JACKMAN, Maine — Despite strong, midday heat on a humid July 7, hundreds of parishioners and community members proudly stood with smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts on Sunday as Monsignor Andrew Dubois, moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Portland, joined the Revs. Kevin J. Martin and Richard Malo in blessing the site of the new St. Faustina Church of St. Anthony Parish at 370 Main St. in Jackman.
“Since 2012, we have been working toward the day when we would break ground,” said Father Martin, pastor of St. Anthony Parish. “I am immensely grateful for the many sacrifices and contributions that have been made by both local people and our friends and family members from out of town that have helped make our new church a reality.”
As part of the groundbreaking ceremony, Monsignor Dubois, Father Martin and Father Malo, who has twice served as pastor of St. Anthony Parish (1993-1997, 2006-2012), proudly raised three gold shovels and tossed dirt while the gathered crowd cheered loudly. Father Martin capped off the special ceremony by lifting a bucket of soil with the excavator that sat nearby.
“I’m so excited,” said 82-year-old Rosemarie Paradise. “I kept thinking, ‘we are never going to get this. I’m going to die first’. I’m more excited than Father Martin.”
“This is beautiful,” added Francis Morin, whose husband Walter served on the building committee and parish council over the years before he died in April. “This church building is what we need to bring the people back. I hope and pray.”
The parish has been without a church building for nearly four years. In the autumn of 2009, deterioration at St. Anthony Church was estimated to require in excess of $1.2 million in repairs. The damage and the projected rising costs of heating led to the parish’s decision to demolish the church building, which was located on the same land where St. Faustina Church will one day stand. Soon after, the parish community began worshipping at the American Legion Hall at 404 Main St., a practice that continues today.
“It’s been difficult,” said Father Malo. “I know the people are looking forward to their own space. This is a really special place. The resilience, the strong faith base, people still come through.”
Generous donors continue to come through, too, as the parish currently has approximately $260,000 in available funds and donated building materials.
St. Anthony Parish also will receive a $200,000 mortgage from the Diocesan Savings & Loan. Fundraising efforts forge ahead as the estimated cost for the church building itself is $575,000. But after facing countless challenges over the years, parishioners are certain that any hurdles will be overcome together.
“The church community is a body, not just a building,” said Glenn Levesque, a lifelong Jackman resident. “It just shows the commitment and resilience that the people in town have. They’ve sacrificed a lot and the town economy is tough. People don’t make a lot of money, but they are showing with their heart and sacrifices what is important to them.”
A sentiment echoed by Monsignor Dubois during his homily at a Mass celebrated at the American Legion Hall before the blessing of the site and groundbreaking.
“All of you are like living stones built into a spiritual home, with Jesus as the cornerstone (1 Peter 2:5, 7). Yes, the former edifice awed and inspired others simply by its presence in the heart of this community. But from your new spiritual home, from ‘St. Faustina Church of St. Anthony Parish,’ the Lord will continue to prepare you to fulfill the Church’s mission, which is to evangelize. In other words, from this new building, the Lord will send you, the Church of living stones, into the world as an evangelizing edifice … in order to invite every person you meet to be a disciple, that is, to be someone who is in love with the Lord Jesus Christ and who works to transform others, and our world, with the Good News.”
If individuals or businesses would like to make a contribution designated toward the construction of St. Faustina Church of St. Anthony Parish in Jackman, please contact Father Kevin J. Martin, pastor, at 695-2262, or mail the donation to St. Faustina Church Building Fund, P.O. Box 457, Greenville 04441. Donations can be made in memory of a relative or friend, or in honor of a birthday or anniversary.