Parish History

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.