By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
Over the past few years, many of our older lifelong residents have expressed sorrow over the closing of St. Patrick’s and St. Joseph’s Catholic Churches. In bygone days these parishes served as the social and religious centers for many residents in our community.
But all things come to an end. Over the years attendance at Sunday Mass has greatly diminished. At age 66, they refer to me as “The Kid” at the Mass I attend on Sunday. For any entity to survive, it needs new blood.
Over the years the fiscal prowess of the State of Maine has been on a steady decline. Many of our bright young people have been forced to leave our community and state in order to pursue their chosen careers. Deaths in Maine now outnumber births. However, like the Phoenix, our city is slowly and steadily resurrecting itself.
Unfortunately, this comes too late to save St. Patrick’s and St. Joseph’s Churches.
Over the years the lack of needed maintenance and upkeep, along with a steady decline in financial support by parishioners, most of whom are on fixed incomes, combined with the lack of new blood, was the recipe that now brings us to the current situation.
The St. Joseph’s property has been purchased by Central Maine Healthcare with the intent of leveling the former church and rectory in order to create a parking lot.
St. Joseph’s has been up for sale for several years. I will admit that I was saddened when it ceased to serve as a place of worship. I had hoped that it would be bought and turned into a hospital chapel to be used by Central Maine Medical Center patients and their families. Upon becoming Mayor I was enlightened to the game of urban development.
I’m sure you all remember the Healey Asylum located at Bates and Ash Streets in Lewiston. A while ago I had spoken with the former owner who had thought about upgrading the building. This upgrading could have been done for just over a million dollars.
The building was eventually sold to an out-of-town developer that infused multi-million dollars to create residential elderly housing for low-income individuals. A lot of this added expense had to do with historical preservation requirements. This added astronomical expense to the project.
While St. Joseph’s stood abandoned and deteriorating, we heard hardly a peep about it. Now at the eleventh hour our historical preservationists are rallying and sobbing about the loss of this truly historical site.
Added to this is the demonization of Central Maine Healthcare. They are portrayed as some type of dark evil corporation bent on destroying the soul of our city. Well, bub, they’re not!
This purchase has freed the Portland Diocese from expenses, such as property taxes, rain fees, insurance, maintenance and other expenses that go along with being a property owner. These expenses are borne by the local parishioners through the Sunday collections. This sale has relieved a portion of the crushing debt faced by our Diocese.
It also appears that many of these historical preservation people are trapped somewhere in the past. They think that Central Maine Healthcare is flush with cash. Imagine their surprise when they finally evolve to the present and see the dire straits CMH finds themselves in.
(Not sure what this means. Email this sentence and ask Bob to clarify, or we will have to leave it out.)
Liberals just love to criticize corporations, especially when corporate funds are not spent in the enlightened manor prescribed by those who feel their wisdom comes from a “Burning Bush.”