Side trip: Winthrop, Maine

Side trip: Winthrop, Maine

We have the wonderful blessing to spend time each summer at a family camp in the Central Lakes region of Maine. Serving the Catholic community there is the parish of Saint Michael, which is based in Augusta and that includes churches in the towns of Gardiner, Hallowell, Whitefield, and, closest to us, Winthrop.

Visit dates: Sunday Masses, August 20, 27 & Sep. 4, 2023

Mass: 9:00 am Sundays

Our Visit

by Michael

My family has been going there all our lives each summer — without ever attending church. Last year after my baptism, I attended services at the Wayne Community Church, a small Methodist outpost that sustains faith and community in this small town. Services there were lovely, but by last summer I knew that it was not for me. I would start RCIA that September, which led me to my Confirmation this past Spring of 2023.

Last summer, Terry attended Catholic Mass in Winthrop, a nearby, larger town. She really liked the services and was especially touched by one Mass that was dedicated to the sudden loss of a beloved priest, Father John. This summer, I joined Terry for two masses and attended a third after she had to leave for a business trip to Asia.

Catholics in Maine are traditionally French-Canadian, as the colony was originally settled by English protestants and French Catholics. Father Dansereau of St. Mary’s in Fredericksburg has family in Maine, whom he visits frequently. He once told me about during a visit there being asked to give Mass in French — a challenge he met! I suspect the larger part of the faithful in Winthrop are still of French-Canadian descent, although not everyone there had what I call “French-Canadian hair” — so perhaps the community has grown to include some non-French-Canadians with lesser hair, such as myself.

Here is Saint Xavier of Winthrop:

It’s a classic New England church (I love the wooden steps!) both in form and community. Everyone knows one another. Several pairs of fathers and sons greeted us at the entrance and/or took the collection, and there was an offering by the faithful at each Mass. The choir had about eight people, most playing string instruments such as guitar and violin.

I don’t know if it was just that it was summer, but I was the only one to wear a tie, which made me most conspicuous at the grocery store and Dunkin Donuts afterwards. (Much success if slow service at the Winthrop Dunkin’s!)

And most conspicuous we were at the grocery store. After our first Mass, we hit up Hanneford’s , and a gentlemen in line at the checkout joked with us that, “Everyone comes here after Mass. We’ve been telling Father just to hold services here. Would be much easier!”

We enjoyed Mass there, especially, the homilies, one from Father Nathan and two by Father Britto. They all each spot-on, bringing in all three readings and making cogent points with relevant stories. After our first mass, Father Nathan implored the community to join the parish soccer match against another on the coast. “It’d be bad optics,” he pleaded, “For a parish named for the slayer of Satan to lose to a patron saint of fishermen,” he joked.

Father Britto is Tamil, and has a strong accent, but I found that the effort to concentrate on his every word helped me follow his wonderful narratives better. At the Mass of Sept 4, regarding the Scriptural reading from Mt 16:21-27 (“Get behind me, Satan!”), he told the story of a boy who wanted to join the seminary. His mother told him to bring her a kitchen knife, which he did, but upon which she twice told him he could not go. The third time she said yes. “Why now?” he asked. “Because this time you didn’t give me the knife with the blade pointing towards me.” Wow — it’s so true how much we point the blades of our knives at others. Great analogy!

We are thrilled to have spent time with this community, and we come away thankful for being Catholic, which, among so many blessings, allows us to be home at Church wherever we are.

– Michael

Saint Xavier, Winthrop, Maine:


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