Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland

12/07/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 12/07/2019 22:31

Cathedral's 150th anniversary celebrated with Mass and reception benefiting the St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen

'Through the intercession of Mary, under her title of the Immaculate Conception, may we continue to find in the Gospel both our hope and our direction. In that way. the beauty of this cathedral will not just be stone and glass but a community living what we celebrate here.' - Bishop Robert Deeley

The Diocese of Portland brought the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to a close with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert Deeley and a reception to benefit the St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen, which, itself, is nearly a half century old.

The Mass was celebrated on December 7, just two days before the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a feast day in the Church. It is to Mary under that title that the cathedral was dedicated on September 8, 1869.

'The cathedral is a special place. Visually and spiritually, it helps to remind us that we are Church. But what makes it a holy place is the fact that this is the house of God. It is he who gathers us and he who sends us forth: to Guild Hall, for the benefit for the kitchen, and beyond, to our city and world, to bring the good news we know here to those we encounter. God is here in Jesus. We can trust in his presence,' the bishop said during the Mass.

Bishop Deeley said that Mary is the perfect model of hope during the Advent season because she placed her trust in the Lord. He said we are called to do the same and to live in the hope of Christ and the love of God.

'That promise, that hope, in which we live makes our lives different now. We live as a people who believe we are of eternal worth, and we want to share that message with others. We live with the intention to pass on what we believe and hope. We live to do God's will, to transform our world with the love we know as Jesus,' the bishop said.

That is something the volunteers at the St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen have long been committed to doing. The soup kitchen, which is located at cathedral's Guild Hall, has been welcoming anyone who wants a hot meal since the early 1970s.

'We're celebrating the cathedral and what a beautiful building it is, but this is where it comes to life,' the bishop said, during remarks at the reception that followed the Mass. 'I couldn't think of a more worthy project for our support with our anniversary celebration.'

'What makes St. Vincent so great is the fact that we don't ask who you are, what your income is. You come in; we take care of you.,' said Jesse Senore, the director for the past six years. 'We just welcome you and give you the best service that we can, and hopefully, that gets you over your day of need.'

Senore said the kitchen serves between 100 and 160 people each weekday, which adds up to more 36,000 meals served a year. In addition, it provides meals for people to take home for dinner, as well as fresh fruit and canned and box goods that guests can also take with them. On Fridays, there is also a clothing ministry.

'They just want to come in and have a place to put their hat down and not have to worry about anything, at least for the hour they're here. Sometimes, we have people come three or four times a week, sometimes every day. It depends on what their needs are,' said Senore.

The St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen is entirely volunteer run, with about 100 volunteers helping throughout the year.

Years ago, before he was a priest, those volunteers included Father Robert Lupo, who traveled from Dexter to concelebrate the Mass and attend the reception.

Father Lupo remembers helping Coleman Walsh, the founder of the soup kitchen and an important influence in his life, prepare soup for Monday meals.

'It's been here for more than 40 years, and it's always served anybody who was in need, anybody who wanted to come in. And now, of all times, it's as important or even more important than it was. That's what Christ calls us to do -- to reach out to those in need and to treat them with respect, to treat them like human beings, and that is what happens when somebody walks into St. Vincent's,' Father Lupo said.

The soup kitchen gets its funding and food primarily through donations. Senore said it receives no grants and no government funding.

'All we pray for is that we get enough money to keep going to the next year and to the next year,' he said. 'We rely on God. God is going to take care of us, and when he doesn't want us to do it anymore, he'll let us know, but until then, we're going to be here.'

The anniversary reception resulted in an estimated $6,000 in donations to help the soup kitchen continue it work. The money was presented to Senore ceremonially, in the form of a giant check, by Bishop Deeley; Father Greg Dube, rector of the cathedral; and Eric Wycoff, the organizer of the reception.

'It's such an important ministry here in the center of our city, serving those who are in need and living out the Gospel,' said Wycoff. 'St. Vincent de Paul does a really great job of serving people in need in our community. They serve meals five years a week, and the number of meals they serve is really staggering.'

All the food served at the reception was paid for by sponsors, so every dollar donated went directly to the soup kitchen's ministry.

Sponsors of the event included A.T. Hutchins Funeral and Cremation Services; Conroy-Tully Walker Funeral Homes & Cremation Services; Jones, Rich & Barnes Funeral Home; Maria's Ristorante; and the Diocese of Portland.

The St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen serves meals Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Guild Hall, which is located adjacent to the cathedral at 307 Congress Street.