PORTLAND — New Mainers are joining Catholic parishes across the state, and nowhere was that more evident than at a special St. Patrick’s Day Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Sunday.

In delivering his homily, Bishop Robert Deeley looked out over a sea of faces that included families who have attended the church for generations and people of color from around the globe who have made it their new spiritual home.

The cathedral, which sits at the bottom of Munjoy Hill and is often referred to as the “mother church” of the Diocese of Portland, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year with several special events, including a presentation on its historic architecture at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 24.

The talk will be led by Monsignor Marc Caron, a professor of liturgy at Saint John’s Seminary in Massachusetts.

“The building has lots to tell us if we know how to read it,” Caron said in a diocese press release. “I am hoping (the talk) will help those attending (be) appreciative of all those who have gone before us who have left us this beautiful legacy.”

The cathedral was dedicated on Sept. 8, 1869, and it remains the tallest structure in Portland; one of its three steeples soars more than 200 feet into the air. It’s also played host to many culturally significant events in the city over the last 150 years, according to the diocese.

Other celebratory events include special Masses on Sept. 8 and Dec. 7. Information about the anniversary and the history of the cathedral is available online at www.portlandcatholic.org/cathedral.

In addition, tours of the cathedral are also offered on the first Sunday of each month following the 10 a.m. Mass. Each tour takes approximately 45 minutes.

The cathedral was designed by Patrick Charles Keeley in the Gothic Revival style. “It features vaulted ceilings, strong vertical lines, soaring spires, and lancet-shaped windows,” the diocese says on its website.

Throughout the years various additions have been made to the building, including a set of new stained glass windows commissioned in the early 1900s by Bishop William O’Connell.

Dave Guthro, the diocese spokesman, said celebrating the cathedral’s 150th anniversary is key because it serves as “a testament to the generations of (people) from Greater Portland who have preserved and enjoyed this magnificent church, which serves as a spiritual home, a place to worship, and a venue where the most important events of people’s lives have been celebrated.”

Overall, he noted that attendance at Mass is going up around the diocese, which serves the entire state of Maine, and at the cathedral in particular. As of now the number of Catholics in Maine has risen to nearly 280,000, he said, from a low of about 190,000 almost a decade ago.

“From the beginning the cathedral was an important part of the India Street and Munjoy Hill neighborhoods,” said Julie Ann Larry, director of advocacy at Greater Portland Landmarks. “Although the neighborhood around the cathedral has changed, it’s still a landmark on the city skyline.”

Today, The Rev. Greg Dube said the cathedral is blessed by a diverse community of faith, which, he said, “adds to the richness of parish life. It’s a privilege to minister to the various communities that make up the cathedral as everyone brings their (own) history and previous experience, which enriches all of us.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at the bottom of Munjoy Hill in Portland is celebrating its 150th anniversary with several special events, including a talk on its historic architecture after Mass on March 24.

Bishop Robert Deeley gave out potted shamrocks following Sunday’s special St. Patrick’s Day Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.

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