PROVIDENCE — For years, Alfred Carpionato would marvel at the grandeur of the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul as he faithfully attended Sunday Mass each week, along with his wife, Sheryl.
Whenever Carpionato, an extremely successful developer on both the local and national fronts, saw something amiss, such as the dulling of the brass candlesticks arrayed around the altar or the tabernacle losing its luster with age, he would approach Msgr. Anthony Mancini, the cathedral’s rector, and ask what he could do to help restore their beauty.
More recently, when going forward in the line to receive Holy Communion, he noticed water stains on the upper part of the cathedral’s walls.
After Mass he asked Msgr. Mancini what was causing the discoloration. When he learned that the cathedral needed a new roof, he made a note of it and set about to help with this restoration also.
Carpionato, who passed away in 2018 after developing a very aggressive form of prostate cancer, would not see this project through.
A nine-month, $4.5 million project to completely replace the cathedral’s original, 131-year-old Maine slate roof did not begin until August 2020.
But Sheryl Carpionato, who continues to serve with the Carpionato Group as a trustee and business advisor, in addition to her roles as vice president of marketing and design, property management and luxury residential broker, was determined to carry out her husband’s wish to help restore the cathedral.
On March 20, she presented Msgr. Mancini, whom both she and Alfred considered a dear friend for the 18 years they knew him as their pastor at the cathedral, with a check for $1 million to be used to help defray the cost of the roof replacement.
“Alfred was very close to the Church, he was very close to his faith and so when he was preparing his estate documents, and his will, he wanted to specifically earmark this gift for the roof to protect this beautiful building,” Sheryl said.
She said that due to her husband’s business success, they enjoyed attending Mass at the cathedral, where they would sit in the back pews. It offered them a bit of welcome anonymity.
“I liked just being able to come here and focus on why we were here,” Sheryl said. “Alfred was very close to his faith.”
Alfred was very generous to the Church and its causes, but always did so without calling attention to himself.
He also helped to support a school operated in Marigold, Haiti, by Providence-Haiti Outreach, which began with Father Francis Giudice at St. Joseph Church in the Capital City.
Msgr. Mancini recalled how Alfred would volunteer at Mass by passing around the collection basket.
“He was a very successful businessman. He owned a lot of property in the state and beyond,” he said, noting that despite Alfred’s success and the social circles he was in, some of his closest friends were priests of the diocese.
“He liked being with priests,” Msgr. Mancini said of how Alfred would often take him, Father Peter Mongeon, Father Stephan Silipigni and Sheryl to dinner, where they would talk and laugh and enjoy their time together.
Alfred Carpionato started his life working for his father’s single family residential construction business as a teenager.
He would go on to travel to Boston, Florida and California, where he gained invaluable experience working with top property developers.
At the age of 15, he bought his first building in the Smith Hill neighborhood of Providence. He renovated the units into apartments and began transitioning the family business into a commercial real estate firm. By the age of 21, Alfred became a self-made millionaire.
He made his fortune through clever real estate deals, careful cost management, and diversifying his portfolio. This allowed him to weather three recessions.
He headquartered his company in Rhode Island, employing more than 500 people.
The company portfolio currently includes several million square feet of hotels, office parks, shopping centers, lifestyle centers, luxury apartments and condominiums, restaurants and several thousand units of affordable housing throughout New England, with $1 billion currently under construction or on the drawing board for future development.
“We’ve been trying to carry on his legacy from the company standpoint, but I’m also trying to carry his legacy on from a personal standpoint, and I think that’s why he made me one of the trustees,” Sheryl said.
“I’m protecting his legacy, what he wanted and what his wishes were, and that’s very important to me. This is personal to me.”
“He was very quietly charitable,” Sheryl said, noting how he would ask priests what they needed.
And when they responded with their wishes, he would always step up and say, “I’ll take care of that for you,” she remembers.
“He did it quietly. He didn’t want fanfare, he didn’t want his name all over it. It wasn’t self-serving.”
Msgr. Mancini echoed these qualities Alfred had and said he was honored that he chose to donate such a generous amount to the restoration of the cathedral.
“His faith meant a lot to him, and he practiced it regularly,” he said of Alfred. “He was very interested in the cathedral and its beauty and its architecture and the surroundings of the cathedral.”