A history of St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church
By William Farley

From St. Peter’s Parish 75th Anniversary booklet, 1995
Used with the permission of Geraldine Begin Farley

 

In 1920—75 years before this 1995 account—St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church on Owens Street in Bingham, Maine, rose to the designation as a parish of the Diocese of Portland. After a long journey through time, Catholics in Bingham and surrounding sharing communities had a parish to call their own. A parish, at last!

The designation came by decree from Most Rev. Louis S. Walsh, Bishop of Portland. Prior to becoming the centermost part of the parish, the church building had been but a possibility—something to hope for in the future. There was faith sprinkled among some fifteen families in the area but there was no church in those early days.

For many years, the parish priests of Skowhegan’s Notre Dame de Lourdes Church had been responsible for the Catholic families living in the Bingham area. A priest would contact John Hughes, who lived on Murray Street, to advise him when he would be in Bingham to celebrate Mass. A home was selected, and the word got around.

St. Peter’s later became and, until 1920, was a mission of St. Sebastian Church in Madison with Rev. Matthew E. Curran coming once or twice a month to celebrate Mass.

In 1915/1916, however, several positive events took place. Through the generosity of Tom Owens, Sr.—after whom Owens Street is named—property was donated to construct a chapel at the church’s present site. The foundation was dug, by hand, by John Cassidy. Mr. Cassidy was unable to donate money. This was his way of doing his share. He lived in town but more than four miles from the work site, too far to travel back and forth each day. He chose to stay closer in a stable belonging to a Peter Farley who lived on Old Canada Road. Working with horses and a hand-held hod, it took about a week to finish the digging. The building itself was constructed in 1916 by carpenter Walter Fentiman, the grandfather of Norman Pooler.

In later years, more land was bought and added to the original parcel of land. A portion of this property was made into a parking lot and through the efforts of Frank Brochu, the parking area was plowed through the winter months.

On Sunday, August 27, 1916, the dedication of St. Peter’s Church was performed by Bishop Walsh assisted by Father Curran, pastor of St. Sebastian Church in Madison, Rev. James A. Carey of Hallowell, Rev. J.L.A. Renaud of Skowhegan and Rev. M.F. Clark of Providence.

At the conclusion of the blessing, a sermon was delivered by Father Carey who traced the history of the Roman Catholic Church founded upon St. Peter, Chief of the Apostles, and in whose name this new mission church was dedicated.

Assigned in 1920, the first resident pastor of St. Peter’s Parish was the Rev. John L. Holohan, who also undertook responsibility for the missions of Solon, North Anson, Caratunk and The Forks. The Catholic population was about thirty-five families. (Subsequently, North Anson rejoined Madison.)

On June 20, 1921, the house across the street from the church was purchased from Kathleen and Harold Doe for $4,000 and used as a rectory. Until that time, Father Holohan lived with the Fitzmorris family on Murray Street. The rectory, with its many renovations and periodic maintenance, has stood the test of time. It remains home for the pastor and visiting priests.

Ss. Philip and James Mission Church at The Forks, was built in 1921 by the local people, working with Charles Wilson, a carpenter, under the direction of Father Holohan. The land had been donated by Scott and Frank Durgin.

In earlier years, Rev. Joseph Forrest, the pioneer priest of the Jackman and Moosehead Lake regions, occasionally visited The Forks and held services in private homes. Later, a priest from Greenville made monthly visits there to celebrate Mass at the home of Mr. And Mrs. Bert Durgin.

If one looks at pictures of the original St. Peter’s Church and Ss. Philip and James, there is a striking similarity in their architecture strongly suggesting both were constructed from the same basic building plan.

When the Allen Quimby Veneer Company began operating in Bingham in 1937, more people moved to the area. The number of communicants at St. Peter’s increased to the point where more room was necessary. In 1950, under the direction of Father Napoleon Madore, the church was enlarged and renovated with a new sanctuary, sacristy, altar and pews. The church could now seat 275 people. The remodeled church was blessed in October, 1950, by the Most Rev. Daniel J. Feeney, Coadjutor Bishop of Portland. He also confirmed a class of 57 candidates at that time.

In 1953, the expanded church basement was finished off and the Parish Hall was born. On February 22, 1954, the first event conducted in the new Parish Hall welcomed a catered wedding reception for Geraldine N. Begin of Bingham and then Staff Sergeant William O. Farley from Dow Air Force Base in Bangor.

Mrs. Thomas (Cecilia) Reynolds was the first organist and soloist followed by Mrs. Glenn (Eileen) Wing from 1935 to 1967. The original choir consisted of Mrs. Wing’s sister, Georgianna Reynolds, Dr. Darveau, Florence Hughes and Virginia Reilly. Later, they were joined by Joseph Begin, Marion Hall and Louise Miller. Mrs. Norman (Jean) Dionne became organist in 1967 and continues to serve in this capacity. The music ministry is now under the direction of Alieta Belanger (choir), and Pearl Hawes (folk group). Choir members are Donald Beane, Benjamin Cates, Julie Clark and her daughter, Jamie, Joanne Fortin, Dorothy Giverson, Rowena Giberson, Gloria Lancaster, Hazel McIntyre and Patricia Pooler. Folk group members are Roger Belanger, Jamie Cates, Cindy Hawes, Rose Henderson, Mildred Pierce, Joyce Bean, Lori Pratt, Violet Tibbetts and James West.

During his tenure, Father Madore also started regular Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) classes for the children of the parish, he being the only teacher. In 1951, CCD classes were taught through the volunteer services of Florence Begin and Jeanette Tibbetts. The tradition carries on. Classes are held weekly throughout the school year in the Parish Hall and there are nine teachers. The are: Gail Cates, Rose Henderson, Frank and Virginia Klucz, Ramona Paddock, Linda Pooler, Lori Pratt, Gloree Hibbard and Karen Tarka. In addition to the pastor, religious education directors are Virginia Belanger and Linda Pooler.

In 1951, Mrs. Edgar Brochu (the former Anna Paquet) journeyed to her native home in St. George, Canada, solicited funds and raised most of the money to purchase the bells for St. Peter’s Church. At her funeral in 1952, the bells rang for the first time.

In 1955, under the guidance of Father Gaton Auger, St. Peter’s Altar Guild was organized. Their first meeting was held on April 20. The charter president was Florence Begin with other officers being vice-president, Susie Miller, and secretary-treasurer Jeannette Tibbetts. Three years later, on April 23, the Altar Guild joined the Maine Diocesan Council of Catholic Women in Waterville. The relationship continues. Present members are: president, Alieta Belanger; vice-president, Hazel McIntyre; secretary, Geraldine Farley; treasurer, Dorothy Giberson; Joyce Beane, Sandy Begin, Florence Begin, honorary member; Virgina Belanger, Edwina Brochu, Gail Cates, Eddie Dacey, Jean Dionne, Meredith Dube, Roxanne Dube, Alice Dyer, Helen Ellis, Monica Ferretti, Joanne Fortin, Mary Freeman, Rowena Giberson, Janet Giroux, Rita Giroux, Pearl Hawes, Rose Henderson, Carol Hines, Theresa Hyland, Carol Kiernan, Carol Kircher, Annette Layman, Virginia Klucz, Ginette LaVallee, Linda Longley, Frances Maheux, Anita McClintick, Laurette Michaud, Alice Moore, Yolande Morin, Eva Nichols, Izzy Nilan, Fritzi Page, Noel Page, Gail Parker, Millie Pierce, Lori Pratt, Marie Redmond, Georgianna Reynolds, Priscilla Roy, Karen Tarka, Jeanette Tibbetts, Violet Tibbetts, Bernice Vaillencourt and Linda West.

For many years, through the generosity of Glenn Wing, wood was supplied by his mill for the furnace at St. Peter’s Church and it was Tom Owens, Jr., who volunteered to get the heat going for Sunday services.

The John F. Kennedy Knights of Columbus formally became a Council in the parish in November, 1964. Prior to that, the men attended meetings with the Somerset Council #2089 in Skowhegan. The organization’s first Grand Knight was William “Billy” Beane. Other officers included Glen Rollins, Deputy Grand Knight; Ronald Redmond, Councilor; Albert Legasse, Warden; Richard Bard, Inside Guard; Ray Roy, Outside Guard; James Richards, Treasurer; Gerald Dionne, Recorder; and Joseph Begin, Financial Secretary. The Council was later dissolved due to attrition and the lack of new members.

During the pastorate of Father Paul Roberge, and in keeping with developments elsewhere, lay people were asked to participate in Mass as readers, or lectors. Stanton Giberson was the first at St. Peter’s, and when he later joined the choir, his brother, Don, took his place. A former altar server and a man of many other roles in the workings of the parish, Don continues as a lector. Other lectors are Roger Belanger, Norman Dionne, Annette Layman, Linda Longley, Anita McClintick, Alice Moore and Eva Nichols.

Father Roberge also instituted the Parish Council. The Council serves as a sounding board for the pastor, providing advice and bringing to his attention any issues raised by parishioners. Current members are: Norman Dionne, President; Joyce Beane, Ginny Belanger, Ned Betit, Al Dyer, Rowena Giberson, Annette Layman, John Layman, Frank Longley, Frances Maheux, Alice Moore, Gail Parker and Raymond Willer.

Altar serves have been mentioned, and they dare not be overlooked. They are important to the flow of the Mass, and they are helpful assistant to the celebrant. They carry on a traditional role, and they are appreciated. Current servers are: Glen Beane, Ian Belanger, Corey Hibbard, Jeane Kircher and Adam Pooler.

Over the years, the following priests have served St. Peter’s Church:
Rev. John H. Holohan – November 1920 to November 1922
Rev. James Mullen p Noveber 1922 to January 1923
Rev. Morris Carroll – January 1923 to January 1926
Rev. S. Raemers – January 1926 to June 1926
Rev. Pierre W. Hamel – June 1926 to October 1928
Rev. Philip Dube – October 1928 to February 1936
Rev. Napoleon Madore – February 1936 to September 1952
Rev. Gaston E. Auger – September 1952 to March 1962
Rev. Paul E. Roberge – March 1962 to July 1974
Rev. Michael Henchal – July 1974 to August 1974
Rev. Harold Nicknair – August 1974 to June 1976
Rev. Marcel Robitaille – July 1976 to June 1981
Rev. Donald Daigle – July 1981 to June 1985
Rev. Richard Ouelette – July 1985 to July 1989
Rev. Robert Lariviere – July 1989 to January 1993
Rev. Thomas Lequin – January 1993 to June 1995
Rev. Robert Paskey, S.J. – June 1995

Old Canada Road Historical Society