Our Lady of the Rosary, Sabattus, Maine
Our Lady of the Rosary, Sabattus, Maine
At the end of 2017 I decided to set out on a personal journey to explore and experience the services of many different churches and faith based organizations, predominantly near where I live in Massachusetts. These institutions are important, often overlooked and even misjudged centers of our communities that seek to make a positive impact on their participants as well as others through their generosity and public service.
I knew from the outset of this project that eventually I would make my way home to Our Lady of the Rosary, my childhood church. It probably has been 20 years, maybe more since I stepped through those doors which played such a crucial role in my childhood. This church was my community, it contributed to my moral compass, and many of my earliest memories have this pillar of Sabattus, Maine woven into them. I went to school here up until the 3rd grade, and I had my first communion and confirmation at this church. Somewhere in a family photo album, are my parents and I outside the church donning brightly colored 80s formal wear after I graduated from Kindergarten.
Coming back as an adult, with many years of life experience, as I revisit and learn through a different perspective how these institutions impact their community, was a critical milestone. That I got to do so alongside love ones on Easter Sunday, meant that much more.
Building and History
I couldn't find a lot on the history of the building itself. The town of Sabattus does provide some interesting details on their website stating that the parish had masses at Martin's Point (a popular swimming hole and small town park today in Sabattus) in 1910, and that services were also held at the Green St. school house before a church was built. More than likely this means the church building likely dates to the 10s or 20s if I had to speculate.
The building is quite interesting in that it had an a-frame addition (see image below) that creates an L shaped blueprint for the worship area. This actually came up today in Mass as Fr. Nadeau joked about staring at the corner, as those at the altar constantly need to shift from left to right to see all of the parishioners.
The building has seen some change since I was a child, as the altar was reconfigured to be diagonal, as to not face the old church primarily as it had previously. The prior more modern backdrop, has also been replaced with a series of columns and arches where statues and the tabernacle are located. A new (to me) matching altar and lectern have added some more classical décor to the church which was well done. Aside from that the church remains largely untouched. This is a relief, as the old section especially has a beautiful, varnished bead board ceiling above the nave, which I was afraid would be painted. The exterior could use some love, repairs to the woodwork, and paint, and I hope the parish chooses to preserve the building which is unquestionably unique with gingerbread style accents that look like something from Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard.
Who Are the Parish?
Well for starters the Parish are the people I grew up alongside, and while I no longer recognize the faces while I'm there, the names on the bulletins ring familiar, and the older generations speaking in French in the pews bring forth a wave of nostalgia. This church was packed for Easter, chairs were brought out in the aisles. We sat in the new portion, because when we arrived 20 minutes early, the older sanctuary was already filled. When I left I noticed the chain was down for the stairs leading to the Balcony, perhaps on Easter Sunday it is used. While this certainly created a festive Mass, there is only one on Sunday now at 8:30. Sadly attendance probably is not what it once was.
Father Timothy Nadeau is the same Pastor that I had the pleasure of seeing several weeks prior with my visit to the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston. For a second time I enjoyed seeing him deliver an impassioned sermon, impressing upon the Parish that with Jesus in their lives that because he died for their sins, they can live with that peace of mind knowing that they are on a journey together in this faith. He spoke of the origin of the word "nave," noting that Our Lady of The Rosary has two naves. Nave, is from the Latin word "navis," which means ship. That everyone in the faith is therefore on a journey of salvation. He also talked about spreading goodness, and the message of faith, pointing out that the Easter Lilly was chosen because of its trumpet like shape. That people should trumpet their faith, and the positive change they can bring forth in the world.
I had fond memories of Our Lady of the Rosary playing Cat Steven's (Yusuf Islam) "Morning has Broken," as a child, and unbelievably they sang this at this Easter Sunday Mass.
What the Parish Does
Our Lady of the Rosary still has their bean suppers, currently associated with the Knights of Columbus! I recall almost all Catholic Churches in Maine, or at least the Franco-American communities doing this. I believe it is generally a New England thing as people I've met from the Boston area have confirmed. We, to my recollection did not have "brown bread," with our beans. There are occasional coffee hours after Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary. As a child we never went to these, so I never realized that they existed. As Our Lady of the Rosary is part of the Prince of Peace community that includes the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, they participate in many outreach and ministry activities. In the Bulletin as examples, the parish raises funds for "Operation Rice Bowl," an organization that helps improve the standard of living in various global locales. An upcoming Women's Prayer Breakfast, provides an example of a social, faith-based group for parishioners.
It was terrific to see a Mass again at Our Lady of the Rosary. It is good to still see a vibrant sense of community, as well as to experience the nostalgia of the small, close knit, country parish of Our Lady of the Rosary. I plan to go again in the future when I am visiting my parents for the weekend.
Text and photographs by George Parks