Fort Kent church celebrates 100 years

Posted Jan. 14, 2011, at 5:56 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:38 a.m.

FORT KENT, Maine — One hundred years ago, the first European explorers reached the South Pole, Chevrolet unveiled its first car, ground was broken at Fenway Park and, closer to home, the first Mass was celebrated at St. Louis Catholic Church.

For 100 years, the church has served the spiritual, educational and health needs of the parishioners of Fort Kent.

On Saturday, Jan. 15, a century of baptisms, first Communions, confirmations, weddings and funerals will be recognized during an anniversary Mass at 4 p.m. followed by a dinner and dance at the Knights of Columbus Hall.

“This centennial Mass falls on the exact day and date of that original mass,” Dennis Bouchard, St. John Vianney parish life coordinator, said. “We thought it was a great milestone and a great way to look back and celebrate the way this church has been providing spiritual leadership to the Valley for 100 years.”

The Boston architectural firm Chickering & O’Connell was hired to design and construct the building. That gothic plan was built using concrete and brick and topped with a slate roof.

The stained-glass windows were added in 1951 and 1956.

Glazier Franz Schroder from Libraire St. Michel in Boston, who designed the windows, was influenced by his time spent studying in Munich.

His windows were created shortly after World War II and are unique in highlighting the Jewish roots of the area’s Christian faith.

Over the years, successive priests and pastors oversaw construction of church-affiliated schools and chapels in Fort Kent and the surrounding area.

The parish’s most recent pastor, the Rev. James Nadeau, arrived in 2005 and three years later could only stand by and watch as floodwaters from the Fish and St. John rivers almost washed his church away that spring.

Old church records, documents, pews and other fixtures were lost to the floodwaters.

After months of hard work and negotiations, Nadeau welcomed his flock back to their spiritual home for a Christmas Eve Mass in 2008.

There have been a lot of changes to the church and its place in the Fort Kent community, but one thing remains, Bouchard said.

“We used to be more central in everyday life, and it’s still central to the lives of the faithful, but there are not as many of them as there used to be,” he said. “But there are people who still believe and who still practice the faith the way it should be.”

As part of the centennial celebration, a commemorative anniversary book will be given away.

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