LEWISTON — St. Martin de Porres Residence, a home for people in need of a fresh start, will observe its 25th anniversary Sunday.

To celebrate and raise money to continue the mission of helping people who have been released from jail, evicted from homes or struggling with substance abuse, there will be a 10 a.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop Richard Deeley, and a 2 p.m. benefit concert at The Dolard & Priscilla Gendron Franco Center by Just Us Entertainers and Mitch Thomas.

Since he founded the residence in 1991, Brother Irenee Richard estimated it’s helped an average of 150 people a year, some 3,750 through the years.

Hundreds of volunteers have made it happen, he said.

“If we didn’t have our volunteers, forget it,” Richard said Tuesday. “We would not be able to do what we’re doing.”

Some work the food booth at the Great Falls Balloon Festival selling the popular sausage sandwiches, burgers and footlong hot dogs.


“I like to see the kids when they see the hot dog, (they say) ‘Oh wow!’” Richard said with a smile.

Volunteers also show up at the residence at 23 Bartlett St., in the shadows of the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, to make meals for residents. Some staff the St. Martin thrift shop. Others donate money.

Volunteers are anybody and everybody, he said. He called them a “family of caregivers, ambassadors of God’s mercy.”

“They don’t have to be Catholic,” Richard said. 

Reflecting on 25 years of helping others without government programs, Richard said he’s amazed.

“We started out with nothing here,” he said. “When God wants something, he takes hold of it and makes it happen.”


Those helped by the St. Martin residence include people struggling with substance abuse, people evicted from homes, those released from prison or jail and those suffering with mental illness.

Before being accepted at St. Martin, residents have to be referred. Residents will be asked to share their story, as well as their plans and goals for the future. They have to be motivated to help themselves, he said.

Some are in treatment; others are able to work. Not all have success, but many do, Richard said. One resident about to move out “is doing really well.”

“He’s working as a roofer,” he said.

The home’s four staffers are all former guests.

“They’re all doing well,” Richard said.


Richard founded St. Martin after getting to know a young man, Alan, who told him he was kicked out of his home at age 14. With no place to live, Alan couch-surfed. He told Richard he didn’t know what love was.

Alan drowned after swimming with friends in a lake. Seeing Alan in a casket wearing his bandana, jeans and checkered shirt, Richard said he realized circumstances can put people where they are.

He turned to Alan’s friends and said, “Don’t you ever think for one moment you have nothing to offer.”

He began planning a residence to help people like Alan. A Dominican friar whose duties were mostly administrative, Richard said he struggled with the decision, tossing and turning at night for three months.

“I said, ‘Lord, I don’t want to to this. It’s going to change my whole life.’” But the next morning, someone came to his door and said, “‘Brother, we’re going to give you this for your house.’”

He doesn’t regret what he’s done.


“I’ve met so many wonderful people hurting,” he said.

Richard paused, his eyes growing teary. When you come face to face with people who are struggling, “it awakens certain things with you. You realize ‘I need to work on this.’ For me, it made me more human.”

He’s learned not to judge.

“We all make mistakes,” he said.

A Lewiston native, Richard is working on opening a second residence at the former St. Andre group home on Central Avenue. More details will be announced soon.

“I’m 73; I was 48 when I started this,” he said with a chuckle. “Now I’m opening another house.”


Go and do:

What: 25th anniversary of St. Martin de Porres, Mass and benefit concert

When: Sunday, Sept. 18, 10 a.m. Mass at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, 122 Ash St., celebrated by Bishop Robert Deeley; and 2 p.m. concert at The Dolard & Priscilla Gendron Franco Center, 46 Cedar St., by Just Us Entertainers and Mitch Thomas.

Cost: Concert are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, available from the Prince of Peace Parish office, the Franco Center or St. Martin’s office: 207-786-4690.

Why: To celebrate and raise money for St. Martin’s mission of helping others.

Pull quote:


“If we didn’t have our volunteers, forget it. We would not be able to do what we’re doing.”  — Brother Irenee Richard of St. Martin de Porres Residence

“Everybody here who works the desks has been in these beds at one time or another,” he said.

He came to St. Martin in 2012.

“My wife and I split up — I didn’t handle it well,” he said. “I did a stint on St. Mary’s A3. I was here for five weeks. It helped put me on the straight path, learning to be an independent adult, able to connect with places like the 12 Hour Club, a sober social club that has since closed down.”

Volunteering led to a job at St. Martin. He works 40 hours a week interacting with other staffers and with guests, coordinating what programs they participate in.

Cutting said St. Martin does a lot of good.

“We bring in people who are actively trying to better their lives,” he said. “We work with them, create a safe, no-pressure environment. Calling this place a shelter is an unfair term. It’s more than that.”

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