Oldest northeastern U.S. Catholic parish celebrates bicentennial


St. Patrick Catholic Church in Newcastle, Maine will celebrate its bicentennial this weekend. The church, whose building was completed in 1808, is the oldest continuing parish in the northeastern United States.

The celebrations will begin at noon on Saturday with the ringing of the church bell, one of the last church bells to be cast by the American hero Paul Revere, the Bangor Daily News says.

Parishioners will conduct tours of the church cemetery and portray in costume some of the historical personages buried there.

Bishop of Portland Richard J. Malone will celebrate Mass on Saturday afternoon in the modern $2 million church finished in 2004. On Sunday a Latin Mass will be celebrated in the original church building, a small brick church set on a hill overlooking the Damariscotta River.

Carrie Watson, one of the event planners, said the program was designed to appeal to history-lovers as well as Catholics interested in Maine’s religious heritage.

“From a historical viewpoint, anyone interested in any kind of history would find the story of the oldest Catholic Church in the state fascinating," she said, according to the Bangor Daily News. "And in terms the architecture and structure of building, I would think people interested in those things would be interested in hearing details about its construction to learn how it’s lasted so long."

Rev. John Lefevre de Cheverus celebrated the first Mass in the area in 1798 while returning to Boston from missions to the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy Indians. In the same year, a small wooden chapel called St. Mary of the Mills was built at Damariscotta Mills, though that building has not survived.

The existing church building was designed by architect Nicholas Codd, who was reputed to have been shanghaied from Ireland to design the church and homes for local prominent figures.

The church altar, built in the form of a tomb, is older than the church building itself. It is the original altar at which Father Cheverus offered Mass.

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