Matt Byrne, Staff Writer
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Many of the faithful at St. Anthony’s Parish in Jackman remember the painful razing in November 2009 of the 800-seat granite church that had stood in the tiny town for more than a century.

They remember when a vandal tied a chain around a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus a year later, hitched the statue to a vehicle and dragged it down the road.

Now, after four long years worshiping in a makeshift sanctuary at the American Legion Hall, the Rev. Kevin Martin and his flock will soon have a new church to call home.

Since he was appointed in August 2012 to minister at St. Anthony’s Parish, much of Martin’s duties have included managing the construction project. On Dec. 15, the new Catholic church will open where its predecessor stood, named after the Polish Saint Faustina Kowalska.

“I really feel that a lot of people are relieved,” said Martin, 43, a native of Caribou. “They’re grateful. It will certainly be a very emotional experience for all of us.”

The $500,000 project will require a $200,000 mortgage, but lowers recurring costs for the diocese and ushers in a new era for the long-standing Catholic congregation in the community.

The new building is not as large as the one it’s replacing – 150 seats, with some capacity for overflow – but it represents a rekindling of the faith at a time when many other parishes have closed or been absorbed and combined with other parishes in recent years, Martin said.

The diocese expects to save about $16,000 annually in heating costs alone. All of the church’s statues have also been restored and refurbished, including the vandalized Jesus, which was given a fresh coat of gold leaf and was remounted to its pedestal just this week.

“I’m certainly very hopeful and optimistic we can rekindle faith on the part of our Catholic households,” Martin said. “We have hope that people can see the value of joining our family again.”