AUBURN — “The burgers are here, the salads are on the table — and don’t forget a chocolate chip cookie.”

Doug, chef at the St. Francis Recovery Center, speaks directly to each resident so they don’t miss a bite of the food he has prepared. The lunch crowd at the center recently included Bishop Robert Deeley, who toured the facility operated by Catholic Charities Maine.

“We have to,” Doug said when asked about the large food offerings. “The residents are well-fed because when many of them arrive, they are up to 30 pounds underweight due to drug use.”

The center, located in a former convent in Auburn, offers services for men age 18 and older who are struggling with chemical dependencies and substance abuse issues, including drug and alcohol addiction and co-occurring use disorders. Presently, as many as 16 men can participate in the residential treatment program at the center, which also offers outpatient services for men and women.

Many of the staff members at St. Francis are in recovery themselves.

“It gives our residents hope to see people in recovery on staff,” said Program Director Tom Farrington. “It really gives them hope.”


Farrington has been clean for 30 years and has worked at St. Francis for eight years, working his way up from third shift on-call resident advisor to director.

“It’s great to show the residents and staff that no matter where they are, there is a way forward,” he said.

Several clinicians were once residents at St. Francis and every Tuesday, two former residents, now working and with families, return to meet with the current residents, offering them guidance down a path they, themselves, traveled.

“The staff and former residents teach them that there are consequences for bad actions and that there is stuff you need to do to get out there in life and enjoy it,” said Maurice Ducharme, a beloved staff member known as “Dutch” at St. Francis. “With busy lives and families, these guys still make sure they are here every Tuesday to talk to those who need to talk. It’s great to see.”

The center first opened as the Fellowship House on St. Patrick’s Day in 1975. The house originally offered a medical detox program to assist people going through withdrawal. In 1984, a halfway house was added to provide continued treatment. In 1997, however, the state decided to shift funding from medical detox to social detox programs. The move led Catholic Charities Maine to turn the house into an extended shelter for those awaiting longer term care.

Wanting to be more than a holding facility, however, a treatment program was developed. It evolved into the residential rehabilitation and outpatient services now offered at St. Francis.


The center aims to help residents understand their addiction and teach them the skills they need to live without substances. The treatment includes one-on-one counseling sessions and group therapy sessions, where residents learn how to be more mindful of what their brains are telling them. In addition to the focus on healing the body and mind, the center also offers spiritual assistance.

“A lot of clients have started reading their Bibles, asking spiritual questions and putting their work in, and that group has had tremendous success,” said Farrington.

Staff members also teach the residents “life skills” through chore assignments.

“Some of the clients that come through learn how to do laundry or make a bed properly for the first time,” one staff member said. “They can assist in the kitchen, do painting jobs and work outside on the grounds, too.”

In winter, the steps and walks of the center are shoveled before daytime staff even arrive, and no litter is found anywhere on the grass.

“I told some of the guys who were working in the yard one day that it doesn’t have to be perfect,” said Farrington. “But they said, ‘You might not care what it looks like, but we do!’ It was something to see. They care.”


During lunch, Deeley presented a special plaque to “Dutch” in front of the assembled residents, honoring his 25 years of service at the center in a variety of roles.

Before departing, the bishop, who was joined by Catholic Charities Maine CEO Steve Letourneau during his visit, told the residents that he would be praying for them, and thanked the staff for their efforts, with special gratitude to Doug for the meal he had prepared for everybody.

The St. Francis Recovery Center takes referrals from doctors’ offices, hospital detox programs, employers, family members and the corrections system. The center has a contract with Androscoggin County Drug Court, and many referrals come from the court or from probation. Residents are admitted following an initial screening process.

For more information about the residential rehabilitation program or outpatient services, call 207-784-2901.

Bishop Deeley enters the St. Francis Recovery Center.

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