St. Charles Borromeo Church History

St. Charles Borromeo Church History

The  history of St. Charles Borromeo Parish begins in October, 1930 when the Most Rev. John Gregory Murray, Bishop of Portland, send the Rev. Thomas W. Dunnagan, as Pastor, to begin the work of establishing the new parish. It was hoped that the new parish would care for both the spiritual needs of the English speaking people of Brunswick and for the Catholic students at Bowdoin College. Land and a building were purchased at the corner of Maine and Noble Streets where construction of the new church began November 28, 1930. Bowdoin College’s President, Kenneth Sills graciously allow the use of the college chapel until the end of January 1931, when a large enough portion of the new church was constructed, allowing Mass to be conducted in the Sacristy until completion of the main church.

It was only a small group of parishioners who formed the new parish, but they were dedicated and loyal. Fr. Dunnagan worked hard to establish his new church and continued his efforts as pastor until 1939 when his health deteriorated, resulting in his death. He was followed by Rev. John L. Doherty, who served as pastor from 1939 until 1955, and Rev. J. Walter McFarlane, who was pastor from 1955 until 1967.

In 1967, St. Charles’ fourth pastor Rev. Edward C. O’Leary (who later became Bishop of the Diocese of Portland), began coordinating a new building initiative which started with the purchase of land on McKeen St. in Brunswick, and ended with the construction of our present church. By 1970, 600 families were enrolled and Fr. John P. Davis was named to care for the Newman Apostolate at Bowdoin College, while Fr. Gerard C. Doyon was assigned to assist Msgr. O’Leary.

With the ordination of Msgr. O’Leary as Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese, the Rev. James E. Knox became Pastor of St. Charles in 1971. In 1974 the Cimino Construction Company from Portland was awarded the bid to build the church, and on November 1, 1975 the first Mass was celebrated at 132 McKeen St.- exactly forty-five years to the day that Mass was first offered at the Bowdoin College Chapel by Fr. Dunnagan.  The former church on Maine and Noble streets stood for many years, not as a church, but rather as the home of the “55 Plus Center” of Brunswick.

During Fr. Knox’s tenure, the Reverends Daniel M. Nee, Frank M. Morin, D. Joseph Manship and James P. Brewer served as associates. Irene J. Doyon was commissioned the parish’s first Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, and he visited the sick and needy as a staff member for a dozen years.

In January 1982 the parish welcomed Rev. Richard O’Donnell as pastor and he served St. Charles until 1993, The Rev. John Davis served as pastor until the appointment of The Rev. Donald Jacques, who retired from active ministry in 1997. Family Groups were formed at St. Charles during Fr. Jacques' tenure as pastor.

The Rev. Stephen F. Concannon arrived as pastor in 1997 and continued in that capacity until retirement in July 2009, when St. Charles became one of the seven churches that make up All Saints Parish.

Under Fr. Concannon’s leadership, some 900 families were enrolled and St. Charles parishioners became involved in numerous ministries within the parish and the Brunswick area community. St. Charles became known as a “welcoming parish” and also increased the number of Family Groups, which has helped bring together parishioners as a spiritual and social community. In 1998, St. Charles became a Covenant Church for Habitat for Humanity, and since that time more than a dozen homes have been built with the aid of parishioners from St. Charles. This project also was the beginning of the now famous Lenten Haddock Suppers, which annually raise thousands of dollars for both community and parish ministries.

In March 1999, Fr. Concannon led the movement for St. Charles to become a Stewardship parish. Based on a questionnaire assessment of parishioners, numerous new ministries were created. The most mentioned need was for a religious adult education program. Within six months a program was created under the direction of Sheila Murphy, which has grown to include a wide range of seminars, lectures, reading programs and Bible study. The early motto of parish stewardship was “if everyone would do a little bit, together we can accomplish a lot.” In 2003, Bishop Malone, presented Fr. Concannon with the Diocesan Stewardship award for his many contributions in furthering stewardship at St. Charles and within the Diocese of Maine.

St. Charles has also been active in supporting Catholic parishes in Cuba and Uganda. Our parish youth also are active in ministry outreach to the poor and disadvantaged, to include participation in the HEFER program.

In 2000 a new wing was added to the church and plans began for the building of a new summer chapel. For years St. Charles operated two mission chapels during summer months. They were: Chapel of St. Mary by the Sea in Harpswell and the Chapel of Precious Blood at Bailey Island. The chapels were testimony to the deep faith of those who, living in other places, worked hard to create a chapel at a place where they would spend a part of their leisure and vacation time. The Bailey Island chapel was a gift of Mrs. Elizabeth M. Barry of Ayer, MA., in memory of her husband, John J. Barry. Over the years the two chapels underwent building enlargement and modifications and, in September 2000, were closed permanently due to age. The plan was to replace these chapels with a single chapel on the Mountain  Road in Harpswell, named Saint Katharine Drexel. Construction was accomplished largely by the talents and dedication of St. Charles parishioners, under the volunteer General Contractor, parishioner Claude Phillipon. This chapel was completed in the spring of 2001 and was dedicated and opened by the Bishop of Portland, Joseph Gerry, on May 27, 2001. It continues the rich tradition of operating as the summer mission chapel for visitors to Maine as part of All Saints Parish.

As a member of All Saints Parish, St. Charles Borromeo Church continues to offer countless opportunities to worship God, connect with other Christians and form new lasting friendships. The kindness of older parishioners, the enthusiasm of youth, and the cries of infants that herald the next generation proclaim the vitality of the Catholic Christian faith at St. Charles.

In 2005 Bishop Richard J. Malone's Pastoral Letter "Telling Anew the Story of Jesus Christ set the stage for the former parishes of Cluster 15 to plan a new future together. After much work, communication, compromise, and planning the historical day of July 1, 2009 happened. More than 200 years of parish histories came together. On this date, St. Charles Borromeo Parish became part of the new All Saints Parish comprised of St. John the Baptist Church, St. Mary Church, St.Charles Borremeo Church, St. Ambrose Church, St. Patrick Church, Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, and St. Katharine Drexel Summer Chapel.