St. Patrick’s Church in Newcastle is near the halfway point of a $300,000 fundraising effort to restore its 1808 building, the oldest Roman Catholic church in New England.
The restoration project will include three main facets: the repair of the foundation, the repointing of the exterior bricks, and the replacement of the leaking roof, according to church volunteers and a pamphlet about the project.
In 2014, St. Patrick’s began researching ways to restore the old church within preservation guidelines set by the National Register of Historic Places.
Bremen resident and St. Patrick’s parishioner Thomas Kronenberger, of Kronenberger & Sons Restoration Inc., provided a free evaluation of the building.
Kronenberger determined the old church “was in urgent need of a comprehensive restoration to ensure the long-term viability of the physical structure,” although the structure was not in immediate danger, according to the pamphlet.
Some work has started. Kronenberger & Sons power-washed the exterior bricks last October and has sent brick and mortar samples away for analysis. The analysis will help the church choose replacement materials that will both prevent water seepage and maintain historic authenticity.
“St. Patrick’s Church served as the bed of Catholicism in Maine,” said Carrie Watson, a member of the church’s history project committee.
As stewards of the oldest continuously used Catholic church on the East Coast south of Quebec and north of Florida, St. Patrick’s congregation has vowed to restore the church without sacrificing its place as a staple of the local Catholic community and the history of New England.
“It’s ongoing, it’s slow, but it’s coming along and our parishioners are very generous,” said Bill Maloney, who is overseeing the finances for the restoration project.
St. Patrick’s is also supporting the All Saints Parish capital campaign to build a new multipurpose building on the campus of St. John’s Catholic School in Brunswick.
After the completion of the St. John’s campaign, St. Patrick’s hopes to receive approval to ramp up efforts for the restoration project next year.
St. Patrick’s will offer tours of the old church after services Sunday, Sept. 2. The tours will begin around noon.