2 R.I. parishes to share church

WEST WARWICK, R.I. —At St. Joseph Church, the Easter Sunday flock will be a little bigger than usual this year. Maybe a little damp, too.

Spared from damage because of its hilltop location, the Roman Catholic church in the heart of flood-ravaged West Warwick is taking in parishioners from nearby Sacred Heart Church, which wasn't so lucky. Floodwaters from the Pawtuxet River heavily damaged the basement of that church and two rectory buildings on the property last week, rendering it unsafe for worship.

So when St. Joseph pastor Rev. Charles Downing found out about the damage to the church, he offered a helping hand.

"We heard about Sacred Heart church being damaged and condemned from further use for a while, so we called the church and talked to the pastor and told them we'll certainly step up and make (St. Joseph) available to their people and to them for whatever their needs are over the next weeks, whatever it's going to take," Downing said.

His church holds about 450 people, but he expects 500 or more for each of the three Masses scheduled today.

"Easter is always a full church," Downing said. "We will be squeezing people in this weekend especially."

Among them will be parishioners from both churches.

"There will be a lot of people here who have lost everything, who will be coming back from hotels and motels or wherever they're staying because they want to come to their own church on Easter Sunday morning," said Downing.

"It's a sign of unity of the faith, that another parish will take us in and our parishioners will be able to celebrate all the same sacraments," said the Rev. Richard Bucci, pastor at Sacred Heart.

Downing says he will be sure to share the collection box proceeds with Sacred Heart.

"We won't keep all the envelopes," he said, laughing.