Saints Patrick & Raphael Church
The history of a parish is always the history of people and
their church building which expresses visibly their faith and dedication to a
way of life. Williamstown does not have a large population of Catholics and
never has had a large number. Yet the town was home to two Catholic churches.
The first of these churches was dedicated to Saint Patrick in 1889, with the
original structure located on the corner of Main and Park Streets. That building
was replaced by the present church on Southworth Street, dedicated in 1897. In
addition to serving the needs of the majority of the Catholics of Williamstown,
the parish then also took responsibility for the spiritual needs of the
Catholics of Williams College.
While St. Patrick was being built, various people of French
descent were making their way to the area and sought a place to worship with
French as the predominant language. As the numbers of French-speaking Catholics
increased, the Bishop was moved to grant their request to establish a second
parish in Williamstown and build a church. Construction was begun in 1889 and
the building was officially dedicated in 1891 to archangel Raphael.
The two parishes thrived and were very active communities of
faith. There were difficult times following World War II when manufacturing
began to decline and companies began moving out of the area, but the parishes
adjusted and continued to be vital sources of life in the community. However, be
the mid-1980's the wide-spread shortage of priests available for assignment to
the parishes of the diocese had reached Williamstown, and the then Bishop
Maguire "yoked" the two parishes in 1989. The two remained distinct parishes,
but were now served by one pastor rather than two. The arrangement worked so
well that in 1997 the parishes were merged into one.
Sadly, St. Raphael Church on Cole Avenue is now
closed. St. Raphael's celebrated it's final mass on Pentecost Sunday, 2007.