Catholic church in Madawaska reopens two months after it was vandalized

3 months ago

MADAWASKA, Maine – Just two months after an act of vandalism shut down St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Madawaska, the church reopened on Thursday night with a Mass of reparation led by Bishop Robert Deeley.

Before the Mass, which was attended by approximately 200 people, Deeley said the reopening aligns with the belief of new life and resurrection.

“What this represents today is a new beginning for this church,” he said, “which had been vandalized. And now, with great joy, it gets to be opened again, and we get to use it for worship, which is its purpose – to bring people closer to the Lord and to each other.”

Police arrested Randy Lavoie, 47, of Madawaska, on Oct. 2 in connection with the vandalism. Madawaska Police Chief Jamie Pelletier said the most significant damage was done to the pipe organ. Marble walls and plate glass windows were also damaged, along with other items in the church’s sanctuary.

Repairs are estimated to cost between $200,000 and $300,000, according to Molly DiLorenzo, Director of Communications for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

Rev. Kent Ouellette, the church’s pastor, said that the organ will not be repaired before Christmas, but that it will be repairable. He said a parishioner has offered to donate an organ in the meantime. 

Ouellette was not able to provide an exact price, but said that, with inflation, the repairs will cost more than the original price of the organ in the 1960s.

Deeley commended the community’s work in reopening the church after just two months.

“What happened was shocking,” he said. “But understandable, there are so many things happening in our culture these days. But the community wanted this all put back together again, and they’ve been wonderful in cooperating to make that possible. It’s only been a couple of months and every bit of cooperation made it possible for us to get to this night.”

MADAWASKA, Maine — November 30, 2023 — Over 100 people attended a Mass of Reparation that marked the reopening of the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Madawaska. The church was closed for two months following an act of vandalism that occurred in early October. (Chris Bouchard | St. John Valley Times)

Ouellette said that while the costs for repair were covered by the church’s insurance, there were others who did fundraising on their own. He said one example includes a parishioner who has since moved away, but the pastor at their current church decided to send a small donation.

“When a church is vandalized and all these things have happened to it, it really makes a difference that people do care,’’ Ouellette said. “People know that, so it makes them feel better as well, because they would help others in the same situation.”

Even though members of the church were able to worship at St. David’s Catholic Church in Madawaska, Ouellette said it means a great deal for them to be able to return to their own church.

“People have a lot of pride in this church,” he said. “People have been here all of their lives. They’ve been baptized here. They’ve been married here. There’s a lot of pride in the place itself, but there is also a sense of community. This is their church. So it just makes it very wonderful to come back home.”

This story was amended to correct the estimated attendance at the Mass.