YORK BEACH, Maine — With so many summer chapels and mission churches open across Maine during the warmer months, scheduling priests to fill the Mass schedules can be daunting.
So when Star of the Sea Church in York Beach found itself needing a priest for over 350 people assembled for Sunday Mass Aug. 21, they received an unexpected assist.
Portland Bishop Robert P. Deeley came to celebrate Mass for the mix of locals and travelers, joined by Msgr. Marc Caron, the diocese’s vicar general.
Many of the faithful on Sunday were visiting Maine and struck with surprise upon seeing the state’s lone Catholic bishop entering the church.
“Oh my goodness,” said Muriel. “I didn’t expect to see the bishop here.”
“It was such a nice surprise and a beautiful Mass,” said Sheilah. “The smiles were visible all throughout the church.”
“I am, as they say, the supply priest this morning,” the bishop told the assembly, who responded with a chorus of laughter.
The bishop told those gathered that although his visit didn’t mark a special occasion, every time people gather for the celebration of the Eucharist, it is the most important thing a parish community can do.
“Jesus’ presence to us in the Eucharist is our food for the journey of life. How grateful we can be that this chapel exists as the place in which this community is able to gather and celebrate,” said the bishop, “and how grateful can we be, that when we come here for Mass, there is, in fact a gathering of people. There is a community.”
“We support each other in the living of our faith by coming together in this way, celebrating this Eucharist,” he said.
Even on vacation, we need to live our faith each day, Deeley added.
“Here, in this chapel, we are formed for the world. Here we are changed by the presence of Jesus. Here we are sent forth to witness to his message,” he said. “Living the Christian life takes effort. It calls us to give of ourselves. Jesus’ way of life calls us to get beyond our own interests.”
“We are asked to care for others, and to think of others,” he said. “When we gather as a community at Eucharist, just by the very act of celebrating the Mass, we are reminded of our need for each other, and of the ways in which God has blessed us, how his mercy is great, and his love is all-embracing.”
Star of the Sea Church is open from late May through mid-October to accommodate the influx of tourists.
“We love coming here to visit our children and it’s wonderful to see the bishop appreciate this church as much as we do,” said Janice, a visitor from Massachusetts.