Dale Brown, 19, sits for a photo in the Saint Dominic Academy chapel, in Auburn. (Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn)

LEWISTON — Dale Brown, 19, grew up in a single family home, “just my mom and I.” His father has been out of the picture most of his life.

But he’s had strong support from his mother, Stephanie, his grandmother who died a few years ago, his Catholic church and his school, Saint Dominic Academy.

Brown says God has worked miracles in his life, helping him through dark times.

A college student in Massachusetts majoring in business and sports management, Brown plans to return to Lewiston after graduation.

His mother is hardworking, and has worked for years at Victor News. When he was young, he often stayed with his grandparents while his mother was at work.

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His grandmother “was called the saint of the family.” Her devotion to God made a big impression on Brown. He wanted to be like her. He worked on praying, loved going to Mass and loved helping others.

Despite the financial challenges, his mother managed to send him to elementary school at St. Dom’s, Brown said.

When his freshman year arrived, the St. Dom’s tuition was too much. He’d have to attend Lewiston High School.

“It was not a great situation,” Brown said. “I was raised sheltered and was looking at the world from a new perspective.”

He felt out of place in the big school. He played freshman football and had friends.

But, in school he talked about God freely. That attracted the attention of others. Some didn’t like it.

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“There were bullying situations,” he said. One turning point was at lunch when he was talking with friends about faith. “A kid walked by and felt offended.” Brown was called into the principal’s office and told to stop talking religion.

“I was taken aback,” he said, adding he didn’t understand what was wrong with that, he wasn’t hurting anyone. He said he understands where society is coming from when it comes to religious discussion in public, but not being able to talk about God “as a strong, faithful Catholic, that does not fare for me.”

Feeling misunderstood and hurt, things got worse. Another kid bullied him so badly Brown asked for a restraining order. Unhappy, his grades suffered. He prayed.

One day the St. Dom’s dean of students called asking if his mother was at home. Hearing the familiar voice, “I started crying,” Brown said.

Despite the expense, the school and his mother figured out a way he could go back. Dressed in a school sweatshirt, his mother said, “How would you feel about going back next week?”

“I got chills,” Brown said. He said goodbye to his friends at Lewiston High and returned to St. Dom’s. Feeling comfortable in that environment, he worked on his studies. He volunteered. His senior year, there was an award to the senior who embodied the St. Dom’s student. “I got the award,” Brown said.

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Another dark time was when he was 16 and his grandmother died. In her final hours, she hadn’t spoken for a day. Brown told her he loved her. “She spoke, saying, ‘I love you, too.’” Those were her last words, Brown said. Without a lot of family members, that loss was great.

Praying and helping others helped heal him, he said.

“I’m a big believer in praying for other people,” Brown said, adding it’s important to put others’ needs first. “If you do, God will answer your needs.”

A few months after his grandmother died, Brown organized the collection and distribution of 104 backpacks to children in foster homes. “This is really when I knew God was working in my life,” he said. He delivered the backpacks to the Department of Health and Human Services, meeting some of the foster children.

“They thanked me.” He got back in his truck “so happy. Lewiston is a good place. It is a faithful place.”

When his grandmother was alive, she wished he would become a priest. He told her it was not for him.

But now, “God is still working in my life,” Brown said. “I find I really love working with charity.” He is re-considering priesthood. “It’s all coming back to grandmother. She’s up there, praying for me.”

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