A standing room only crowd filled St. Francis Xavier Church in Winthrop on Sunday, July 22, to celebrate Sunday Mass and the golden jubilee of Sister Carol Martin, PFM. Sister Carol is currently RCIA and faith formation coordinator at St. Francis Xavier and has served at St. Michael Parish, of which St. Francis is a part, for nearly a decade.
“We honor Sister Carol today and give thanks to God for 50 years of service, for being a wonderful shepherd of souls, of hearts, of lives, leading so many others to an experience of the True Shepherd,” said Father John Skehan, pastor.
“I’m very thankful. I’m very grateful to God first of all and for the people who have been in my life and have made this meaningful, for having the grace to be able to serve and to help people,” Sister Carol said.
During the Mass, Sister Carol, who is originally from Eagle Lake, renewed the vows she made to the Little Franciscans of Mary in Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec, on August 21, 1968.
“I embrace the humanness in and with Jesus Christ as I choose to continue to try to remain open to your will for me through prayer and discernment by my vow of obedience,” she said. “I strive to be attentive to the needs of others as manifested to me through people, events, and situations by my vow of poverty. I try to love those you place in my life with a love that frees and allows others to grow and become their best self by my vow of chastity.”
After she renewed her vows, members of the congregation joined in raising their right hands and praying for her in song. Sister Carol then received a blessing from Father Skehan.
Sister Carol said that throughout her 50 years in consecrated life, she has always tried to minister with joy.
“I am always so very concerned about giving a positive image of the Church, a joyful image,” she said. “I’ve always tried to be joyful and show that if Christ means something to us, we have to show it. It has to show in our face.”
As it so often does with Sister Carol. She is known for her smile, her laugh, and her wit.
“She is vibrant and joyful, just so easy to get to know, so easy to work with,” said Christine Michaud, a great niece, who also worked with her as a catechist in the parish. “I loved working for her. She is just a lovely person, a lot of fun to be around. There is no judgment from Sister Carol. You can just tell that God surrounds her.”
“It’s her genuine character, her loving nature. She is just a sweetheart. I just love her,” said Rena Michaud, who now lives in Winthrop but has known Sister Carol since the two attended high school together in St. Agatha.
“What makes Carol so special is that she is so easygoing with everybody. She just seems to fit right in very quickly with whatever task she wants to be involved in,” said Father Frank Morin, former pastor, who has known Sister Carol for decades. “She has always been a typical northern Mainer, someone who always makes you feel welcome.”
“It’s been a grace for me to live with her for over 35 years,” said Sister Juanita Robichaud, PFM. “She has been my best friend and a great support, and I thank the Lord for that.”
Sister Juanita was among several members of the Little Franciscans of Mary who attended the celebration. They also included Sister Doris Lamontagne, the superior general, who traveled from Quebec to be present and to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for Sister Carol and her ministry.
Sister Carol has served in many different ministries over the past 50 years. From 1971 to 1975, she did pastoral work and faith formation at St. Louis Parish in Auburn. After receiving a degree in nutrition from the University of Maine in Orono in 1976, she went to work for the Aroostook County Action Program as a WIC nutritionist until 1991. She then moved to Calais, taking a position with Action Opportunities as a Head Start nutritionist. In 1995, she returned to pastoral work, serving at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Houlton until 2003 when she became a resource person for the Diocese of Portland’s Office of Catechetics and Initiation, living and serving in the Augusta area. She then began her work at St. Michael Parish.
Sister Carol also serves as spiritual director for the St. John the Baptist Fraternity of the Secular Franciscans in Waterville. And thanks to her work in Houlton years earlier, a fraternity was recently established at the parish there.
“We just see the grace of God through all her goodness, her joy, and the peace and love that she shares in her life,” said Dan Spofford, OFS, a member of the St. John the Baptist Fraternity, who was among several Secular Franciscans who attended the jubilee Mass. “We are all very thankful for our dear Sister Carol.”
The Mass was followed by a brunch in the church hall, where family members and friends shared memories about their encounters with Sister Carol and where a video display showed images from throughout her life.