PORTLAND, Maine — A half-dozen midcoast Catholic churches will merge to create a new parish called St. Brendan the Navigator, according to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.
The change, which takes effect Jan. 1, represents the final step in the consolidation of parishes in Belfast, Camden, Rockland, Islesboro, North Haven and a summer chapel in Thomaston.
The Rev. Mark Reinhardt, who has been serving the Rockland area since 1999, will be the parish administrator. The Rev. Joseph Koury, who has served the Belfast area since 2005, will be the parochial vicar.
Koury served parishes in Orono before moving to Belfast. He will continue to live there at the rectory at St. Francis of Assisi. Reinhardt, who now lives in Rockland, will move to the rectory at Our Lady of Good Hope in Camden, according to a diocesan press release.
Other churches in the new parish are St. Mary of the Isles, Islesboro; Our Lady of Peace, North Haven; and St. James in Thomaston. In addition, the new parish will include Catholics on Vinalhaven who attend Mass at Union Church on the island.
The new parish is named for St. Brendan, the abbot of monasteries in western Ireland. Brendan reportedly traveled widely over the seas in search of paradise, according to The Encyclopedia of Catholicism. The saint was born about 486 and died in 575.
Similar consolidations have taken place in recent years that do away with traditional parish lines and address shifting demographics and a severe shortage of priests. The diocese has said that the creation of a single parish in the midcoast region will combine resources from each church, centralize the administrative organization and share priests.
The midcoast parishes are in one of 10 clusters around the state that will have completed mergers to form new parishes by the first of the year. By Jan. 1, the number of parishes in the state will have gone from 135 in 2004 to 83 as a result of similar mergers.
The reorganization is part of Bishop Richard Malone’s New Evangelism Plan, which calls for a revitalization of the church’s core values and beliefs.