BANGOR, Maine — Nate Dwelling can’t remember a time when he didn’t attend Mass on Christmas Eve at St. John’s Catholic Church.
The 25-year-old Bangor High School graduate lives in Brunswick and works at Bath Iron Works, but he was at the York Street church for the 4 p.m. service Wednesday. He even helped out with the Christmas pageant his mother, Mary Dwelling of Bangor, directed.
“It’s a solid family tradition,” Nate Dwelling said about attending the afternoon Mass. “It’s coming home.”
About 1,200 Catholics came home Wednesday afternoon with nearly 1,000 worshipping upstairs with the Rev. Timothy Nadeau celebrating Mass, according to Nancy Long, St. John’s office manager. Another 200, mostly latecomers, celebrated Mass downstairs with the Rev. Roland Nadeau, chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor.
The two men share the same surname but are not related.
All six churches in the reconfigured parish that includes Bangor, Brewer, Winterport and Hampden held 4 p.m. Masses, the Rev. Timothy Nadeau said in his homily. The focus at each church Wednesday afternoon, the priest said, was on the children participating in the pageants held at the churches.
“Children help us to understand this as a holy day,” he said. “My niece has taught me a lot about that.”
The priest said that during one recent holiday visit with his sister, he gestured toward the nativity displayed where the girl could not reach it and asked the 5-year-old, “Do you know what that is?”
“She looked up at it,” Nadeau said Wednesday, “pointed and firmly answered, ‘Yes, I do. It’s breakable.’ I thought that without knowing it, she had captured something important about Christ’s birth.
“God chose to come to us as a human being,” he said. “Eventually, his life would be broken. To see it through the eyes of the children and their actions is to see it anew.”
Christmas Eve for Lindsay Baber has always included going to Mass. Now that she’s an adult, it holds more significance for her than it did when she was a child.
“I think for me, so much of the season is commercial,” said Baber, 23, of Veazie. “Coming to Mass reflects why the holiday exists and I remember Christ’s life, love and death for us.”