WOONSOCKET — On Tuesday, Nov. 29, Father Ryan Simas, pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish in Woonsocket, gifted $25,000 to the city of Woonsocket.
Father Simas met with Mayor Dan Gendron of Woonsocket and a parishioner at St. Joseph’s, at the parish on a bright Tuesday morning, where he officially presented him with the check at the entrance of the church in the presence of students and faculty of the Good Shepherd Catholic Regional School.
The money, which comes from part of the proceeds from the sale of the former All Saints Church, is intended for the creation of a splash park in Dunn Park in Woonsocket, a project that had been frequently discussed by the city council, but had a difficult time obtaining funds.
“Helping other people is part and parcel of our Catholic faith, and so we wanted to help the city help other people. This is our way of reaching across the city and helping those who most need it,” Father Simas told Rhode Island Catholic.
“Caring for others is really at the core of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, as a Catholic Christian,” Father Simas continued. “That being said, we are limited in terms of resources that we have to be able to provide for others. So, by giving it to the city, and Woonsocket is obviously a very needy city, we thought that we could do more for others by combining resources and working with the city to achieve that.”
Gendron said, on behalf of the city, that he was very appreciative of the goodwill gesture shown by Father Simas and the St. Joseph’s parishioners.
“Father had approached me about his desire, as he said, to reach across the city, and we were talking about different ideas,” said Mayor Gendron.
They eventually chose to use the money for the creation of a splash park, as this was a project that had been frequently discussed by the City Council, but which had had a difficult time obtaining funds.
“One councilman in particular, Councilman John Ward, had mentioned several times that he thought it would be nice to help the people in the Fairmount area, at the Dunn Park specifically, if they had access to a splash pad, something that would give them some relief during the summer when they can’t get to the beach — just a way to give them some relief during the brutal summer months,” Mayor Gendron explained.
“We were never able to put together funding. When Father approached me, I went right to Councilman Ward. A large portion of this, if not all of it, will go to providing some relief for the summer months to the people in the Fairmount area.”
Mayor Gendron noted how the day’s events highlighted the close relationship between his deep faith as a Catholic and his responsibilities as a civil servant.
“I’ve never hidden from anyone that I’m happy and proud to be a practicing Catholic,” Gendron said. “I think that when we can do something like this, it really brings two very important things together for me personally, but it also does that for the city, because I think that there are people in the city who may not be Catholic and this is still reaching out to them, too. This is not a benefit exclusively for Catholics.”