|Dauray, Charles, 1838-1931|
Monsignor Charles Dauray, regarded by his contemporaries as the Dean of Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Providence, was born in Marieveille, Quebec on March 15, 1838. At the age of thirty-two he was ordained a priest and assigned to teach at a local college.
Dogged by ill-health and overwork, Dauray was granted a leave of absence and traveled southward to his brother’s home in Pawtucket, Rhode Island to recuperate. Soon, he began to immerse himself in the spiritual needs of the rapidly-growing French-Canadian population in that city. Recognizing his talent and leadership ability, Providence Bishop Thomas Hendricken convinced the young prelate to “stay a little longer” to help establish a French church in nearby Central Falls. Dedicated on October 2, 1875, Notre Dame du Sacre Coeur became Rhode Island’s first Catholic church completed and occupied exclusively by French-Canadians.
In December 1875, the bishop prevailed upon Dauray to complete the building of another French national parish church in Woonsocket. Two months after his arrival, however, a severe wind storm completely destroyed the partially constructed edifice. Undaunted and with fierce determination, Dauray persisted and celebrated the opening of the impressive Church of the Precious Blood in 1881. It was here that the tall, dignified, widely-respected priest would remain for the next half-century.
By the time of his death in 1931 at the age of ninety-three, Dauray had been directly involved or provided leadership in the construction of many French churches (six in Woonsocket alone), a French high school (Mount St. Charles), convents, elementary schools, academies, an orphanage, and a home for the aged. He also played a leadership role in the establishment of several French-Canadian cultural organizations. In 1918, Bishop Matthew Harkins conferred on Father Dauray the title of “monsignor.” A short time later the French government awarded him the Cross of the Legion of Honor for his efforts in the Great War.
Monsignor Dauray’s remains are buried at the base of his beloved Woonsocket church. As a testimony to his importance, Dauray’s funeral was celebrated by four bishops and witnessed by more than three hundred priests and an overflow crowd that spilled into the local streets. Bishop Hendricken’s fateful decision to “adopt” Father Dauray as a priest of the diocese continues to pay a handsome spiritual dividend for the Franco-American community in Rhode Island.