Historic first: new parish in U.S. to be named for Blessed John Paul

The possibility was announced earlier this week, when the Vatican outlined its guidelines for celebrating his feast in October.

Now, a new Rhode Island parish may be the first to claim the late pontiff for its patron — using the title “Blessed” — providing it gets permission from Rome.


Two more Roman Catholic parishes will merge in July. The Diocese of Providence has confirmed that St. Leo the Great and St. Cecilia Parishes will merge on July 1 and take on the name Blessed Pope John Paul II.

The Rev. Michael Sisco, most recently the Catholic chaplain at Roger Williams University in Bristol while living at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in the same town, is to become the new pastor.

Father Sisco, who has also served at St. Francis Xavier parish in East Providence and St. Agatha and Precious Blood churches in Woonsocket, will replace the Rev. Pierre Plante, the current pastor at St. Cecilia, and the Rev. Giacomo Capoverdi, the administrator at St. Leo’s.

The merger comes after more than a year of consultations among the parishioners, according to the Diocese of Providence, and after final approval was given by Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas J. Tobin. The diocese said the merger will not affect the operation of St. Cecilia School.

A “changing neighborhood” that has reduced the area’s Catholic population, along with financial problems, helped to drive the merger, according to a letter from the two outgoing clergy.


  1. I thought that “blessed” as opposed to “saint” limited the geographic area where the person could be officially invoked, i.e., have churches named in honor. “Saint” made the ‘cult’ universal. Has this changed, or am I wrong? Isn’t his feast day only on the calendar in Rome and Poland, for now?

  2. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Maria …

    Yes, but Rome can grant an indult for it to happen elsewhere. It’s unclear if that has happened with the Rhode Island parish, or if it’s pending. Or maybe they just jumped the gun.

    Dcn. G.

  3. Am I the only one who feels this is getting a little old? I mean “Historic first?” Yes, he’s going to be made a saint come hell or high water, but when will all this seeming endless hysteria calm down? If this were about Pope Pius XII, who should have been canonized decades ago if not for the Church’s false “ecumenism” and handwringing over not upsetting some horribly mislead modern Jews, barely anyone would care, but since its JPII it’s “historic.”

  4. Deacon Norb says:

    Re: Chris L. Post #3.

    I do not consider myself a “conservative” catholic; in fact, my pastor has tried to categorize me as being “center-left” but he cannot account for the fact that I am generally pro-military and ambivalent about the death penalty.

    I am, however, absolutely not one of those “sede-vacante-ist” who falsely believe that Pius XII was the last legitimate pope. I am an academic and a historian and I understand trends and sources of human behavior far better than most

    It might surprise you to know that Pius XII was personally fairly progressive theologically. He wrote two revolutionary encyclicals: one on Bible studies and one on revival and reformation of the liturgy — both of which pre-dated similar ideas promoted at Vatican II by decades.. The problem was — no one paid any attention to him in the 1940′s and 1950′s — especially your typical “Fr. McCarthy” and “Sr. Mary Gertrudis” entrenched in parishes all over the East Coast.

    Pius XII’s personality and training was as a diplomat — and like all diplomats he believed in compromise and consensus rather than confrontation. What held him back — besides his quiet and mellow “laid-back” diplomatic personality — was the entrenched “professional” Curia he had to deal with. That is where the conservatism of the church is genuinely housed — not in the local bishops or even in the papacy — but in the Vatican offices

    Yes, I agree, Pius XII should have been canonized long ago — not because he was the last legitimate authentic pope — but because he was not afraid to be an unheralded prophet of Vatican II — long before John XXIII ever thought about even calling the council at all.

    I also am a big fan of John Paul II. I did disagree with him some but also thanked the Risen Lord Jesus for his wisdom on several occasions for taking the “correct” stance (not the “conservative” one).

    I prayed with JPII on one important occasion and when you pray with someone, you are never able to say anything evil about that person — EVER! In fact, he died about 30 minutes before I was to be the deacon and preacher at a Saturday evening Mass in my local parish. I threw away my prepared text and proclaimed my own spontaneous eulogy of him from the pulpit!

  5. @Deacon Norb What are you even talking about? What does anything I said have to do with nutty sedavacantist, Pius XII “progressive” theology (hardly if you compare it to anything in the last 50 years)? Where did any of that come from? No offense Norb, but you are proving my point pretty well. As a side note, it is a grave abuse for anyone to give a eulogy during a funeral Mass, no matter the deceased or celebrant. Clearly JPII care for the Church’s Liturgy rubbed off a little too much on you. And no that was not a compliment.

  6. Sherry McMahon says:

    The really “Good News” in this story is that the Pastor of this “new” parish will be Father Michael Sisco! He is a wonderful Priest who, through his preaching and being, is able to bring the Scriptures alive.

    St. Leo the Great and St. Cecilia parishoners will experience a great blessing when they receive this holy Priest who has shown us the “Face of Christ” – as did Pope John Paul II, who I am sure must be smiling at the people in his new parish.

  7. M from Naples says:

    Chris L,
    With all due respect . . .why are you so angry?

  8. @ MfN This isn’t so much an issue of anger but of frustration. I know this is almost unthinkable for most Catholics raised/converted in the JPII era but I don’t support the beautification of JPII and no I am not some SSPX schismatic. I came into the Church under our current Holy Father and have never understood the ridiculous cult of personality that surrounds everything JPII. Does this mean that I dare deny him heaven? Certainly not. But do I think that this process is being pushed forward at such a pace that it defies any sense of prudence. JPII did so so much, wrote so much, traveled so much, that to fully understand and truly judge all that he did in five years is laughable. And then there are all of his “mistakes” as Russell Shaw put it. Kissing the Koran, destroying the true meaning of Ecumenism, protecting horrible people like Law and Maciel for years, doing nothing for years about the sexual abuse crisis in Europe and America, doing nothing about the complete deterioration of the Liturgy, etc., are not just mistakes but huge lapses in judgement that effected millions of the faithful. How many fell away and left the Church because of something he said or did that made someone question the Church’s teaching? What people usually respond is that we should give him the benefit of the doubt. To be raised to the level of a saint open to universal devotion as an example of of sanctity does not allow room for doubt. I’m completely open to him one day being declared a saint , I just beloved that cooler heads prevail in

  9. Sorry about that. …I just believe that cooler heads should prevail in this process instead of the “sancto subito” hysteria that surrounds the cult of JPII. That was my original problem with the title of the article. It’s “historic” because its JPII but if it was someone else no one would care.

  10. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    No, it’s historic because it’s the first church in the US to be named for a new (not even declared yet) Blessed.

    It’s highly unusual, because it’s outside the usual jurisdiction; in this case, the diocese needs an indult to do this if it’s not in Rome or in the homeland of the person where the cult is permitted (in this case, Poland).

    Dcn. G.

  11. If by historic we are simply referring to it being the first, then yes it is historic (but far from moumental) but is anybody really suprised that the indult would be granted and lightening speed? No. As with anything JPII, prudence gets chucked out the window for the sake of moving things along as quickly as possible.

  12. Fiergenholt says:

    For Chris L. (post #11) and others.

    Acclamation of a saint at the time of that person’s death is not really unprecedented. A lot of that happened before Trent — when the process was stabilized.

    I’ll just pick to of my favorites: St. Christina the Astonishing and St. Paige. Look them up!

  13. @ Feirgenholt Whats your point? You see, since Trent, we have a system in place to make sure that if someone is declared a saint of the Church, that they really are a saint of the Church. Depending on the particular person, it can take years, decades, or centuries before we have enough certainty that they are among those enjoying the Beatific Vision. Just because early saints were declared so by public acclamation or or simple popularity doesn’t mean that we should go back to that system for a person who’s reach exceeded any other in human history other than Christ Himself. He is responsible for far too many questionable things for this generation to be able soundly and reasonably, judge him worthy of sainthood. There are far too many Catholics who are still fanatic devotees of his cult of celebrity that for this generation to be truly objective in putting for his case is unrealistic in the extreme.

  14. Any updates on this story, Deacon Greg? My e-mail to the Diocese of Providence went unanswered. It appears the diocese also didn’t respond to EWTN news. So, it makes me wonder what the status is.

  15. Chris, it is not a matter of “hysteria” and popular sentiment surrounding JPII’s beatification. It is the Church proclaiming one of her Vicars as a blessed, acknowledging them as one among the communion of Saints and permitting their invocation to intercession. It isn’t even a matter of “cool heads prevailing”. If God has made evident to Holy Mother Church that it is His will, then who are we to argue. There has been nothing sensational about the process other than the joy of the Church and her members over the event. Your disrespectful tone to others here and in general concerning this topic is very disappointing. We cannot forget that this process occurs under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is not “us” making JPII blessed, but God revealing it to us and the Church proclaiming it.

  16. John Pulawski says:

    There is a “Pope John Paul the Great Parish” in Adams, Massachusetts, and a “Blessed John Paul l l” Catholic Parish in Big Folk, Montana, so how can the Providence Church claim to be a 1st?

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