Celebrating 50 years of sharing the Gospel message

While it doesn’t have the grandeur of churches such as St. Bruno-St. Remi in Van Buren or St. David in Madawaska, the Christian Life Center (CLC) in Frenchville has nevertheless long been an integral part of the spiritual lives of many in the St. John River Valley and beyond.

“This has been a blessing for us in the area. If we still have people of faith here, it’s because of the Christian Life Center,” says Deacon Donald Clavette, who served as CLC director from 2002-2014.

“This is where I learned to lead and to be in front of people. It was through the formation of a lot of the programs of the CLC. So, I can’t help but think that it had a deep part in my own discernment, helping me understand more clearly my vocation to the priesthood,” says Father Brad Morin, director of the Office of Vocations for the Diocese of Portland and parochial vicar of the Parish of the Resurrection of the Lord in Old Town.

Father Morin was among the many clergy who traveled to Frenchville in September to join with Bishop Robert Deeley in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the center. St. Luce Church, located across the street from the center, was full for the Friday morning Mass, as people came together in thanksgiving for the difference the center has made to them.

“I came as a teen, and I did some Life in the Spirit seminars here, charismatic renewal, and Cursillo and the ACTS retreat. I’ve done all those different things,” says Greta Babin, who serves as the music minister at St. Louis Church in Fort Kent. “People here are so friendly, and everybody is willing to do anything they can to help out. I love having it.”

“I am 78 years old, and I thought I knew my Bible, but coming here, I learned a lot more. I am very glad that I came. People should come more to the Christian Life Center,” says Norman Babin of Fort Kent.

The Christian Life Center opened on October 26, 1973. It was originally located in Caribou with a mission of serving teens entering high school.

“The center provided a place where, together, in activity, in prayer, in learning, young people could appreciate the gift that a community gathered around the good news of Jesus could bring them,” the bishop said in his jubilee Mass homily.

 Soon, however, a desire grew for programs that would serve people of all ages, but to do that, a new site was needed. Through the guidance of Msgr. Paul Stefanko, then director of the CLC, the center was repurposed and relocated to its present location, the former Sisters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Convent.

Sister Jeannette Roy, RSR, who was among the sisters in attendance at the jubilee Mass, says it is gratifying to see that the CLC is still a vibrant part of the community.

“What it means to me is that the influence that we had since we were here has continued. We feel it in the people who are here, so our spirit and our charism have continued in the valley, and that, to me, is very, very consoling and very important,” she says.

The center has had its ups and downs through its 50 years. Deacon Clavette remembers that when he took over, there was only $100 in the bank and a $50,000 loan to pay off.

“So, right away, I went to the chapel. I said, ‘Lord, I’m not a good money raiser, but I can do your work if you help me with the money,’” Deacon Clavette recalls. “So, I started the ACTS retreats, and from that point on, that took off.”

As the programs increased in popularity, the debt decreased, and when Deacon Clavette left as director, the center’s financial position was much more secure.

“That was because God blessed us with that, but the bigger blessing was that we were having people participate and then going out and professing what they learned,” he says.

The future of the center was again threatened during the COVID-19 pandemic, but through the leadership of Father Antony Alexander Maria Doss, HGN, who took over as director in October 2022, the center has again experienced a resurgence.

“By God’s grace, there was a young priest from another country here in the County whose talents are many. Father Antony Alex Maria Doss of the Heralds of Good News began to renew the life of the center, and what a wonderful job he is doing. He has shown that the 50 years that have passed, and which we honor today, are a beginning,” the bishop said.

The bishop noted that the center is again an important part of the faith life of the people of Aroostook County.

“It has been a place of retreat and renewal for young people and adults, of strengthening marriages and the vocations of deacons. It is a place of prayer and enrichment. It is a place to gather the community of the Church. And Father Alex has shown us that it is still possible to do that. There is still a need,” the bishop said. “The message and the mission of Jesus the Christ gives it a purpose and a reason to move forward.”

“God had a purpose bringing this place, and if it wasn’t for God’s grace, it would not be going for so long. Wherever there is God’s grace, He keeps it growing. He can find people. He can find support. He can bring in help from anywhere to do His work. We are very grateful,” says Father Maria Doss.

The center’s many offerings include eucharistic adoration, Masses, marriage programs, retreats, Bible study, and more.

“Father Alex has done many retreats here. Every Wednesday, you have people here. The yard is full of people, and it’s nice to see,” says Aurel Lavoie.

The center is even home to a French language class, and some of the children who are taking lessons sang in French at the jubilee Mass.

“We see the future in them. That’s why they are present. We had sisters from the past. We have people in the present, and we also have the future,” says Father Maria Doss. “Those children are the future. I had one little girl come, and she said she wanted to be a nun.”

The people of the St. John River Valley say they are grateful the center is thriving once again.

“We’re glad to see it is not closing down,” says Lavoie. “It is nice to have a place to come and to be able to use this wonderful building, which has been here for so long. Many have gone through these doors for a reason.”

Bishop Robert Deeley
View from the back of the church
Presentation of a banner to the bishop
Children sing a French hymn
Overhead view