PAGES IN TIME: St. Denis Church observes 200th anniversary

Peter Taylor, from the town of Washington, has attended St. Denis Church, in Whitefield, for 40 years, and for him, there is no place like it.

“I just feel the Holy Spirit in this building,” he said. “It’s the community that brings that feeling to me.”

Al Parker, who has attended the church for more than a quarter century feels similarly. He said he used to travel around the country and the world for his work, but none of the churches he found compared to St. Denis.

“St. Denis is very, very unique. The people there are unbelievable. The community that we have is second to none,” he said.

Taylor and Parker were among the many parishioners who filled St. Denis Church on Sunday, June 10, to commemorate the church’s 200th anniversary. Bishop Robert Deeley celebrated the anniversary Mass (20 pictures below).

“The records of history show that there was only a small Catholic community here in Whitefield when Bishop Cheverus, then Bishop of Boston, of which Maine was a part, visited in 1812. There were perhaps five Catholics. Five years later, however, the reality was quite different. The rich farmland of the Sheepscot River Valley, available for a reasonable price, had drawn many Irish immigrants who had come to America seeking a new way of life, just as immigrants do today,” the bishop recounted in his homily.

St. Denis Church, originally spelled with two “n’s”, is the second oldest Catholic church in New England, predated only by St. Patrick Church in Newcastle. The church got its start when Father Dennis Ryan, who had been assigned pastor of St. Patrick by Bishop Jean-Louis Lefebvre de Cheverus in 1818, recognized the growing population in Whitefield and chose to move there.

Work on the first church began that same year, and it was consecrated by Bishop Cheverus in 1822. The original church was a white, wood-framed building with no pews. People would stand or kneel on the floor.

“The first settlers knew they needed their faith, and their faith was not their own. It needed a community and a place to celebrate Mass. They knew the meaning they derived from the love of God they experienced in their relationship with Jesus. They wanted to nurture that for themselves in the harshness of winter in a new place, and they wanted to hand it on to their children. It is the legacy they passed on to you. You and I are now the brothers and sisters of Jesus in this place,” the bishop said.

The church community continued to thrive, and in the 1830s, the Irish Catholic population of the parish had grown to nearly 1,200. Unfortunately, the church also wasn’t well maintained, which caught the attention of Bishop Benedict Fenwick, the second Bishop of Boston, who visited in 1832. He urged the community to build another church, and the following year, work on the current church began.

“The Irish Catholics wanted the new church to be on the same spot as the old church, so they put the bricks right over and around the wooden church, so they still had a place to go to church,” said Libby Harmon, a longtime parishioner who researched the history and was one of the organizers of the celebration. “When they got the walls and the roof of the new brick church done, they then disassembled the wooden church and took it out through the front doors.”

The new church was consecrated by Bishop Fenwick in 1838. At the time, it was Maine’s largest Catholic church building, as well as having the largest congregation.

The church was designed like a typical New England meetinghouse, an appearance it retains today. Among the changes along the way, however, was a new Italianate-style tower, which replaced the old belfry in 1862. Around 1890, stained-glass windows were added, the sanctuary was enlarged, and decorative work was added to the walls and ceiling.

In 1976, it was entered on the National Register of Historic Places. The church underwent a major restoration beginning in 1997.

“It’s quite a quaint building, very nostalgic, old, but very comforting. It’s a very nice place to worship,” said Parker.

St. Denis Church is now part of St. Michael Parish in Augusta, but it has maintained its rural character, as well as its loyal congregation.

“I think one of the things that maybe is special for us is that families come from surrounding communities. It’s not like being in the city where everybody is right here. People come from afar to come here,” said Mary Caswell, whose ties to the church span four generations, since her great grandparents immigrated from Ireland. “We’ve had, over the years, to be very independent.”

“My mother, she brought us up here, and I still live in this area. It’s just very special,” said Louise Reed, Caswell’s sister.

“It’s very nice. Wonderful, wonderful people,” said Anne Springer, age 102.

The church was full for the Mass, as was the parish hall for a celebratory brunch.

“I’m just very, very happy to be part of this 200th, because it is so significant in the history of the Church in Maine,” said Father Frank Morin, pastor of St. Michael Parish. “People really supported it, and I’m very happy that we gave them the opportunity to appreciate again their heritage, especially the descendants of the original families, several of whom are here and who have not forgotten their roots.”

Among those in attendance were several Sisters of Mercy. From 1871 to 1888, the Sisters of Mercy ran an orphanage at a convent across the street from the church and also taught schoolchildren. Several sisters are buried in the church’s historic cemetery.

Concelebrating the Mass with the bishop was Father Morin; Monsignor J. Joseph Ford, a native son of the parish; Father Ralph Boisvert, who formerly served there; and Father Roger Chabot. Father Arokiasamy Santhiyagu, HGN, a parochial vicar of St. Michael Parish, joined the gathering for the reception.

As the St. Denis community celebrates its 200th anniversary, the bishop stressed the importance of continuing to gather for the celebration of the Eucharist, which is why the church was first built.

“As we begin the third century of Catholic life in this valley, it is a good opportunity to ask God for the grace we need to be faithful to Jesus’ invitation to be part of his family, ‘whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’ If we do that together as Church, the Lord will be with us, and we will bring the light of Jesus’ message into our world,” the bishop said.

Whitefield Local Lions award six scholarships to local students

Scholarship recipients from the Whitefield Lions Club include, front row, from left to right, Club president, Lion Cindy Lincoln, Morgan Emond, Basel White, Samantha Jackson, Emma Allen, and Madison Allen. Back, Harrison Mosher and Lion Barry Tibbetts. (Contributed photo)

Lincoln Academy student Emma Allen, daughter of Cynthia and Andrew Allen, of Jefferson, was awarded a $1,000 scholarship. Emma will attend St. Joseph’s College and pursue a degree in physical therapy.

Lincoln Academy student Madison Allen, son of Cynthia and Andrew Allen, of Jefferson, was awarded a $1,000 scholarship. Madison is pursuing a career in aviation and will attend the University of North Dakota in the fall.

Lincoln Academy student Basel White, son of Erica and Daniel White, of Jefferson, was awarded a $1,000 scholarship. Basel is attending University of Maine, Orono and will major in biomedical engineering.

Erskine Academy student Harrison Mosher, son of John Mosher, of China, was awarded a $500 scholarship. Harrison will attend Thomas College, in Waterville, and major in business

Erskine Academy student Morgan Emond, daughter of Mindy and Gary Emond, of Windsor, was awarded a $500 scholarship. Morgan will attend the University of Connecticut.

Erskine Academy student Samantha Jackson is the daughter of Dan and Katrina Jackson, of Whitefield. Samantha was awarded a $500 scholarship and will attend University of Southern Maine.

WHITEFIELD: Cindy Lincoln presented with multiple Lions awards

From left to right, Whitefield Lions Club president Cindy Lincoln, and Lion Gerry Maldovan. Contributed photo

At the January 25 meeting of the Whitefield Lions, club president Cindy Lincoln was presented with the Membership Key Award and the Silver Centennial Award for Membership.

Both awards are given for inviting and sponsoring new members into the club.

At the January 28 Cabinet meeting, Lion Cindy Lincoln accepted the 1016-2017 Excellence Award on behalf of the Whitefield Lions club. Lincoln, has served as president of the Whitefield Lions club for two of her nine years in the club.

She said of the award, “I am super proud and honored to be part of such a dedicated organization who cares about the needs of others. Its like our motto says, ‘Where there is a need, there is a lion.’ ”

The award is given to clubs that excel in community service, membership growth, communication and organization

The Whitefield Lions Club was one of 15 clubs in the state to receive the award.

WINDSOR: Greenwoods celebrate 26th wedding anniversary

Contributed photo

Whitefield Lions Joe and Carolyn Greenwood, of Windsor, celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary on December 14, 2017. The Greenwoods have been active members in the club for 12 years since moving to Maine from Amesbury, Massachusetts.

Whitefield Lions host Christmas for Kids

From left to right, Carolyn Greenwood, Caitlin Labbe, Dagan Savage, Lydia Gilman, Santa, Courtney Paine, Alana York, Olivia Kunesh, Alex Mahon, Harrison Mosher, Brenda Bonsant and Noah Bonsant.

Whitefield Lions club hosted their annual Christmas for Kids party Sunday, December 10.

A lunch of hot dogs, chips, and punch was served, followed by cookies and ice cream.

Santa stopped by for a visit and kids clamored to tell him what they want for Christmas.

Requests ranged from Lego sets to a puppy.

Erskine Academy’s Leos Caitlin Labbe, left, and Alana York. Contributed photos

Each child was given a big bag of wrapped presents to take home and put under the tree, to be opened Christmas morning

Games were played and songs were sung and children were awarded raffle prizes, including cans of popcorn, stuffed beanie babies, candy, porcelain dolls, a scooter and a bicycle.

Eight members of the Erskine Academy Leo club were on hand to help the Lions greet guests, serve food, and hand out gifts.

Twenty-five local children and their families attended the event.

Whitefield Lions present club awards

From left to right, Lion Pam Jewett and Lion Donna Brooks. Contributed photos

Lions Pamela Jewett and Donna Brooks were honored by the Whitefield Lions Club for their commitment to new membership.

Lion Donna Brooks received the Membership Key Award for inviting and sponsoring at least two new members.

The Silver Centennial award for membership was presented to Lion Pam Jewett. The award is given to the sponsor of a new Lions member remaining in the club for 1 year and 1 day

The Whitefield Lions Club was formed in 1953, the club currently has 93 members and was recently recognized at the largest club in the state.

The Whitefield Lions sponsor the Erskine Leo club which was formed in May 2016 and boasts 47 members, making it the largest Leo Club in the state.

The Whitefield Lions Club meets the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month at the Lions Den at 52 main St. in Coopers Mills.

Whitefield Lions Club guest night is the 4th Thursday of the month. If you would like more information on becoming a Lion or would like to attend a meeting, visit www.WhitefieldLionsClub.com, or email us: whitefieldlionsclub@gmail.com.

Two new members inducted into Whitefield Lions Club

From left to right, Whitefield Lions Club membership chairman Steve Hatch, with new members, Rebecca Jones, Kyle Jones, and their sponsor, Lion Carol Jones. Contributed photo

Peace poster contest winners announced

Winners of the Peace Poster Contest with their respective arts teachers, from left to right, Holly Hilton and Jenna Perkins, Whitefield; Rachel Richmond and Abby St. Cyr, Jefferson; Sandy Dunn and Liberty Kimball, Chelsea; Damon Wilson and Jenny Keller, Windsor; and Lion Barry Tibbetts. Contributed photo

Winners of the Peace Poster Contest were honored with their art teachers by the Whitefield Lions Club on October 26.

For the past 30 years Lions clubs around the world have sponsored the Lions International Peace Poster Contest.

The theme of the 2017-2018 contest is “The Future of Peace”

Winners listed by school:

Whitefield: Art teacher Holly Hilton, first Jenna Perkins, second Hannah Jackson, third Acadia Kelley.
Jefferson: Art teacher Rachel Richmond, first Abby St. Cyr, second Victoria Ingram, third Seung Nam Montaro.
Chelsea: Art teacher Sandy Dunn; first Liberty Kimball, second Malaika Igbal, third Camyrin Thompson.
Windsor: Art teacher Jenny Keller, first Damon Wilson, second Mallary Hanke, third Anna Labbe.

Mary Follet recognized for 30 years of service

Mary Follett, left, accepts 30-year service award from District Governor Norman Hart as Whitefield Lions Club President Cindy Haskell Lincoln looks on. Contributed photo

Mary Follett, a local member of the Whitefield Lions Club, was honored at a meeting in Whitefield recently, celebrating 30 years of service to her community. District Governor Norman Hart and past District Governor Paula Beach were on hand for the event.

For more information on the Whitefield Lions Club go to www.WhitefieldLionsClub.com or call President Cindy Haskell Lincoln at 242-2477.

Local residents named to dean’s list at RIT

The following local residents made the dean’s list for the 2017 spring semester at Rochester Institute of Technology, in Rochester, New York:

Bethany Hartley, of Whitefield, who is studying mechanical engineering technology, and Anna Lorette, of Norridgewock, who is studying packaging science.