Email Print
Msgr. Dauray recognized for service to RI’s French-Canadians
BY EMILY DONOHUE, Staff Reporter

WOONSOCKET – During the fall of 1872, a young French-Canadian priest named Charles Dauray traveled from Quebec to Pawtucket.

He planned to spend two months resting and recuperating from illness. Soon, however, he found himself at the center of a movement to serve the diocese's growing French-Canadian population.

At the invitation of a local pastor, Father Dauray celebrated a Mass in French at St. Mary Church. The event was so well attended that local priests asked him to hold a retreat for the French-Canadians. According to Father Robert Hayman's book, Catholicism in Rhode Island and the Diocese of Providence, the retreat was not merely a huge success, but the beginning of Father Dauray's career in Rhode Island.

"The retreat served both to call back to worship many of those French Canadians who had been absenting themselves from services and to show, by the numbers of those who attend the exercises, that the Canadians were numerous enough for a parish of their own," Father Hayman wrote.

Following his success in reaching out to Rhode Island's French-Canadian community, Father Dauray visited Bishop Thomas F. Hendricken, who asked him to stay in the diocese. Father Dauray agreed and was given "temporary charge" of the French-Canadians in Pawtucket and Central Falls. The Armory Hall on Exchange Street in Pawtucket was the site of the first exclusively French-Canadian Masses celebrated by Father Dauray beginning in March 1874.

Soon after, he purchased property on Fales Street in Central Falls to build the Notre Dame du Sacre Coeur, which was completed and dedicated on October 2, 1875. It was the diocese's first French church, but it would turn out to be only the first of several building projects that Father Dauray would complete on behalf of Rhode Island's French-Canadian community. Today, the former Notre Dame du Sacre Coeur parish is a part of the Holy Spirit parish.

Following the completion of that church, Bishop Hendricken sent Father Dauray to Woonsocket to begin work on a new church for Precious Blood parish. In February 1876 work on the church was nearing completion when disaster struck, Father Hayman writes: "A winter gale roared through Woonsocket, ripping the roof off the structure. The loss stunned the people but did not quench their desire to finish their church. The Canadians used the basement of St. Charles while they repaired the storm-caused damage."

The church was dedicated on July 17, 1881 and Father Dauray became its first pastor. Soon after construction on the church was completed, Father Dauray set his sights on creating an orphanage, school, and home for the aged to further serve the French-Canadians. Rhode Island's French-Canadian population held on fiercely to their native culture and wanted their children, even orphans, to be brought up speaking French.

By 1895 he had overseen the building of a school and convent adjacent to the church. According to Father Hayman, "because of the two towers which were features of the gothic building, it was called 'Le Castel Dauray' in honor of the pastor and dedicated at Thanksgiving, during a three-day festival celebrating Fr. Dauray's twenty-fifth anniversary as a priest."

Five Sacred Heart brothers taught children between the ages of 8 and 15 at "Le College du Sacre-Couer." The school was extremely popular with the immigrant community and in 1910 Father Dauray proposed a new, bigger school to meet the growing demand. The Academie de Jesus-Marie, a school building with 20 classrooms, was dedicated on September 10, 1911. By 1919 the school was so popular there was a waiting list to attend.

Father Dauray also bought property on Hamlet Street across from Precious Blood Church for use as an orphanage. He received a $50,000 donation from a parishioner that allowed him to build the Mt. St. Francis Orphanage which was dedicated by Bishop Matthew Harkins on September 22, 1912. In 1914 Father Dauray opened the St. Joseph Home for the Aged on Hamlet Avenue. This home would eventually become the St. Antoine Residence which still exists today in a new building in North Smithfield.

In 1924, Mt. St. Charles Academy was dedicated and named in honor of Father Dauray. On his 80th birthday, March 15, 1918, Father Dauray was named Monsignor Dauray. Later that year, in June, Pope Benedict XV raised him to the rank of Domestic Prelate at Bishop Harkins' request. Monsignor Dauray was the oldest priest in the diocese at the time. He died in 1931 after having spent more than half a century ministering to Rhode Island's French-Canadians.

On November 16 of this year the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame inducted Monsignor Dauray and 12 others into their Hall of Fame in honor of their work in the state.

Without a doubt
MORE