LEWISTON — People from all walks of the Christian faith gathered at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul on Sunday evening to celebrate the church’s 10th anniversary as a basilica.
Saints Peter and Paul Church was elevated to the status of basilica by the Vatican in 2004. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, it is one of fewer than 60 churches in the U.S. to have received the distinction.
Ahead of the Festival of Thanksgiving, Monsignor Marc Caron, pastor of Prince of Peace Parish said, “This exceptional honor is bestowed based on historical importance or significance as a place of worship with the diocese, artistic value and the quality of the liturgical prayer.
“We look forward to celebrating this special anniversary by bringing the community together for a unique and uplifting evening of majestic music,” he said.
Music provided by the Mark Thallander Foundation, an organization known for bringing inspirational music events to communities nationwide, brought together an adult choir of over 100, the Evangel University Chorale, as well as the basilica’s adult, hand bell and children’s choirs.
As the festival began, Caron said, “Far from being a museum or a concert hall, the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul is a living, breathing, active place of worship.”
He said, “On the Lord’s day, (worship) takes place in English, French, Spanish and Latin on different occasions.
“I warmly welcome all who share the Christian faith with us,” Caron said, “I also welcome in particular all those who may have no religious faith but find themselves inspired by the music you will hear.”
It was indeed an interdenominational event with members of the ministry from all over the state — Baptist, Congregational, United Methodist and Evangel University in Springfield, Mo. Not only were these members attending but they were all active participants in readings and responsive prayers.
The Basilica Children’s Choir began with “Praise the Lord,” a bouncy, processional song with the adults joining in for “Come Christians, Join to Sing” — all culminating in a thunderous combination of voices, brass and hand bells.
The children’s choir shone throughout the event, even singing in Latin — on pitch — in unison, for a spot-on rendition of “Panis Angelicus” (Bread of Angles).
Unity among the many faith communities continued in the prayers offered by others in this Catholic house of worship.
The Rev. Jacquelyn Brannen, pastor of the United Methodist Church in Auburn, said, “Teach us — so that all who will not play their parts — or insist on destroying your harmony with their own notes — feel your call for unity.”
The choir sang “One Faith, One Hope, One Lord,” driving home the unity of all those present and aside from the differing ways Catholics and some Protestants recite the Lord’s Prayer — causing a few mumbled trips among the congregants — unity was indeed achieved.
At this anniversary in the basilica’s history, Caron was elated by the direction things were going at Saints Peter and Paul.
“The number of families attending Sunday Mass has grown over the last ten years — and so has the number of children!” So much so, Caron said, they are restarting religious education for children Sunday mornings in October.
“The restoration efforts have continued slowly as funds have allowed,” Caron said. “The maintenance of the building will always be a continuous process.”
Caron said the transformation of the lower church into a social hall and chapel has served the parish well.
According to Caron, “Over the last ten years, the basilica has attracted many new people who were not raised there,” he said. “Some of those had attended Mass in other Catholic churches, some have come to us from other Christian communities.
“For the most part, the people attending Mass on the weekends now were not raised at the Basilica as children,” Caron said. “I take that as an encouraging development that the basilica continues to attract people to the faith.”