1870 ~ Breakwater construction in the 1870's at Old Harbor, attracted an increasing number of summer residents. For Catholic vacationers, Block Island had one important drawback: the difficulty of getting to Mass on Sunday. Until 1888, Catholics attending Sunday Mass took a steamer to Stonington, Connecticut, a trip that took up the better part of the day.
August 1888 ~ Rev. John Daly, a Dominican Father, came to Block Island to recover his health and realized the imminent need for Catholic services. With the permission of Bishop Matthew Harkins, Fr. Daly celebrated the first Mass on Sunday, August 12, 1888. He offered Mass at 6 a.m. for those employed in the hotels and at 10:30 a.m. for the visitors. Afterwards, priests from the Cathedrals of Saint Peter and Paul came regularly during July and August to offer Mass in the old skating rink or other hall.
1898 ~ Mr. Patrick Flynn of Woonsocket purchased the parcel of land on Chapel St. for a future church. And in 1899, Bishop Harkins hired the prominent contractor Michael J. Houlihan to build the church in sections and in 1900 he loaded the sections on a schooner charted from Darius Dodge. Within four weeks, the building, with a seating capacity of 500 began services.
July 8, 1900 ~ Fr. William Stang blessed the church and offered the first mass, placing the new church under the patronage of St. Andrew the Apostle.
1917 ~ Rev. James P. O'Brien was assigned to St. Andrew as its first full time pastor. He purchased the old house on Spring St. as his rectory and winter chapel. Over the next sixty years the parish was staffed by full time or part time pastors depending on the availability of priests and the capacity of the parish to sustain a priest.
October 14, 1979 ~ Fr. Robert Randall conceived the idea of building a parish center and rectory across the street from the old rectory on Spring St. The new buildings were dedicated and blessed on by Bishop Louis E. Gelineau, Bishop of Providence. It was during the time of Fr. Randall that Katherina and Frederik Breydert designed the exquisite stain glass windows of "The Six Days of Creation" and the Jesus and Mary, windows all unique to St. Andrew Church.
The Steinway in the Parish Center came at this time, a gift of the Greenlee family. Ralph and Dorothy Greenlee also gave to the Chapel St. Church the stunning mahogany "corpus" of Christ and also the mission bell.
In 1993, extensive renovations to the Church on Chapel St. were commenced under the leadership of Rev. Donal R. Kehew and with the most generous support of the parishioners and visitors. The stain glass windows that glorify both side of the Church's nave were formerly in the Chapel of St. Antoine in North Smithfield, R.I. The Randall and Kehew tenures were truly the golden age of St. Andrew Parish which ushered in a time of growth and stability which continues to today.
Saint Andrew Parish is an extended family that spans the globe. With the guidance of its Patron, Saint Andrew the Apostle, and the full participation of its parishioners and friends, Saint Andrew Roman Catholic Church on Block Island has a blessed future.
Stories in Stained Glass
For a more detailed history of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, click here and you will be redirected to the Diocese of Providence website.