History-St. Wilfrid's Catholic Church


St. Wilfrid's Parish started in the home of Cornelius Carr in 1884, and in that same year, a 40 x 60 church was built. In 1904, land was purchased for a school and cemetery. A parochial school was started in a house until the school could be built, and in 1910, they moved into the new St. Joseph School. The need for more room in the church became apparent and a committee consisting of Pastor Nio, J.R. Dalton, Carl Busch, Joe Steichen, Jacob Kemptner, Joe Kogel, Phil Tremblay, George Trudeau, Sr., John Sauter, T. J. Hendrick, John Privet, J.M. Ruhe, Henry Fee, and T.J. Carlton began making plans for a new church. The contract was granted to L.G. Turgeon, a member of the parish, and work began on May 14, 1914. There were delays due to WWI, but the great structure was finally completed and dedicated by Bishop O’Gorman on June 13, 1920. The basement of the church was completed by donated labor under the direction of Al Van Leur. The now popular Turkey Shoot was begun in the Parish Hall in 1924, and has been held almost annually. The parish reached its fiftieth anniversary in 1934 with Father Edward as pastor, and it was appropriately celebrated.

While Father Edward was pastor in 1952 (back for the 3rd time), they decided to redecorate the church. In 1954, Father Laurence Janus became pastor and in 1965, the parish celebrated the 25th anniversary of the priesthood of Father Janus.

Work began on the remodeling of the Parish Hall in 1966. The remodeling done was quite  extensive. The specifications and plans were under the direction of Robert Mead, with the assistance of the following committee members: Elmer Steichen, Alex Vetter, Berthan Moran, Lloyd Hinker, Mrs. Duaine Hjelm, Mary Dankey, Leroy Burnison, florence Tiede, Pat Cahill, George Thill, Gayland Trudeau, Mrs. Ralph Rogers, Mrs. Fred Hagman, Victor Hinker, Mrs. Louis Kub, and John Merriman. Donated labor was used to remove the wooden floor and ready the basement for construction. Contracts were let to cement the floor, lay linoleum blocks, panel the walls, lower the ceiling, install fluorescent lighting, install a sound system, and remodel the kitchen. Due to the construction, the Turkey Shoot was cancelled that year.

St. Joseph’s School was discontinued in 1968 because the Presentation Order could no longer supply the sisters to staff a faculty. The building was purchased by the Woonsocket School District.

Father David Melmer was appointed pastor in 1972 and served the parish for eight years. During that time, many improvements were made. The church was carpeted, the old rectory was moved and a new one built, an electronic bell system was installed, and extensive repairs were made on the church. Father Melmer celebrated his 25th anniversary of Priesthood in 1980.

Father James M Joyce came to St. Wilfrid’s in August of 1980. During his time at St. Wilfrid’s, they carpeted the basement of the rectory, purchased a new electronic organ and improved the grounds with new trees and shrubs. Father Joyce celebrated the 35th anniversary of his Priesthood on March 13, 1983.

On June 5, 1982, the parish was privileged to have one of its members, Bernard Dale Ashfeld, ordained to priesthood. The ordination took place in the parish church, with the Most Reverend Bishop Paul Dudley officiating.

Father Richard Schmidt arrived at St. Wilfrid’s on May 23, 1984. During his time here, St. Wilfrid’s Catholic Church celebrated its 100th anniversary on July 8, 1984. Fr. Schmidt will be remembered for his lovely Christmas decorations.

Father Arnold Petrosky served St. Wilfrid’s from May of 1990 through the fall of 1991, and then Father Edward Larkin served as temporary pastor in the fall of 1991.

Father Gerald Thury arrived at St. Wilfrid’s in January of 1992. During his time at St. Wilfrid’s, we re-shingled the church and rectory in 1992, installed an elevette and ramp to the north in 1993, redecorated the church in 1994, installed a new sound system in 1994, redid the basement floor in 1997, and installed a new heating & air conditioning system in 1999. The kitchen in the rectory was redone in 2002. 

Father John Maliyekal of India arrived at St. Wilfrid’s in July 2003. He celebrated his 45th anniversary to the priesthood on March 6, 2005. Fr. John returned to India for retirement in July 2006.

Father Jim Friedrich served as pastor of St. Wilfrid's from July 2006 to July 2019. Father Jim spent much time at Prairie View Health Center visiting with the residents and taking them Holy Communion.  He visited fallen away Catholics, bringing several back to the church, visited the homebound and the sick, and made home visits for Baptisms and First Communion preparation.  The younger children loved when Father Jim came to visit class as he always had fun learning activities to share. Father Jim created the directory for display at the cemetery.  A major project while he served as pastor was the restoration of the basement. The 125th anniversary of the diocese was celebrated in Woonsocket with a Farm Mass at Kent & Gay Swenson’s. Father Jim was very handy and made the wooden holder for the sacred oils in the front of the church, and made the pews for the small chapel.  He built a wooden replica of St Wilfrid Church and brought the statue of St Wilfrid to our church. The large crucifix in the back north side of the church was salvaged from a near-by church by Father Jim. Votive candles were put in the back of the church for those not able to walk to the front.  Father Jim will be remembered for a sweet tooth for ice cream, his deep reverence, his humbleness and sincere love of the people he served.

Our current pastor is Fr. Kevin Doyle, along with assistant pastor Fr. Paul Nereparampil.

We have had the privilege of two more of our native sons being ordained to the priesthood in recent years: Father Chester Murtha in 1993 and Father Larry Regynski in 1995.

We are thankful for the many blessings God has bestowed on St. Wilfrid’s in the past and pray for His continued blessings in the years ahead.