(formerly Saint Philomena’s)
59 Rockland Street
In the middle of the 19th Century, as Narragansett began to emerge as a dynamic tourist economy, its growing Roman Catholic community needed a ministry. The village then became a mission of Our Lady of Mercy in East Greenwich, and subsequently was incorporated into the parish of St. Francis in Wakefield, when that congregation was established in 1879.
The first Narragansett church building, a summer chapel, was erected in 1884. A simple wood-framed structure with Gothic detailing, it served the community faithfully for many years. The Narragansett church had always been called Saint Philomena’s, but authenticity questions arose pertaining to that saint, and, in 1961, the church was rededicated to the great 16th Century scholar, statesman, and uncompromising Catholic martyr, Saint Thomas More.
As the Narragansett population proliferated, space became an issue. Accordingly, a handsome new shingle-style building, designed by architects Murphy, Hindle and Wright, opened in 1908. Accommodating more parishioners easily, the new church, with its Romanesque nuances, tall tower, and open belfry, quickly gained prominence. Following decades of mission status, the Narragansett church was finally recognized as a separate parish in 1917.
Once the new church building was completed in 1908, the original church was relegated to duty mostly as a center for parish social activities. Finally, however, the old building was taken down in 1977, and its previous location became the site of a new rectory and supporting parish meeting facilities connected to the church.
Over the years Saint Thomas More has benefited from an active and generous congregation. Of special interest are the contributions of the Bouvier family, who gave the church its organ, its elegant pulpit, and several fine pieces of furniture. For several summers the Bouviers would entertain their young niece, Jacqueline Bouvier (Kennedy Onassis), accompanied by her father, “Black Jack” Bouvier, at their nearby Central Street mansion.
On October 14, 2011, Saint Thomas More Church was honored at the Third Annual Rhode Island Preservation Celebration with a Rhody Award. Under the supervision of its pastor, Father Marcel Taillon, the church building had just undergone an extensive renaissance. The Rhody Awards are given annually by Preserve Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission. Their award stated: “Restoration of the century-old building was an ambitious project that demonstrates the parish’s commitment to their church and its place in historic Narragansett Pier.”