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Great Gift Ideas:
A History of Our Lady of Holy Hope
by Elizabeth Duff
A University of Maine archaeological team recently established that a Catholic chapel was originally built by the French in 1635 on the site of the present Our Lady of Holy Hope chapel in Castine. From all indications this mission was one of the first in Maine and in the United States.
French church records show that in 1630 Cardinal Richelieu petitioned Rome to send Capuchin missionaries to New England to care for the French, English and Indians. In 1632, a French vessel from Nova Scotia captured a British trading post at the confluence of the Bagaduce and Penobscot Rivers. Initial evidence of an early chapel was unearthed in 1865 when a copper plate was found near the Fort Pentagoet site. When cleaned and translated from Latin, it read, 11 June 1648 I, Father Leo, Capuchin of Parish, dedicate this land to Our Lady of Holy Hope.
Pentagoet was again taken by the British in 1645 but returned to France in 1667 by the treaty of Breda. At about the same time in Quebec, the French regiment "Carignan Salieres" was disbanded. A young officer and French nobleman named Jean-Vincent D'Abbadie de Saint-Castin decided to remain in the colonies rather than return to France.
Traveling to the area of the Penobscot River, he established excellent relations with the Indians and, in fact, married Mathilde, daughter of Madocawando, a sagamore of the Tarratines. There is no doubt that Castin aided the missionaries in converting the Indians to Catholicism as well as establishing good relations between the French and Indians.
Between 1632 and 1655, five Capuchin priests and a Brother of that Order served at the wilderness mission. When the Fort fell into British hands the Capuchins departed with the French soldiers. Father Louis Molin, a Recollect, stayed behind to serve the Indian converts. Louis-Pierre Thury of the Quebec Foreign Mission Seminary arrived in 1688 to work with the Indians east of the Penobscot River. He induced his Indian Parishioners to move to a site near the present Verona Island. Later this mission moved to Passadumkeag. When Baron Castin returned to France in 1701, the last resistance to the establishment of an English settlement was gone and the Catholic chapel at Pentagoet was abandoned.
A land survey map circa 1785 shows that the land where Fort Pentagoet once stood was owned by Aaron Banks, who had a house nearby. Later, the land was sold to Benjamin Coombs who built a house on the site in 18 80. The little house changed hands several times until, in 1920, James Norton sold it and the land on which Fort Pentagoet once stood to the Catholic Diocese of Portland.
By the following, year the house had been converted into a chapel. On August 29, 1921, the new church, named "Our Lady of Holy Hope" for the early chapel, was dedicated by the Right Reverend Louis S. Welsh, Bishop of Portland. Dedication ceremonies were attended by Catholic Clergy from all parts of the State of Maine, New York, Maryland, and Canada. Thirty members of the Penobscot Indian Tribe joined in the celebration. The sermon was delivered by the Reverend Thomas J. Campbell of New York.
In 1985, pastor Father Eugene Gaffey and Dr. Alaric Faulkner, led Our Lady of Holy Hope Parishioners in a day long celebration of 350 years of the Catholic religion in Castine. This celebration was followed in 1987 by the publication of Dr. and Mrs. Faulkner's book The French at Pentagoedt...1635-1674: An Archaeological Portrait of the Acadian Frontier." This, plus Dr. Faulkner's continued archeological studies at Baron Castin's habitation further along the Bagaduce River fostered continued interest in early French presence in the area.
National recognition of Castine's importance in the early European settlement of Maine and the northeast came about in 1994. The grounds of Our Lady of Holy Hope Church and the site of Baron Castin's habitation received National Historic Landmark status as The Pentagoet Archeological District. A ceremony was held on church grounds on August 21, 1994. Speakers included Father John O'Hara, pastor; Dr. Nancy McWilliams, president of the parish council; Dr. Alaric Faulkner, professor of Anthropology, University of Maine, Orono; Jerry Pardilla, Governor, Penobscot Indian Nation; and Robert Grumet, archaeologist, Mid-Atlantic Region, National Park Service. An official bronze plaque marking the site had been installed atop the well, a part of the original Fort Pentagoet. It was unveiled by two Castine residents: Miss Louise Wheeler, granddaughter of prominent Castine historian, Dr. George Wheeler; and Mr. Paul E. Cyr, a direct descendant of Major Germain Doucet "Captain at-arms" of Fort Pentagoet.
Our Lady Of Holy Hope Catholic Church, Castine, Maine
Parish Membership 1999
Lady Of Holy Hope Endowment Fund