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Closure of the St. Philomena Convent Building, Portsmouth, RI, USA

“None of This Would Be Here at All; If There Had Not Been the Need for a Convent”

Group of FCJs present at the Closure.On Saturday June 27, 2009, the Sisters Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ) of the Province of the Americas gathered together at St Philomena Convent, Portsmouth, RI for a Ritual of Closure of the present convent building. Sisters from all parts of the Province including Sr. Patricia Binchy, Provincial Leader, and our liaison with General Leadership, Sr. Susan Donohue, were present for the occasion. In all, twenty-four sisters were there to celebrate and to remember.

The day began with an open house where the FCJ sisters welcomed parents, students, faculty and friends both past and present. As has been the tradition, since the beginning of the FCJ presence on the Island, the Benedictine Community from Portsmouth Abbey was in attendance.

FCJ Sisters during the celebration.The convent and the school auditorium were bedecked with beautiful flower arrangements artistically created by Jo Ellen McMahon and Jeanne Staats. All the flowers were gathered from the gardens of many friends of the sisters. Also decorating the auditorium were many letters of congratulations, and memories and blessings as well as photos from sisters living outside the USA who had once lived and worked at St. Philomena School. These were interesting and enjoyable to all gathered. They reminded those present of the FCJ history in Portsmouth, RI. In the early 1990’s the number of sisters resident in the convent began to slowly decrease as the community members aged, and now today the convent is too large for the two FCJ sisters who are in residence there. The charism and the spirit of the FCJ’s will continue to live on in the St. Philomena School family.

Celebrant, floral decoration, guests.The open house was followed by a beautiful Mass of Thanksgiving and Remembrance with well over 200 in the congregation. Seven priests concelebrated the Mass. Abbot Caedmon Holmes, OSB was the main celebrant. (The monks’ fidelity and friendship over the years as chaplains to the FCJ community has been a blessing.)

The homilist was Fr. Charles Maher. His relationship with the community has spanned 30 years, since his days as pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish, Providence. His homily gave a panoramic view of the history of the FCJ community at St. Philomena. As is his style, his homily was interspersed with true “Maherian” gems of humor!

FCJs and Guests.

Mrs. Cecilia Heredia, an FCJ Companion in Mission, and the music teacher at St. Philomena School prepared a choir composed of graduates and present students who led the singing throughout the liturgy. Mrs. Verna Westhaver, hand bell and keyboard teacher, also accompanied the children. Beautiful liturgical dance was performed by present students.

Mr. Dan Baker, junior high teacher, wove into a reading from St. Paul a moving tribute to the FCJ Sisters based on the experiences of some of the St Philomena School family.

FCJs and Guests.Later in the day, the FCJ Sisters came together to reminisce and to pray their own goodbyes to the convent which was so familiar to many.

The Sisters are grateful for all the joys and blessings that they have experienced over the past 82 years of living and working on the St. Philomena campus.

To read further memories of St. Philomena's, compiled by Sr. Mary Anthony Hayes fcJ, click here.

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