WOONSOCKET â€“ You only have to walk through the front door of St. Ann Church on Cumberland Street to understand why a dedicated group of volunteers work tirelessly to keep the now 100-year-old French Canadian Catholic church maintained and available to visitors.
Its walls and ceilings are covered with religious fresco paintings completed by Italian artist Guido Nincheri and his work has earned St. Ann Church the title of the Sistine Chapel of America.
The construction of St. Ann beginning in 1914 as the second French Canadian parish in the city and the efforts to preserve it in the aftermath of its closing by the Diocese of Providence during a local parish consolidation will be celebrated this weekend with tours of the church and a concert by the Rhode Island Wind Ensemble tonight at 6:15.
After 14 years of fundraising work and innovative repurposing of the old brick, steel and plaster-ceiling building, Dominque Doiron, St. Ann Arts and Cultural Center executive director, and Wally Rathbun, chairman of the organizationâ€™s board of directors, see the weekendâ€™s activities as a way to celebrate St. Ann as a continuing community asset.
â€śWe have upwards of 25 to 30 volunteers and no paid staff so that every dollar we raise goes toward maintaining the building,â€ť Doiron, a former parishioner of St. Ann, said.
Maintaining a church that rises 55-60 feet to its inside ceilings and is almost 200 feet long is no small feat, especially when preservation of the Nincheriâ€™s frescos must also be considered.
Electricity and winter heating costs typically total $50,000 a year, and then there are repairs that must be completed from time to time, Doiron said.
Read the full story in Saturday's newspaper.