Photo courtesy of Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland

WINDHAM — With a dedication Mass, a procession with a statue of St. Anthony of Padua, and an outdoor festival, parishioners came together in Windham on July 16-17 to celebrate the formation of the new St. Anthony of Padua Parish .

“Today, we celebrate our officially formed blended family as the new St. Anthony Parish, knowing that we have a powerful parish intercessor in St. Anthony of Padua,” Fr. Louis Phillips, pastor of the new parish, told parishioners.

The new St. Anthony of Padua Parish was formed July 1 by the canonical merger of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Windham, St. Anne Parish in Gorham, and St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Westbrook. Parishioners voted on a name for the new parish, and chose St. Anthony of Padua, which Bishop Robert Deeley approved. The new parish includes four worship sites: Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Windham, the summer chapel of Our Lady of Sebago in Sebago, St. Anne in Gorham, and St. Hyacinth in Westbrook.

Prior to the merger, the parishes already shared the same priests and pastoral staff, but the move will further strengthen their ties and, at the same time, reduce some administrative work and costs.

“I think it’s going to be good. I think there are some financial savings that will accrue to all the parishes, and I hope that, in the spirit of ecumenism, we will support each other, as we’re doing today,” said Paul Concannon of Knights of Columbus Council 2219 in Westbrook.

While the merger is, in some ways, an administrative move, Fr. Phillips said it is also about bringing parishioners together as one family, and that is why he wanted to have a celebration. Although the first St. Anthony Festival was held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, folks from the churches in Gorham and Westbrook also volunteered and attended.

“It’s the first time that we have come together as three churches under one parish. It’s the first time that we’ve had to work together for one goal,” said Carol Kennie, one of the festival organizers. “It’s been wonderful meeting everybody from the other parishes on a more personal, casual level. It’s amazing the talent, the interest, and the enthusiasm that we’ve had from everyone.”

“I’m hoping we’re all going to get to know each other. That’s the reason we’re having this,” said Christine Lynch, who attends Our Lady of Perpetual Help. “It’s been a good team, a good working team.”

The festival began with a dedication Mass, during which Fr. Phillips blessed St. Anthony medals and prayer cards, which were then distributed to parishioners. Following the Mass, Deacon Dean Lachance carried a statue of St. Anthony, leading a procession of priests and parishioners to an outdoor St. Anthony Shrine, where people placed devotional candles. The Friday evening festivities concluded with a light reception of appetizers, sangria, beer, and other beverages.

On Saturday, the St. Anthony Festival featured live music; booths with handmade items, jewelry, and books; a silent auction with items such as bicycles, kayaks, and a homemade quilt; a yard sale; raffles; and lots of food, including homemade meatball sandwiches, clam cakes, fried dough, hamburgers and hotdogs, and pizza. You could also buy a s’mores kit and roast them over a fire pit, and after a break for 4 p.m. Mass, members of Knights of Columbus Council 10020 in Windham put on a chicken barbecue dinner.

“We’re working the whole day. We’re working the yard sale. We’re helping with the other concessions, and we’re doing the chicken barbecue dinner,” said Charlie Bougie, Grand Knight of the Windham council. “We’re a pretty active council, and we do whatever we can, but this is the first opportunity for us to be a faith community that includes the other churches, and we’re up for that anytime.”

Bougie and the other volunteers said they are excited about the newly formed parish.

“I think it’s wonderful, and with the fact that St. Anthony is in charge, we’ll help all the lost souls,” said Bougie.

“I think it’s fabulous,” said Rita Smith, who normally attends St. Hyacinth Church in Westbrook. “We need to unify our church and get new ideas from different corners and just celebrate together.”

Although the merger took place July 1, it has been in the works for months. The process included informational sessions with parishioners, which resulted in a proposal being presented to the bishop, whose approval was needed. The bishop consulted with the Presbyteral Council and received the consent of both the College of Consultors and the Diocese of Portland’s Finance Council before agreeing to let the merger proceed. There was then a two-week window in which people could appeal the decision.

To reach the new St. Anthony of Padua Parish, call 207-857-0490.