Though the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Diocese of Portland have agreed to remove 19 stained-glass windows from St. Ann Roman Catholic Church at Pleasant Point, they have not agreed on who owns them.
The differing opinions over ownership extend to the entire church building and all its contents, which include the 19 stained-glass windows. The debate has been lingering for years and has hampered planning efforts to address the slow physical decline of the seaside church on tribal land, which was built in 1928. It also means the question of how long the windows might be in storage, and what may become of the church building, likely won’t be resolved anytime soon.
The windows — described in a 2013 report on the physical state of the church as “notable for their exquisite, painterly style and hand-blown stain [sic] glass” — will be removed to protect them from the building’s deteriorating conditions. Water infiltration into the building, especially into the attached bell tower and the flat-roofed convent wing attached to the back, have contributed to crumbling and cracked masonry and rusting exterior steel door and window frames, according to that 2013 report by the National Park Service.
Some of the stained-glass windows, including one made by the renowned Franz Mayer studio in Munich, Germany, incorporate Native American themes and images that the report described as unique. Several saints are depicted in the windows, including St. Kateri Tekawitha, a Mohawk who died in 1680 and was canonized as a saint by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.
When the steel-framed, brick building was constructed, it was built to replace a wooden church that had burned down the year before, in 1927, said Donald Soctomah, the tribe’s historic preservation officer. The tribe’s insurance coverage paid for the building, he said, and members of the tribe donated money, some of which they earned by making and selling hand-woven baskets, to commission the windows.
“When it was first built, it was just plain windows,” Soctomah said, adding that the stained-glass windows were installed later.
The church currently is not used and is kept under lock and key by the diocese, Soctomah said. The 20 or 30 tribal members who attend weekly Catholic services do so at another tribal building on Elders Way. Larger ceremonies in the community such as weddings and funerals often attract around 200 people, he said.