History of St. Bartholomew's Parish
In September 1968, the Most Rev. Peter L. Gerety, then Bishop of Portland commissioned Saint Bartholomew Parish to serve the Catholic community of Cape Elizabeth. Prior to this date, Cape Elizabeth Catholics were members of Holy Cross Parish in South Portland. At that time the parish numbered approximately 500 families. Father R. Michael McGarrigle, living in a house in Brentwood, was the first pastor of St. Bartholomew. Mass was held in the High School gymnasium (what is now the Middle School gym) and religious education classes were taught in the teachers’ homes. In February 1970, plans began for a new church to be built on the corner of Rt. 77 and Broad Cove Rd.
The design was that of a modern, “functional” church which could be used as church, hall, and meeting and social space. The architect was John Leasure of Leasure, Tuttle & Lee. The contractor was Everett N. Dobson & Sons. The cost of construction was approximately $500,000. A fund drive was initiated in September 1970, to raise $200,000 toward the cost of the new church. The fund drive was headed by Tom Fee and Joe Foley. Stephen Parker was the President of the Building Committee and Leroy Rand was the President of the Pastoral Council. On December 19, 1971, Bishop Gerety blessed the new building.
After Father McGarrigle’s tenure was completed, the parish was served by a succession of pastors: Father Roland Normandeau, Father Harold W. Nicknair, Father Francis J. Kane, and Father John J. Feeney. During these years the parish grew substantially in number of parishioners, but also in activities and programs. By 1997, there were approximately 800 registered families. Parishioners in concert with Father John J. Feeney determined that the facility was no longer fully adequate to the many needs of an active parish on the verge of a new millennium.
In 1996, the Facilities and Planning Committee, under the chairmanship of John Deckro, had already been established to consider the desirability and feasibility of a significant renovation of the complex. A conceptual plan of this renovation and new construction was presented to the parish in June 1997, after receiving the approval of the Parish Pastoral Council, then chaired by James Walsh. Harriman Associates of Auburn were hired as the architectural firm. On July 1, 1997, Father Michael J. Henchal (in October of 2000 FAther Henchal became Monsignor Henchal) was appointed the new pastor of Saint Bartholomew Parish. The firm of Community Counseling Service Co., Inc. was engaged as fund raising consultants for the capital campaign in December 1997. With the ongoing advice of the Facilities and Planning Committee, the Parish Pastoral Council, then chaired by Mary Arnold, and Father Feeney, the pastor emeritus, Father Henchal oversaw the completion of the construction plans. Langford and Low was hired in April 1999, as general contractor for the new complex. The Most Rev. Joseph J. Gerry, O.S.B. Bishop of Portland, broke ground for the new hall on April 20, 1999 and work began almost immediately. The final Mass in the former church was held on Sunday, April 25, 1999. During the construction, weekend Masses were celebrated at the Pond Cove School cafetorium. Daily Masses took place in the living room of the rectory. The church was dedicated on Sunday, December 12, 1999, by Bishop Joseph. Completion and occupation of the offices, the meeting rooms and the hall took place in stages through the months of January and February 2000.
At the Mass of Dedication of the new church, the Bishop quoted the words of Father Michael McGarrigle, the founding pastor, from an interview Father had given in Church World, the diocesan newspaper, at the time of the blessing of the original building: “You are the church. This is our facility to help us, with the grace of God, to carry on his work here in Cape Elizabeth, for today, tomorrow, and the generations to come.” Bishop Joseph affirmed those words and added, “As lovely as this building is, it will become even more beautiful as you create its beauty from the holiness of your lives… Today, you dedicate not only a new sacred space, you rededicate yourselves to be faithful stewards of the gifts of God, to be bearers of God’s presence to your homes and to the world. May you continue the good work which has already been begun here. Beautify this place as you did the former one with the generosity and holiness of your lives. In this way, men and women who may never step foot within this church or any other, will have an opportunity to encounter the living God in your lives, in the church which you are, the living sign of the ever present Lord.” As a relatively young parish, St. Bartholomew does not have the legacies of older parishes, but because of the dedication of the Catholic community of Cape Elizabeth, this parish is rich in the values of the Church teachings and practices.
In June of 2006, Msgr. Henchal became the administrator of both St. Bartholomew Parish and St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Scarborough. Then in the Fall of 2008, he became adminstrator of Holy Cross and St. John's Parishes in South Portland in addition. Msgr. Paul Stefanko joined Msgr. Henchal in January 2009 and the two serve the four parishes of the cluster together with Msgr. Henchal as pastor.
About St. Bartholomew the Apostle
The patron saint of our parish, St. Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael, came from Cana in Galilee. He was first introduced to Jesus by his friend, Philip. When Bartholomew heard that Jesus was from Nazareth, he was doubtful and asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Jesus described him as a “true Israelite, free from all deceit.” Bartholomew was the first among the Apostles to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, when he cried out, "Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel." Nathanael was one of those who went fishing with St. Peter on the Sea of Galilee after the Resurrection. The risen Savior appeared to them on the beach and prepared a breakfast for them. Bartholomew preached the Gospel in Persia, India and finally in Armenia, where he suffered a gruesome martyrdom by being flayed alive. We celebrate St. Bartholomew’s feast day on August 24. He is the patron saint of surgeons, butchers, tanners and bookbinders.