Basilica's light bill exhausting fund

LEWISTON — The twin spires of the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul could go dark this summer.

Less than $1,000 remains in the eight-year-old fund created to light the grand church, Ed Plourde, a parishioner who led the lighting effort, said. At its current rate, the money will be gone in six months.

"When the project was conceived it was not supposed to be a burden on the church," Plourde said. "It was supposed to be a community effort, which it was."

In 2003, donors paid about $25,000 for the network of lights that illuminate the basilica, New England's second largest church.

They bought six 1,000-watt light fixtures surrounding the building and three 400-watt fixtures on the Bartlett Street side. Installation required trenches to be dug to hide wires.

People then donated about $17,000 more to fund maintenance, new bulbs and the monthly electricity bill, which typically runs about $150.

The lit church changed Lewiston-Auburn's cityscape, Plourde said.

"This is a landmark that came alive," he said. You could see it from the turnpike."

Since then, no money has ever come in.

"There was no mechanism for making it public and collecting donations," he said.

Creating an endowment that would perpetually fund the lighting would require too much upfront money, he said. 

Rather, he hopes that people might spend a few dollars to keep the lights on.

The Gothic cathedral-style building has dominated Lewiston’s daylight skyline for nearly 70 years. Work on the building began in 1905 and wrapped up almost 33 years later.

The lights go on at dusk. In the winter, they go off at 10 p.m. In the summer, they stay on until 11 p.m.

In 2008, the basilica's lit steeples were joined by more lights.

The Franco-American Heritage Center at St. Mary's, a former Catholic church in Lewiston's Little Canada neighborhood, installed its own system.

They flipped the switch on a June night while about 100 people gathered to watch.

There, the lights are merely part of the building's electrical system. Keeping them lit costs between $1,000 and $1,200 each year, said Rita Dube, who directs the center.

If someone would like to make a donation to the lighting of the basilica, they are encouraged to send a check to Basilica Lighting Fund, P.O. Box 1540, Lewiston, ME 04241-1540.

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Richard Begin's picture

st Peters lights ouT ?

So far all that I have seen is some moving the Blame back and Forth. What was then is different now. Instead of running for cover to the Church or making excuses itis time to get out those checkbooks and establish a new fundraising effort and resolve the issue.This should not be that difficult. If we want a Showcase of a Cathederal, then someone has to help offset the bills. also where is there another example of such breath taking design and presence as the Basilica offers? Night& Day Year in and year out. So instead of relying on the Diocese to make up the shortfall it's up to the Little Guy again to as usual make up the Difference.

I did appreaciate the reference to the 1937 Shoe Strike,

Lewiston is really fortunate enough to retain such an enduring Structure of Art. So again the plans need to be laid to raise the Funds to pay the electric Bill.

Jason Harris's picture

I do understand

That the people of this city are cheap and in it for themselves, but we need to take in to account that structure is like a beacon for this town, it can be seen from the turnpike on a clear night, it is a wonder to behold in any weather, it is one of the most beautiful structures i have ever seen in my life, now i know we cant pay for it with food stamps lol, but people who work in this town should be able to drop even 5 bucks a month, i went to a midnite mass as part of the media this past year and i saw 100s of people there, if everyone in that church put even ONE DOLLAR in for it, well you get the idea

Anyways here is a link to the beauty we would be losing

lets think it over everyone!

Jason Harris's picture

even better idea

START CHARGING 5.00 to park in the front of the church lot on sunday, people hate to walk in their prissy sunday clothes, they would pay for it!
good idea!


Are you kidding me?

The Church cannot contribute 150.00 a month? They owe it to the people who built it who were refused help and support during the shoe strike of 1937 by the church the they built along with the mill workers. Tell me I'm off base,please.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Good point, Ginger...thing

Good point, Ginger...thing is, though, the parish will tell you they don't have the funds, either. You know, with the law suits and all..

Richard Begin's picture

Why can't a fundraising

Why can't a fundraising campaign be iniated afterall there has to be more than one Rita Dube in the twin city area Sign me up to help raise money and awarness I do not attend that House of Worship but I can easily understand what a treasure it is and how beautiful it is to look at. So lets get going and find the money.



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