PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Five years after making an offer on Saint Patrick's Church, owners of the Westgate Shopping Center may finally get what they want. Faced with debt, the Our Lady Hope Parish has been looking to sell a church. Parishoners were hoping to unload the St. Pius X church because of its smaller size... But when Bishop Richard Malone announced he was leaving, the only board that could authorize a new sale was dissolved... And with the board dissolved, Parishoners say they'll have to take the sole offer still on the table... Westgate's 1.3 million dollar bid on St. Patrick's.
Rev. James Lafontaine says, "There was a little bit of a deficit the previous year but this year it was clearly going to move dramatically in to the red. Most that's because of loss off revenue, I mean, we had over 50 funerals in the parish this year. You know, people drift away. The Catholic Church in Maine has diminished. Everywhere over the past 20, 25 years, for a whole variety of reasons."
Some of those reasons, Father Lafontaine says, are an aging Catholic population and what he believes is less of an interest in organized religion.
"You have to do what you can to preserve the life of the larger parish. And that's what we're trying to do."
But John Brown says he's spent a lifetime at St. Patrick's Church and its too difficult for him to see it go.
"It hurts. It definitely hurts. It hurts me and it hurts many other senior people. So whether they will support the selling of this and moving to another church, its difficult, I don't know."
Another member says he will attend service at either St. Joseph's or St. Pius when the time comes.
"People have been married in this church, people have been baptized and there are a lot of memories. But the important thing to remember, I think, is that the church is not the building the church is the people."
The Our Lady Hope Parish held a members-only meeting today to discuss their decision to sell the church. Father Lafontaine says he expects the process of selling it to last until the spring.
Parish leaders say they plan to use some of the money from the sale to improve the other two churches.