesus “fits in stylistically with the church,” said Father Santos, who said the project is a success “because it is for the bettering of the church but also is in keeping with the style of the church.”

Some of the smaller articles have been put on display after they were received, and many have garnered support as positive additions to the church.

Father Santos said, “people were thrilled,” about seeing two angel candelabras in church during the Christmas season. In addition, six bronze candlesticks that were retrieved from St. Mary Church in Marlborough provided majestic lighting to the pontifical “Missa Cantata” celebrated by Bishop Bishop Fernando Areas Rifan, who came from Brazil in September for the event.

“Many things are starting to be reused, it is wonderful,” said Father Santos, later adding, “The more attractive the church is, the more active people will be in their faith and will find God.”

“Doing some real restoration will increase the atmosphere of the liturgy and worship,” said Father Santos. “Keep us in your prayers so that we can accomplish everything we need to do.”