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Emotions run high as Waterville's first Catholic Church is torn down

4:20 PM, May 14, 2013   |    comments
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WATERVILLE, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- For more than 140 years the land around St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church was sacred, now it is littered with demolition debris.

The last mass was celebrated here roughly five years ago, and the massive brick building has sat vacant ever since.

"My mother made her first Holy Communion here and was baptized here and so forth," stated Raymond LaPointe, as he stared through the chainlink fence surrounding the church, parish hall and rectory.

"It is kind of a sad thing to see a church go like that," he lamented.   "It was beautiful inside, the woodwork and whatnot."

Dwindling attendance lead parishioners to shutter the church, which was built in 1872. 

"It was home to us. We both grew up in that parish," explained Mike Hebert.

"It had a homey feeling," his wife Debbie chimed in.  "I mean, you could go in there and you knew everybody that you met in there."

The Heberts got married in St. Francis and attended church there for years.

"Emotionally it is very difficult for us, for everybody, but at the same time as a parish we have to make a decision," said Mike Hebert.  "We know we can't afford to keep all the properties we have going, so if we try, they are all going to sit there and deteriorate."

"The tears will roll, there is no doubt, when that wrecking ball hits," admitted Debbie.  "There is no doubt in my mind that is going to be a sad time, but you have to move forward."

The property was on the market for several years, but received little interest.  Now it will be torn down to make way for much needed senior housing.

"We couldn't have come up with a better use for it, I don't believe for the property," Mike said.

Over the next couple of weeks, the rectory and parish hall will be leveled, then demolition crews will remove the steeple, before tearing the church down and recycling much of the material.

"As far as the metals, all of it gets recycled," explained Lee Danley, owner of Danley Demolition which is doing the work.  "The masonry gets all crushed up and is used for road base, parking lot base.  It is reused.  All the wood gets recycled.  So we can come up with 80 to 94 percent of all materials being recycled."

When the lot is leveled, construction on the 40 units of senior housing will begin, with the goal of having the new facility, complete with much of the wood work and stained glass from the old church, ready to welcome its new tenants next spring.

NEWS CENTER

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