Dedication of Our Lady of Ransom Church in Mechanic Falls
A special re-dedication Mass with Bishop Robert Deeley on Sunday, June 11, at 10:30 a.m., will serve as the culmination of years of work, tireless effort, and faith by the community of Our Lady of Ransom Church on Elm Street in Mechanic Falls. All are welcome to gather at the celebration.
It is a project literally completed thanks to the sweat and skill of local parishioners.
“The church was torn down about eight years ago due to mold in the building. Since then, the Catholic community has been gathering in the parish hall for Mass,” said Fr. Ed Clifford, pastor of St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish of which Our Lady of Ransom Church is a part. “It was a modest space and parishioners have been waiting for the day when the hall would be converted into a church.”
The original church that fronted Elm Street was a converted barn, and the parish center, which was built behind the church in 1990, included religious education classrooms, a commercial kitchen, and the parish hall where Masses have been held for the past eight years. In 2018, renovations began.
“A new parish hall was created by removing four of the eight classrooms in the building. Since last summer, Mass has been celebrated in that space in order for construction to begin transforming the larger original parish hall into a church,” said Fr. Clifford.
One of the main concerns of parishioners was that the parish center building looked more like a school than a church from the road. In response, exterior enhancements included the installation of stained-glass windows and an entrance with a bell tower.
“It was a momentous day for parishioners to see the peaked roof installed on the steeple and a golden cross affixed to the top,” said Fr. Clifford. “Many commented ‘There, it now looks like a church!’”
Inside the building, a ten-foot ceiling height offered a design challenge.
“Because the space was built with engineered structural beams, opening it up and creating a cathedral ceiling wasn’t possible,” said Fr. Clifford.
Working with Lassel Architects, three design concepts were explored: a monastery look, old traditional, and rustic.
“Elements from all three were incorporated into the new designs,” said Fr. Clifford. “One feature is the ceiling above the center aisle with beams leading to the front, focusing attention to the most important features: the altar, the tabernacle, and the cross. The ceiling above the aisle is blue representing the Blessed Mother leading us to her son. The icon of Our Lady of Persecuted Christians, another name for Our Lady of Ransom, will be displayed in the narthex.”
Other Maine churches have helped in the process, too. Corpus Christi Parish in Winslow provided an altar and matching sanctuary furniture. In fact, the altar, credence tables, holy water fonts, and candle stands were originally from Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Fairfield, which, coincidentally, is where Fr. Clifford was baptized and worshipped as a child.
“Recently, I noticed that the silver chalice we use at Our Lady of Ransom has a design of grape bunches similar in look to the carved wheat and grape bunches in the front of the altar,” said Fr. Clifford.
Another challenge was the packed schedules of construction companies coming out of the pandemic. It was the tight-knit and talented Our Lady of Ransom community itself that answered the call.
“Paul Hannigan is a retired contractor, Knight of Columbus, and parishioner at St. Joseph Church in Bridgton. He came forward to take on the project and was at the site most weekdays starting in November of 2022,” said Fr. Clifford. “Several volunteers from the parish, including Alan Wilson, John ‘Rusty’ D’Amour, Tom Dobson, Frank Federico, Susan Paquin, David Saar, and others assisted.”
Building contractor and parishioner Bob Rose also helped with the project, joining fellow parishioners in rolling up their sleeves to complete a variety of interior work, including the pulling up and removal of floor tiles.
“We realized that in doing much of the work ourselves with volunteers and local subcontractors, parishioners were literally involved with actually building their church,” said Fr. Clifford. “Together, we are part of the history of the church.”
A powerful and meaningful sentiment that is among the many things to celebrate on June 11, the pinnacle of a community’s shared sacrifice leading to better days and dreams realized.
“In times of worry or frustration about the many things that needed to be done, I tried to remind myself that ‘we’re building a church and that’s pretty neat,’” said Fr. Clifford. “Although humble by most standards, the bell tower entrance now identifies the building as a church. We envision it will help attract Catholics and others in the area to attend Mass with us.”
Six children from the community will receive first Eucharist and confirmation in the fall, and weddings for the new church are already scheduled.
Sunday marks both the end of a long road and the beginning of a new, rewarding journey.
“I liked the last paragraph from a homily by St. John Chrysostom,” said Fr. Clifford. “‘Practice prayer from the beginning. Paint your house with the colors of modesty and humility. Make it radiant with the light of justice. Decorate it with the finest gold leaf of good deeds. Adorn it with the walls and stones of faith and generosity. Crown it with the pinnacle of prayer. In this way you will make it a perfect dwelling place for the Lord. You will be able to receive Him as in a splendid palace, and through His grace you will already possess Him, His image enthroned in the temple of your spirit.’”
117 Elm Street
Mechanic Falls, ME 04256