Recalling his smile, his laugh, and his love for life, parishioners gathered with Bishop Robert Deeley on Sunday, September 12, to dedicate the pastoral wing of Holy Trinity Church in Lewiston in memory of Father Lionel Chouinard, who served as pastor there for 17 years.
“Thanks to the hard work and prayers of Father Lionel Chouinard and so many members of this parish, this hall has been a center for your activities and a place where you have come to know one another and give witness to our faith in Christ,” the bishop said. “With praise and thanksgiving, we ask God to look kindly on the soul of Father Chouinard as we dedicate this hall to his memory.”
Father Chouinard began his ministry in Lisbon Falls shortly after Holy Trinity Church was dedicated in December 1999. The new church was built to serve members of three parishes that had merged – Saint Anne in Lisbon, Saints Cyril and Methodius in Lisbon Falls, and Holy Family in Lisbon Falls – and Father Chouinard is credited with helping to bring the three communities together as one.
“He put his heart and soul into this place and loved everybody, and they loved him back,” said Donald Martel, who helped to plan the dedication ceremony. “I think he really deserves this dedication.”
“I think it’s appropriate to dedicate the hall in his honor because he gave his everything to our parish here for so many years,” said Jennifer Bussiere, who served as office manager at the church during Father Chouinard’s later years there. “He was just very special to all of us parishioners here.”
A few years after the completion of the church, the pastoral wing was added under Father Chouinard’s guidance. During a Mass that preceded the dedication ceremony, Bishop Deeley recalled Father Chouinard giving him a tour of the building when he visited following his installation as bishop.
“We went through each classroom and office. It became very evident that he had been very involved in creating this space. It was also evident that the space was more than a building. For Father Chouinard, it was a place to celebrate the parish and its people. It was a place of formation in faith and for gathering the community for educational and social events. Connected structurally to the church, it would be the place where the parish lived the life received from the Eucharist. What was nurtured in church from Scripture and sacrament would come alive in building a community in the center, which would be about living the faith in service to each other and the wider community,” the bishop said.
The pastoral center, which continues to be a place for the community to gather and for children to learn, now bears Father Chouinard’s name. During the dedication ceremony, Bishop Deeley and parishioner George Janosco unveiled a portrait of Father Chouinard and two plaques which will hang there. The plaques read: “Welcome to The Fr. Lionel G. Chouinard Center dedicated Sept. 12, 2021 to the priestly commitment of a beloved servant of God. Ordained May 22, 1963. In God’s presence Feb. 23, 2019.”
“It’s fitting that there is a lasting remembrance here for him,” said Janosco. “He is just a wonderful person who went above and beyond for so many people.”
During his time in Lisbon Falls, Father Chouinard additionally served as administrator of Holy Family Parish in Lewiston for one year, and in 2008, he also became pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Sabattus. In 2020, Holy Trinity and Our Lady of the Rosary joined Holy Family, Holy Cross Church, and the Basilica of Ss. Peter & Paul, as part of Prince of Peace Parish in Lewiston.
Father Daniel Greenleaf, pastor of Prince of Peace, said as the parish looks to the future, it is also essential to remember and celebrate the past, which is why he believed it was important to honor the contributions of Father Chouinard.
“Now that our area parishes have completed the clustering and have become one new parish, I thought honoring Father Chouinard at Holy Trinity was a great way to memorialize all that he did for them and to secure that his memory lives on even as the parish forms a new identity. The history, culture, and memory of a people in a parish are things to treasure, foster, and nurture in our parishes because faith itself is handed on through these human experiences,” he said.
Such was Father Chouinard’s love and commitment to the community that he continued to serve there until 2017, well past the age of retirement. He died on February 23, 2019.