WATERVILLE – The winter sun beamed brightly through stained-glass windows of the 12 Apostles at St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic church Sunday for the last Mass celebrated in the 137-year-old parish church.

“This is a bittersweet day,” said Mike Hebert, facilities manager for Corpus Christi Parish, of which St. Francis is a part. “It’s tough for everybody to see this go, to see it come down, but we’re going to put up a 40-unit, low-income, elderly housing, and that is keeping with the mission of the church, by helping the less fortunate and the elderly have a decent place to live. We’re moving on.”

Bishop Richard J. Malone of the Diocese of Portland officiated at Sunday’s final Mass.

Old folks, young families, infants and children filled the 400-seat church, celebrating with hymns, homilies and readings from Scripture, all tailored to draw meaning from the closure and the history the Waterville congregation has made. “Praise the Lord That Heals the Broken Heart” was one of the hymns.

“It’s a very sad day, filled with mixed emotions,” the Rev. Joseph Daniels told the congregation. “We have much to be thankful for over the proud history of this church. Bishop Malone comes to us today stepping into considerable history.”

St. Francis was built in 1871 and dedicated on June 14, 1874, by Bishop David Bacon, first bishop of the Diocese of Portland, Daniels said. The diocese was founded in 1853. When Bacon came to Waterville, there were eight churches served by six priests in Maine. When Bacon died, the Diocese of Portland had 63 churches, 52 priests, 23 parish schools and a Catholic population of 80,000.


In addition to the 21,388-square-foot church, the adjacent rectory and church hall will be razed to make way for the new building.

Malone acknowledged that the day was sad in many ways, but it also was a day to be thankful for the heritage of the St. Francis parish.

“To me, though there is sadness, it also is a time of hope,” he said. “God’s people will move forward in hope and with courage, even with a tear in our eyes.”

Malone, noting that it also was Super Bowl Sunday, assured parishioners they would all be home by game time.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:



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