Volunteers enjoy new walk-in freezer at St. André Bessette.
Clarice Keating Of the Catholic Sentinel
Archbishop Alexander Sample was among the donors, parishioners and community members who visited St. André Bessette Parish in downtown Portland for its “Day of Gratitude.”
The event, which started with morning hospitality and ended with an evening celebration, was coordinated by parish staff as a way to thank everyone who helped them reach capital campaign fundraising goals and subsequent remodel. Holy Cross Father Steve Newton, former pastor, led the parish as it launched the campaign, and current administrator, Holy Cross Father John Patrick Riley, arrived while fundraising was in full swing.
Father Riley credited Father Newton’s vision for starting the Open Doors Campaign. “Without it, we would not have been able to keep those doors open for hospitality,” he said. Father Riley oversaw a remodel that provides more space for the parish’s ministries. Anyone can stop in at the parish for a haircut, clean clothes, a hot cup of coffee, something to eat, and other basic services. Volunteers and staff provide a safe and healthy environment for guests as they seek respite from the suffering of surviving poverty, homelessness, mental illness and addiction.
“I asked everybody to pray for greater trust in divine providence and for generous alms to come our way,” Father Riley said. “That prayer continues as we seek sustained giving for the parish and its programs.”
Donations arrived in all forms, including a $50,000 anonymous gift.
The campaign funded better kitchen equipment. Volunteers are particularly excited about a new walk-in refrigerator and freezer that will allow the parish to accept bulk food donations. In the past, they were limited to non-perishable food.
All staff offices were relocated to the third floor, where the parish rectory had previously been located. That change left more space in the basement, where the parish added a laundry facility, handicap accessible bathrooms, expanded men’s and women’s clothing facilities, and a community library.
The parish also added a food pantry, where clients can shop for items off the shelves, instead of receiving pre-packed food boxes. That way, people can take what they know they will eat and nothing goes to waste, said Jessica Alesky, director of marketing and development.