Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 11-19-2020

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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NORTH SMITHFIELD BLACKSTONE WOONSOCKET EDITION | VALLEY BREEZE | NOVEMBER 19-25, 2020 WOONSOCKET 7 7 WOONSOCKET – For nearly 50 years, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart have maintained a small but tight-knit community in a home on Earle Street that's served as a resource for both city residents and those who visit to pursue a religious calling. Now, the brothers are relocating their ministry to Maspeth, N.Y, in the face of changes that have affect- ed their larger community. "Woonsocket's been a great place, I've enjoyed living here. It's just that it's not as suitable as other locations that we have," explained Brother Xavier Werneth, director of the local Formation Center. The reason for the change, he said, is one that has affected many religious communities nationwide: a decrease in the number of young men called to ministry and changes in their geographic location. With novices spread thin across the north- east, members of the Earle Street Formation Center had to travel sev- eral times a month to meet up with other novices for community-wide formation programs. "Every other week, we were driv- ing into New York or Connecticut and sometimes even Pennsylvania," said Werneth. Founded in 1971, the residence was once a house of formation for young men considering a calling to the religious life. In recent years, it's served as the Formation Center for the community's novices, though Werneth noted many of those nov- ices now come from far away to complete the program. The center's two most recent novices, he said, both traveled to the U.S. from the Philippines. For the city's most vulnerable residents, it's also been a lifeline. For close to four decades, brothers living at the home have maintained a ministry of handing out bagged lunches to individuals who come to the door seeking food. During the pandemic, said Werneth, the home distributed about 120 lunches every weekend, limiting their distribution to Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the days when the New Beginnings soup kitchen on Rathbun Street is closed. The Sisters of Mercy living in Cumberland, he said, typically provide the sandwiches, while the local Elks Club has helped stock the ministry with cookies and peanut butter over the years. Though the brothers expressed hope someone else in the city might pick up the practice when they're gone, Werneth acknowledged it's not an easy task. "It's a lot of work, and I don't know if there's anyone to take that on. You're looking at hours of work," he said. The departure of the brothers leaves another vacancy on a corner once bustling with religious activity. Earlier this year, nearby St. Charles Borromeo Church held its final regularly scheduled Mass amid a merger with All Saints Parish. Prior to moving to the Woonsocket resi- dence, Werneth lived for 15 years in Baton Rouge, where he said the vibrant churches stood out in stark contrast to some of the dwindling parishes he sees locally. Brothers of the Sacred Heart depart Earle Street residence By LAUREN CLEM Valley Breeze Staff Writer Brother IRENÉE CHABOT offers a bag of sandwich- es and cookies to a visitor at the door of the broth- ers' Earle Street home. See BROTHERS, Page 20

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