While the decision of renaming the Franco Center rests with its board of directors, I wanted to share my thoughts as Lewiston’s mayor.

Over the course of the past few months, my thinking has evolved on this subject. Ever since moving to Lewiston, I’ve known that the former St. Mary’s Church holds a special place in the hearts of the people who call our city home. The current community conversation over the name change, however, conveys a measure of sentiment that runs as deep as the middle spire is tall.

For many residents, this isn’t just a change of name, but represents the removal of Franco culture and life from the pages of Lewiston’s history. Babies were christened, couples pledged their lives to each other, and families honored their loved ones, all in that sanctuary. From the first Christmas Mass in 1927, until the diocese closed the doors in 2000, countless thousands spent some of the happiest and saddest moments of their lives within the magnificent St. Mary’s Church.

Indeed, the building is so much more than just an old church turned performing arts center. It’s a hallowed symbol of Franco contribution in our city. The granite buttresses stand as a testament to French Canadian fortitude and perseverance.

The former church can flourish as a performing arts and event center with nearly any label. But can it represent Francos and their legacy if it doesn’t bear their name?

Carl Sheline, Lewiston

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