2016-08-22 / Front Page

‘A community is formed’

St. Brendan’s Chapel in Biddeford Pool celebrates 100 years
By ALAN BENNETT Staff Writer


Bishop Robert Deeley of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, left, and Monsignor Rene Mathieu of the Good Shepherd Parish, right, prepare communion for parishioners at St. Brendan’s Chapel in Biddeford Pool, which celebrated its 100th anniversary during Sunday’s Mass. 
ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune Bishop Robert Deeley of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, left, and Monsignor Rene Mathieu of the Good Shepherd Parish, right, prepare communion for parishioners at St. Brendan’s Chapel in Biddeford Pool, which celebrated its 100th anniversary during Sunday’s Mass. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune BIDDEFORD — Hymns rang throughout the salty sea air on Sunday, as parishioners of St. Brendan’s Chapel in Biddeford Pool gathered together in spirit and song to celebrate the chapel’s 100th anniversary.

The 225-seat chapel was filled beyond capacity as parishioners from Biddeford and beyond came together for a special service co-concerted by Monsignor Rene Mathieu of the Good Shepherd Parish and Bishop Robert Deeley from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

“This chapel was constructed so people could maintain an obligation to attend Mass on Sunday,” Deeley said during his homily to the congregation. “How grateful we are to have this space as another place for the community to come together. Here, a community is formed. This is a place where we are formed for the world in which we live.”


Bishop Robert Deeley of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, center left, greets a parade of parishioners, more than 200 of them, at St. Brendan’s Chapel in Biddeford Pool on Sunday, as the chapel celebrated its centennial anniversary. 
ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune Bishop Robert Deeley of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, center left, greets a parade of parishioners, more than 200 of them, at St. Brendan’s Chapel in Biddeford Pool on Sunday, as the chapel celebrated its centennial anniversary. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune The chapel was built a century ago when Father Timothy Linehan of St. Mary’s Parish in Biddeford noticed that the predominantly immigrant community in Biddeford Pool had difficulty attending Mass by way of horse and buggy. According to church documents, Linehan’s mission was to allow all people to attend Mass, regardless of where they lived.

“If you can’t bring the people to the church, you bring the church to the people,” Linehan reportedly said at the time.

The land on which the chapel currently sits was purchased in 1914 for $3,900, and the building was designed by Timothy G. O’Connell, a renowned architect who designed many places of worship in Maine.

O’Connell is probably best known for his designs of the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston; St. Joseph’s Academy, the home of former Catherine McAuley High School (now The Maine Girls’ Academy) in Portland; and St. Mary’s and St. Andre’s Churches in Biddeford. The smaller St. Brendan’s was a change in style for the secretive architect, about whom there is an exhibit located at the chapel.

There was much to celebrate on Sunday, noted Kenneth Buechs, who acts as the facilities manager for the chapel, including the continuation of several capital campaigns held to beautify the church and modernize its original construction.

In 2008, the chapel underwent extensive renovation at a price tag of more than $150,000 sourced through donations. That project included new trim painting and a new roof.

On Sunday, it was announced that a fire hydrant formerly located in front of the church had been moved to the side of the building to allow for handicapped parking.

But in its 100th year, the church is still holding true to its modest roots. At the celebratory mass, men, women and children wearing shorts, sunhats and sandals sat among the century old wooden pews to pray and give thanks before attending a small reception on the front lawn.

“It’s a simple, country church. There’s not a lot of pomp and circumstance in coming to Mass here. I think that’s what appeals to people,” Buechs told the Journal Tribune in June.

The chapel only holds Mass on Sundays from Memorial Day through Columbus Day, and draws a large portion of summer vacationers who wouldn’t be able to worship anywhere else, Buechs said.

Those who return year after year look after the church. Two trusts, the Harold Carroll Fund and the Norma and Ted Truman Fund, support the chapel’s upkeep to ensure events such as Sunday’s can continue to be held.

“It’s wonderful to come and to visit with a community which has sustained itself in such a beautiful fashion over these 100 years, maintaining this beautiful church as a summer place when they come,” Deeley said following the service. “It indicates that they take time, that having that connection to God is important to them. It’s a real sign of a strong community which puts their faith at the center of the things that they do, so it’s a joy to be with them and to have that opportunity to celebrate.”

And for those involved in the service, the bishop’s attendance was a reflection of the impact the chapel has on the surrounding community.

“Bishop Deeley is a wonderful guy and we enjoy his company,” Mathieu said. “It’s just good to be with him. When he comes here it reminds us that we’re not just a little church in Biddeford Pool; we’re part of a larger church in Maine and around the world.

“The bishop brings all that with him – the connection to the holy Father, the Pope. It’s a joyful moment.”

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or abennett@journaltribune.com.

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