Early History of Saint Christopher Parish

St Christopher ChurchThe parish of Saint Christopher began as a summer mission of Saint Patrick parish in Fall River. In the early 1890’s there were only three Catholic families residing in South Tiverton. About this time Catholics, mostly from Fall River, began to establish summer residences in Tiverton and beginning in the summer of 1894 Mass was said in the Town Hall by Reverend M. E. Cook during the months of July and August.

The following year, 1895, Father Cook built the first Catholic Church in Tiverton with the aid of summer visitors. It was a summer church situated on Highland Road open only during July and August and it was known as Saint Peter’s By the Sea. It continued to be served by priests from Saint Patrick’s until 1908.
In 1908, the Bishop, Most Reverend Matthew Harkins, D.D., invited the Holy Ghost Fathers to take charge of the territory comprising Portsmouth, Tiverton, and Little Compton with Saint Anthony’s in Portsmouth as the parish center. Reverend Christopher Rooney, C.S.Sp., was the first pastor and Tiverton, with its little church became a mission of Saint Anthony’s. By this time sixty Catholic families had settled in South Tiverton and, except for July and August, had to travel to Portsmouth or Fall River for Mass.

Father Rooney decided to have Mass all year round. Since Saint Peter’s By the Sea had no heating plant, Whitridge Hall was rented and Mass was celebrated there every Sunday during 1908 and 1909.

In January of 1910 a plot of ground was purchased at the corner of Main Road and Lawrence Avenue. The Most Reverend Bishop granted Father Rooney permission to erect the present church and place it under the patronage of Saint Christopher. The new church was dedicated July 1st 1910. Saint Peter’s By the Sea was later sold.

Reverend Joseph Boehr, C.S.Sp. while residing in Portsmouth was given charge of St. Christopher Mission until 1918. Reverend Cornelius O’Rorke, C.S.Sp. took charge of the mission at this point and continued the good work for souls so well begun by Father Boehr. At the close of a lawn party held on the grounds of the home of Mrs. John Keogh, Father O’Rorke announced that the proceeds of the party would be able to make the last payment on the church debt. This was August 1920.

In the year 1925, there were 85 Catholic families residing in the mission and Most Reverend William A. Hickey, D.D. thought it desirable to have a resident priest so Father O’Rorke was made pastor. The same year the Bishop granted permission to purchase the Giezok Estate (formerly owned by Captain Isaac Church) located at the corner of Main Road and North Avenue, as a rectory.

In September 1932, Father O’Rorke, ailing for over a year, went away for treatment. In his absence, Father John O’Reilly, C.S.Sp. served as administrator. On the death of Father O’Rorke, Father O’Reilly became pastor and remained so until December 1951. Reverend Francis Cooney, C.S.Sp. was then appointed pastor and remained alone in the parish until January 1959 when the Reverend John J. McHugh, C.S.Sp. was assigned as associate pastor.

Reverend Francis Mullen, C.S.Sp. followed Father Cooney as pastor in 1964 and remained until August 1968 when Reverend Vincent I. Cronin, C.S.Sp. was appointed to St. Christopher’s. Fr. Cronin served until 1970. In 1971 Reverend James Mangan, C.S.Sp. became pastor and served until 1975 when Reverend Joseph Rengers, C.S.Sp. took over.

Father Cronin returned as pastor from 1977 until 1979. Reverend Joseph Brennan, C.S.Sp. served as pastor from 1979 until 1981, followed by Reverend Stanley J. Trahan, C.S.Sp. who served until 1989. In 1990, Reverend Louis F. Dolan, C.S.Sp. became the pastor and served the parish until October of 1996. In 1997 Reverend Frank P. Kanda, C. S. Sp. became the final Holy Ghost Father to serve as pastor. He remained at St. Christopher’s until August of 2003. Reverend Peter J. Andrews became the first diocesan pastor in September 2003.