Roman Catholic Church officials in Maine are planning to remove and preserve historic stained-glass windows from a church at the Passamaquoddy tribal community at Pleasant Point.
The planned removal from St. Ann Church of the 19 windows, which depict saints and incorporate Native American symbols and figures, will be done with the approval of the Passamaquoddy tribe, officials with the Diocese of Portland said Thursday.
An agreement to remove and preserve the windows was signed earlier this month by Bishop Robert P. Deeley, head of the Maine diocese, and by tribal Chief Marla Dana, diocese officials said.
The church building currently is not in use, though the Roman Catholic parish remains active in the community and conducts weekly services in another tribal building at Pleasant Point, which also is known as Sipayik.
“Something needed to be done,” the Rev. Kevin Martin, pastor of the parish, said Thursday. “At the present time, the convent and church building continue to suffer from damage because of severe weather and the elements. The agreement regarding the removal of the church windows is a good decision to safeguard and protect them from further deterioration.”
The diocese, which maintains more than 400 structures throughout Maine, said it will remove the windows and store them in a safe location. The window openings in the building will be boarded up after the stained glass is removed.
Attempts Thursday to contact Chief Dana about the windows were unsuccessful.
The brick, steel-framed church was built in 1928, the year after a prior wooden church building on the site was destroyed in a fire, according to a July 2013 report on the physical state of the church conducted by the National Park Service and the tribe.
The windows were “in remarkably good shape, though many panels are in need of repair and/or protection,” the report said. The brick exterior of the steel-framed church, however, shows significant signs of deterioration and need for repair.
Some of the 19 “museum quality” windows were made by Franz Mayer of Munich, a renowned studio active in the later 19th and early 20th centuries, according to the report. Among the figures depicted in the windows is Kateri Tekakwitha, a canonized Native American saint known as Lily of the Mohawks.
The windows are “notable for their exquisite, painterly style and hand-blown stain [sic] glass” and are “distinguished by their bold, graphic style, machine-made glass and stylized portrayal of the characters,” the report said. Other Native American imagery and symbols are depicted in several of the windows.
“The depiction of Native American themes in the chapel windows is certainly unique,” the report said, and the Mayer windows are “wonderful examples of painted glass from an internationally recognized studio with a rich history.”
The windows, most of which depict cultural and historic events relevant to the tribe, “are not only historically and culturally significant; they also have considerable artistic and decorative value.” But, the report added, “these windows are in jeopardy and in serious need of attention.”
Donald Soctomah, historic preservation officer for the Passamaquoddy Tribe, said Thursday that the windows were commissioned and then arrived in Sipayik after the church had been built.
“Community basket makers sold baskets to raise funds to buy these special windows,” Soctomah said. “Local area people also donated money to help fund the windows.”
Deeley said that protecting the historic windows from further deterioration was a shared goal of tribal and church officials.
“I’m grateful that an agreement which serves the interests of both the tribe and the diocese could be reached,” Deeley said. “The church and its many historic features have been an important part of the life of the tribal families and other community members.”