Saint Margaret’s Church was originally established as a mission of the Cathedral. Priests would journey to East Providence to celebrate Mass at Bay View Academy. In 1887 Bishop Matthew Harkins, the second resident Bishop of Providence, recognized the need for a separate parish in the industrial Rumford area and asked Father John Harty to sponsor Saint Margaret as a Mission of Sacred Heart Parish, East Providence. Father Harty accepted the call and so began the history of Saint Margaret Parish.
On the evening of September 28, 1888 the foundation of a church began. Exactly one month later, on October 28, 1888, Bishop Harkins came to Rumford to lay the cornerstone. “Saint Margaret’s Church Corporation, East Providence, Rhode Island” was incorporated by certificate of incorporation dated December 3, 1888 and duly signed by Bishop Harkins; Father McCabe, the Vicar General; Father Harty, Pastor; Robert F. McCoart and James F. McManus, lay trustees. The certificate was recorded by Samuel H. Cross, the Rhode Island Secretary of State on June 4, 1888.
The tiny mission church of the 1880’s became a leading parish in the diocese. Answering the needs of a fast-growing community, on April 4, 1955, the pastor, Msgr. Bernard J. Lennon was authorized to begin construction of a school and convent. One of the landmark dates in the history of the parish was September 5, 1956 when the doors of the school opened for the first time. It was a proud day on June 14, 1963 when thirty boys and girls became part of the first graduating class. In 1970 permission was granted by Bishop McVinney to convert the convent into the parish rectory and demolish the old residence at 42 Bishop Avenue.
In 1987 in preparation for the Centennial observance of the founding of the parish, a program of renovations was begun. On September 8, 1988 tragedy struck when fire destroyed the roof and steeple of the church and the interior was extensively damaged. Through the hard work of the pastor, Father Edward McGovern, and the entire parish, St. Margaret Church was rebuilt and dedicated on October 21, 1990. On June 30, 1991 Fr. McGovern was transferred to serve as the pastor of Mary Mother of Mankind Parish in North Providence.
On June 30 1991 Bishop Gelineau appointed Father Thomas L. Keenan, as the new pastor of St. Margaret Church. For fifteen years Father Keenan shepherded St. Margaret’s and guided the parish as a vital and thriving community. In 2006, due to failing health, Father Keenan requested and was granted an early retirement on June 30, 2006. Presently, Father Keenan serves as Pastor Emeritus.
As Father Keenan’s successor, Bishop Tobin appointed Msgr. William J. McCaffrey, Pastor of St. Margaret Church, on July 1, 2006. Prior to his appointment, Msgr. McCaffrey served as Vicar of Planning and Financial Services for the Diocese of Providence and as the pastor of St. Joseph Church in Providence. Deacon John Needham and Sister Perpetua Lester R.S.M. serve as part time ministry assistants.
Bishop Thomas Tobin appointed Msgr. John J. Darcy on July 1, 2015 to succeed the retiring Msgr. McCaffrey. Msgr. Darcy served as the Vicar General and Chancellor of the Diocese of Providence under both Bishop Mulvee and Bishop Tobin. Msgr. was until now the pastor of St. Sebastian Parish, Providence. He was installed by The Most Reverend Robert Evans, Auxiliary Bishop of Providence, on August 1, 2015. During his 6 year term as pastor, he oversaw needed renovations in the church flooring, and new ceilings in the day chapel and sacristy areas. In addition, new pews were installed in the north transpept to match the original pews in the nave, and renewed the seating in the choir area. The parish share of the very successful Grateful for God’s Peovidence Campaign afforded the Church to be completely refreshed and repainted for the 30 anniversary of the present church building. Other physical upgrades ro the rectory; restoration of the rectory yard, enclosing the sun porch, and installing a new heating system brought efficient improvments to the rectory.
On March 11, 2021, Bushop Tobin granted Minsignor Darcy’s request to retire from administrative ministy. He will become “A Senior Priest” effective July 1, 2021. He will be greatly missed as Pastor Emeritus of St. Margaret Parish.
Fr.Jeremy Rodrigues, Administrative Assistant and Master of Ceremonies to Bishop Tobin, will begin his tenure as pastor of St. Margaret’s on July 1, 2021. He will continue as the Diocesan Director of Divine Worship.
Excerpts from St. Margaret Church, Centennial Anniversary, A Brief History, researched by Robert A. Deasy. Updated December 15, 2010 and August 3, 2016.