Armande Case, fourth from right, of Lewiston and her extended family attend Homecoming Mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Lewiston on Sunday. Case has been a parishioner at the church for 50 years and she and her family sit in the same pew week after week. St. Patrick’s will close its doors following the church’s final Mass on Tuesday evening. Case’s family from left are Jacob Littlefield, Darren Littlefield, Elaine Derosby of Auburn, Caroline Littlefield, Keith Derosby of Auburn, Sue Littlefield, Case, Mike Littlefield and Deanna Wall of Lewiston. The Littlefield family lives in Mechanic Falls.
LEWISTON — One of Gerald Burpee’s great-grandparents might have sat in the congregation when St. Patrick’s Catholic Church opened 109 years ago.
“My kids make five generations here,” Burpee said of the church where he and his father both served as altar boys. There won’t be a sixth.
On Tuesday night, the final mass will be celebrated at the church overlooking Kennedy Park. Bishop Richard Malone plans to officiate. Monsignor Charles Murphy, a former parish priest, will give the homily.
The building will be closed the next day. By Christmas, Maine’s Roman Catholic Church is expected to finalize its decision to sell the brick complex that includes the grand nave, a chapel, church hall, rectory and twin steeples.
“It’s something we’ve seen coming for a long time,” Burpee said. Regular churchgoers saw the number of parishioners fall. They watched the Sunday collections slide. Eventually the citywide Prince of Peace Parish could no longer afford to keep the place open.
“It’s very painful for everybody,” said Monsignor Marc Caron, who leads the parish. For months, he sought advice from churchgoers around Lewiston but finally made the decision in August to recommend closure for St. Joseph’s and St. Patrick’s churches. St. Joseph’s, the city’s oldest Catholic church, closed Oct. 13.
“Every parish, every community, every church has a personality,” Caron said.
At both churches, Caron has been watching people examine their history, recalling baptisms, weddings, funerals and many other rituals. Ceremonies, including the final mass and a banquet, are meant to help people get through their grief, he said.
At St. Patrick’s, activities included a concert Friday night on the Hook and Hastings organ, a homecoming Mass on Sunday and the reburial of the church’s founder, the Monsignor Thomas Wallace. His body had been kept in a crypt in the church basement beside the hall.
About 100 people attended Wallace’s reburial on Oct. 17 at Mount Hope Cemetery.
To Burpee, the closure of St. Patrick’s seemed unreal until he attended the graveside ceremony. Though he never met Wallace, who died in 1907, he’d grown up passing his crypt and photo and hearing about his good deeds.
“It was like a funeral for St. Patrick’s,” Burpee said of the morning ceremony.
Wallace had initiated the construction of the church in 1886, when St. Joseph’s church, the only English-speaking Catholic church in the city, had become too popular. It would become a home for Catholics of many different nationalities, drawing Greek, Polish and Lithuanian parishioners.
Burpee’s sadness over the church’s closure led him to create a video slide show that will be shown at the closing banquet, which will follow Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. Mass. The video lasts about 30 minutes and features an assortment of archival photos and music clips.
Some of the music was recorded at the church by its choir, which toured Europe and performed for the pope in the 1960s. Photos include images throughout the church’s history and lots of people.
Plans for the banquet include awards to groups hosted by the church, from its singers to the folks who run the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Shop on Ash Street. The thrift shop will continue, but other St. Patrick’s groups will end when the doors close.
“St. Patrick’s is more than a building,” Burpee said.
Parishioners attend Homecoming Mass at Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church in Lewiston on Sunday.
Carmen Palardy of Lewiston holds a basket full of St. Patrick charms that she handed to parishioners as a remembrance of the closing of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.
Collectors Edward Fahey and Bernard “Bud” Ricker gather the offerings during Homecoming Mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Lewiston on Sunday. Both Fahey, 88, and Ricker, 81, were baptized at St. Patrick’s.
The baskets used for collecting tithes during the masses at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Lewiston are purported to date back to when the church was opened in 1890.
The confessionals at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Lewiston are pictured.
Iconography adorns the walls of the main chapel at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Lewiston.
Rob Simmons plays the bagpipes as parishioners leave St. Patrick’s Catholic Church following Homecoming Mass on Sunday.
The main chapel at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Lewiston will see its final mass on Tuesday, Oct. 27.
This is a view of the interview of the chapel at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Lewiston prior to renovations.
The rectory of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Lewiston is pictured before the veranda was added in 1913.
The chapel of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Lewiston is shown soon after it was constructed.
The original main altar of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church are pictured before the changes initiated by Vatican II.