Holy Family Parish at 195 Walcott St., Pawtucket, RI 02860 US - Our Lady of Consolation
Our Lady of Consolation
History of Our Lady of Consolation
Rev. Fr. Joseph Claver Bessette, the first and founding pastor of Our Lady of Consolation Church, Pawtucket, RI was promoted to the honor of Prothonotary Apostolic by his Holiness Pope Pius XI, at the request of the Most Rev. William A. Hickey, Bishop of Providence. His investure was to have taken place on April 19, 1925, but unfortunately Father Bessette passed away before he could receive the honor. On April 16, Father Bessette, one of the state’s oldest clergymen at the time, died after being ill for some time. Father Lafayette was named administrator to the parish while Father Bessette was ill. Father Joseph Claver Bessette was laid to rest in our church yard on Monday morning April 20, 1925, the day after he was supposed to celebrate his investure.
Msgr. Joseph Claver Bessette was born in Saint-Gregoire d’Iberville on the 16th day of December 1851. He studied at the College of Marieville and at the Grande Seminary in Montreal. He was ordained priest on July 26, 1878 by Bishop Moreau of the Diocese of Saint-Hyancinthe. He was immediately appointed a professor of philosophy at the College of Marieville (1878-1882). He soon left for Rome for advanced studies and returned in 1885 with doctorates in theology and canon law. He immediately returned to Marieville to teach theology in 1886-1887. He then left teaching for parish ministry and was appointed pastor of Saint Prudentienne (1887-1889). He arrived in the United States in 1889 and was appointed successively at St. Mathieu’s, Fall River (1892-1894); and Sacred Heart, New Bedford, MA (1894-1895). Bishop Harkins then commissioned him to establish the new parish of Our Lady of Consolation.
Withour a doubt the high point of Monsignor Bessette’s life was the construction of his new church. The old church was moved to Webster Street on May 22, 1922, at a cost $1900. The building came to be used as our parish hall. The altar was given to St. Theresa’s Parish in South Attleboro, MA. It was used in their temporary chapel and later installed in their first church.
Work began on Our Lady of Consolation’s new edifice on August 8, 1922. Bishop Hickey placed the cornerstone on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 1922 and Father Rotique Chinard of Fitchburg, MA preached the sermon.
The building cost $170,000 to build. The dominating feature of the building was its tall bell tower which later had to be shortened for safety reasons. The architecture of the building is outstanding.
At first, in keeping with its style, there were no statues. The side altars were highlighted by icons of Christ the King and St. Anne. Unfortunately, the icons were painted over, destroying two beautiful treasures. In their place now stand two statues, one of the Virgin Mary and the other of St. Joseph. The stained glass windows have thankfully remained intact. These Bavarian windows are some of the most beautiful in America. The windows in the main body of the church and above the altar depict the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary. The church is very beautiful and is certainly a great memorial to Monsignor Joseph Claver Bessette.
In 1953 the interior of Our Lady of Consolation was greatly changed. The original painted decoration of the ceiling and walls was executed in Al Fresco for the pictures and Al Secco for the ornaments and flat surfaces. This technique was one used almost exclusively in the Middle Ages for church decoration, and Michaelangelo used it himself in his rendering of the Sistine Chapel.