WINDHAM — Effective July 1, a canonical merger between parishes in Gorham, Westbrook, and Windham will establish the new St. Anthony of Padua Parish, which will be comprised of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Windham, St. Anne Church in Gorham, St. Hyacinth Church in Westbrook and the seasonal chapel of Our Lady of Sebago in East Sebago. All worship sites will remain open.

“Over the past six years, the three parishes have worked towards joining together as one community of faith and fellowship,” said Fr. Louis Phillips, pastor of the new St. Anthony of Padua Parish who has served in the communities since June of 2015. “We all share the same clergy and pastoral staff. We have established one pastoral center with clergy and staff offices. We have formed a united pastoral council and a united finance council. Many parishioners attend Masses at more than one of the churches. This announcement may cause some to say, ‘I thought we were already merged!’”

The name of the new parish was the top choice of parishioners and received approval from Bishop Robert Deeley. The canonical merger officially transitions the three parishes into one parish with four worship sites.

“A canonical parish has one set of financial books, one set of sacramental registers, combined finances, one diocesan reporting mechanism, and one single annual Catholic Appeal goal,” said Fr. Phillips. “Those are just a few of the many administrative advantages that will save money and more efficiently utilize the time and energy of our parish staff.” 

On July 16-17, St. Anthony of Padua Parish will gather together as one to hold the inaugural St. Anthony Festival in Windham. A Mass of Celebration will be held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, located on 919 Roosevelt Trail, on Friday, July 16, at 7 p.m. The Mass will conclude with a procession of a statue of St. Anthony to an outdoor shrine, after which there will be a reception in the church courtyard. The following day, an outdoor festival will begin at 10 a.m. and will feature food, crafts, baked goods, a yard sale, activities for the kids, and live music. The festival will pause for Mass at 4 p.m. on Saturday and then resume with a barbecue at 5 p.m. All are welcome to attend all or part of the festival.

The festival will end a long merger process that included informational and feedback sessions with parishioners and a submitted proposal to the bishop who gave his approval after reviewing those discussions, consulting with the Presbyteral Council, and obtaining the consent of both the College of Consultors and the Diocese of Portland’s Finance Council.

“Parish leadership identified our top two priorities as fulfilling the social ministry of the Church and stewardship for future generations of Catholics,” said Fr. Phillips. “A coordinated, collaborative effort as a merged parish can do so much more in promoting the social mission of the Church. We also want to do now whatever is necessary to make certain that our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will inherit a vibrant, engaging, and involved Catholic faith community as an act of human stewardship. Through more efficient use of our combined financial and human resources, this is a goal we can best accomplish together rather than separately.”