Parish History


 Parish History

Contact: Joe Losquadro
[email protected]

References: The information for this page comes from the following sources, which on occasion conflict with one another, particularly when it comes to dates. We will work to continue to improve the accuracy. Joe Losquadro, Editor

Byrne, William, and William Augustine Leahy. History of the Catholic Church in the New England States. Boston: Hurd & Everts, 1899. Print.

Campbell, Thomas. "John Bapst." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 5 Jun. 2010 <>.

Davis, Albert H. History of Ellsworth Maine, Lewiston Journal Printshop, Lewiston, Maine, 1927 (pp. 135-138) Davis History

Lester, Thomas, Boston Pilot, "Tarred and Feathered -- the 1854 Letter of Father Bapst, by Thomas Lester, posted online October 7, 2016 at:

MacDonough, Richard B. Some of the information contained herein was extracted from a document, "Historical Notes on St. Joseph's Parish, Ellsworth, ME," by (Rev.) Richard B. MacDonough, S.S., dated August 1986. Those entries are annotated as "MacD." The document may be viewed at Fr. MacDonough Notes. Some dates conflict with other sources. Included in Fr. MacDonough's notes was reference to an article in The Church World dated June 28, 1940 and cited as "Church World."

St. Sylvia's Catholic Church, Bar Harbor, Maine Memory Network

Ellsworth American. Various citations from the Ellsworth American weekly newspaper, annotated "EA."

Mid 1800s. Ellsworth, Maine, was visited by missionary priests for many years before Catholics of the town enjoyed the ministrations of a resident pastor. From an article in "The Church World," June 28, 1940, "The parish dates back to the decade of 1840-1850. when Catholics were few in number. A small building was bought, on High Street between Elm and Dean Streets, and remodeled into a chapel. Mass was said there only four times a year. The priest seems to have been Rev. Thomas O'Sullivan of St. Michael's in Bangor (MacD).   

1848-1853 Rev. James C. Moore, S.J., was the first pastor who fixed his residence here in 1848. Early in the fifties, the chapel became a school, and in about 1852 a church was built nearby. The church was burnt two years later." (MacD). Father Moore remained for about six years, and was succeeded by Rev. John Bapst, S.J., of sainted memory, who continued in the pastorate two years. Even before the official founding , the first Catholic Church in Ellsworth, located on High Street was built in 1853. That church was burned during an anti-Catholic rally in April 1856.


1853-1854 Fr. John Bapst, one of the earliest pastors of St. Joseph, Ellsworth, “… arrived in New York in 1848 and, though ignorant of both English and Indian, was sent to minister to the Indians at Old Town, Maine.  He arrived on Aug. 7, 1848, with no knowledge of English, the Ponobscot language, or their customs. As a testament to his character and determination, Father Bapst was able to overcome these deficiencies within a few short months, and soon became an integral part of the community.  The inhabitants received him with every demonstration of joy, but he found them in a very degraded moral condition. They had been without a priest for twenty years, and he laboured zealously for their reformation. He founded several temperance societies in Maine.  

In 1850 he left Old Town for Eastport. His work immediately began to attract attention, both for its results among Catholics and the number of converts who were brought into the Church.  As his missions covered a large extent of territory, he became generally known through the State.  In 1853,  Father Bapst visited the community in Ellsworth and delivered a series of lectures on the Catholic Church. In doing so, he made several converts in the community, but also aggravated the Know-Nothing elements of the community, which "denounced (him) from the pulpit and in the press. (And) he was warned that he would suffer injury if he did not stop."  

In October of the same year, another incident occurred which increased the friction between these groups. The local school teacher declared that all students were required to read the Protestant Bible in school or they would not be able to attend. This policy was approved by the local school committee, and after two students were expelled, Father Bapst and his parishioners petitioned the committee to reconsider.  The committee stood by its decision, and, undeterred, Father Bapst decided to form a school for his parishioners.

In January 1853 Fr. Bapst and Fr. Vigilante took up residence in Ellsworth. (MacD)

By 1854, when the Know-Nothing excitement broke out he was at Ellsworth. Besides being disliked as a Catholic priest, he was particularly obnoxious because of his efforts to establish a Catholic school there. On October 14, 1854 a mob appeared outside the home of a local family he was staying with, and demanded he come out to meet them. Hoping to avoid any harm coming to the family or their home, he gave himself up to the crowd, and was taken to the Ellsworth Machine Company where he was stripped, tarred, and feathered. He was then carried on a rail through the streets and left unconscious at Tisdale's Wharf. It is believed to be the only time in American history that a Catholic priest was assaulted in such a way.

Luckily, Fr. Bapst was not killed in the brutal attack. Upon regaining consciousness, he was met by a group of Catholic men who had set out to find him, and brought back to the home from which he was taken to recover. Despite this brutal episode, under guard of armed local Catholics he still said Mass Sunday morning, and again the next day, before returning to Bangor by carriage. The incident was investigated by the State Attorney General, but none of the offenders were prosecuted.

Four years later he was assigned to Boston where he oversaw the construction of Boston College and served as its first president. The library there is named for him, as is the former Catholic high school in Bangor.

1854-???? Rev. Eugene Vetromile After the church was burned, he said mass in the house of Charles Monaghan on State St. Fr. Force officiated there with Fr. Vetromile. (MacD)

????-1860? Rev. Fr. Caraher was the first permanent pastor in Ellsworth. He remained several years. He built a church on Chapel Street off Bridge Hill. 

1860?-1865 Rev. Father John Madden, the next pastor, administered the affairs of the parish during five years. According to records in the archives of the Diocese of Portland, St. Joseph's parish was founded in 1862. 

1865-1867 Rev. Father James Durnan, remained in charge about a year and a half

1867-1869 Rev. Father John Masso, served a pastorate of two years and three months.

1869 Rev. Eugene O'Keefe, remained only three months 

1869-1872 Rev. Father William Herbert assumed the pastoral cares 

1872-1881 Rev. John Coffey, remained in Ellsworth about eight years. Given charge of the mission in Bar Harbor he began construction of St. Sylvia's in Bar Harbor in 1881, which was razed in 1904 and ultimately replaced by Holy Redeemer in 1907.

1881-1894 Rev. Thomas F. Butler, "Parish records from 1881-1894 are "in the hand of the Rev. Thomas F. Butler. They are the first complete and continuous records." (MacD) Fr. Butler had the care of Cherryfield and Bar Harbor. During the thirteen years in which Father Butler administered the affairs of the parish noteworthy progress was made. He completed construction of St. Sylvia's in Bar Harbor, which was dedicated by Bishop Healey in 1882. (Maine Memory) He renovated the chapel on Chapel St and remodeled it, including new pews, new floor, new altars and a new Sanctuary rail. (Church World) He had a pipe organ installed (MacD). McShane Foundry in Baltimore, Md., made a bell for the church in 1884.  The bell was placed in the church tower in 1887. The bell is inscribed in Latin Sancte Joseph Ora Pro Nobis - St. Joseph Pray for Us. It was moved to the current building when that was built in 1939. In 1889 the Rectory on chapel Street was built. (Church World) Fr. Butler conducted a great mission and the church increased in numbers and religious strength. He presented the church with a beautiful organ, and was instrumental in having the church edifice renovated and remodeled in 1887. (Davis) 

Rev. Fr. Butler left last Friday for his new field of labor in Lewiston. A large delegation of friends was at the depot to see him off and bid him God speed. Fr. Keeley ofliciated at the Catholfe church on Sunday. Fr. Butler will be succeeded here by Rev. James O'Brien, of Winn who is expected here this week. Fr. O'Brien comes to Ellsworth highly recommended as an eloquent and capable preacher. (EA 11/08/94)

1894-1909 Rev. James D. O’Brien, born in Newtown, County Cork, Ireland, May, 1862. He received his education in Paris and Rome and was ordained to there priesthood in Montreal in 1887. (Davis) Spent 2 yrs. At St. John’s, Bangor, then 5 yrs. in Winn, and came to St. Joseph in 1895, where he remained until 1910, at which time he was sent to Bar Harbor, and he died there in 1925. This came from a tribute to him prepared for a Knights of Columbus Council by my grandfather, Attorney Daniel E. Hurley. (Thanks to Connie Babcock) Cherryfield, Bar Harbor, and North East Harbor were attached to St. Joseph's parish, Ellsworth. At Cherryfield there were about ninety Catholic residents, and at Bar Harbor not more than one hundred remain throughout the year. During the summer many Catholics visited Bar Harbor and North East Harbor, and the congregations are in this way augmented in number.

Six handsome stained glass windows have been placed in St. Joseph's Catholic church.The first window, representing "The Chalice," was donated by Rev. James D. O'Brien. The window representing the "Ostensorium," was donated by Rev. T. F. Butler. The young men of the parish donated the window "Cross and Crown," and the young ladies of the Sacred Heart society donated the "Saered Heart' win-dow. The remaining two windows, one the "Anchor," emblematical of hope, and the other the "Lamb of God," it is expected will be donated by some members of the parish as memorial windows.The windows are rich in coloring, and add greatly to the beauty of the interior of the church. The parish has been very fortunate in procuring the windows at this particular time when the condition of business has forced manufactarers to accept very low prices. These windows, which a vear ago would have cost $90 each, were obtained for $40 each.The windows were manufactured by the Continental Stained Glass Works, of Boston, and were put in by Austin M. Foster, of Ellsworth. (EA 2/07/1895)

The church was repainted (EA 10/04/1899)

At the Catbolic church the new century was ushered in by a special service, beginning at 12 o'clock:. This service was general in the Catholic churches all over the world, Rev. J. D. O'Brien celebrated high mass and made a few remarks appropriate to the memorable occasion. After mass there was benediction. (EA 1/2/1901)

Mainly through the efforts of Rev. J. D. O'Brien, of this city, the Catholics of Bar Harbor have secured a very desirable plece of property in that place, on which will be erected a church. The lot is on the corner of Cottage and High streets, 180x160 feet. The rapidly growing congregation makes the demand for better church facilities Imperative. (EA 11/19/1902)

A division of this Catholic parish has recently been made. For years the ElIsworth parish has included Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor, Winter Harbor and Cherryfield as mission charges. The growth, especially in the summer population, has made a division desirable. Fr. J. D. O'Brien, for several years in charge of the Ellsworth parish, is now located at Bar Harbor, with Northeast Harbor as a mission church. Fr. P. J. Flanagan, who has been located in Ellsworth as curate for a year past, has been made pastor of this parish, which retains Cherrytield and Winter Harbor. Fr. Flanagan is well liked by the people of bis parish, who are pleased with his appointment.

During Fr. O'Brien's administration, Holy Redeemer was built in Bar Harbor in 1904. (MacD) In 1907, the cornerstone of Holy Redeemer in Bar Harbor was laid by Bishop Walsh. (Maine Memory) Holy Redeemer was no longer a mission of Ellsworth. (Church World)

1909-1919 Rev. Patrick F. Flanagan was made administrator of St. Joseph Parish (MacD)

The Beal brothers are painting the church, doing their own "Steeple Jack" work. The cross surmounting the steeple has been taken down, and a new one will be put up, newly gilded with gold leaf. (EA 11/1/1911)

1919-1929 Rev. Joseph A. Gorman Rev. Fr. Joseph Gorman, assistant to Bishop Walsh at the cathedral in Portland, for the past three years, has been appointed pastor, and began his duties last Sunday. (EA 12/3/1919)

Born 1886, ordained 1916, spent next three years at the Cathedral in Portland. Came to St. Joseph in 1919 and was there until 1929, when he  died at age 43.  This came from the eulogy for Fr. Gorman  by The Rev. D. J. Feeney.  I found a copy in my father’s papers.  I recall my grandmother saying how  much people in town liked Fr. Gorman.  (Thanks to Connie Babcock) Fr. Gorman supervised the complete renovation of the interior of the church. (Davis) During Fr. Gorham's pastorate, the parishes of Bucksport, Castine, Cherryfield, Stonington and Northeast Harbor were included in his territory, but were later made into separate parishes excepting Cherryfield, which was taken into the parish of Machias. (Church World)

1929-1935 Rev James Hayes

Note from Connie Babcock The  information from Fr.Anciaux through Fr. L’Heureux came from a diary maintained by two of my great-aunts, Frances Hurley Duffy and Margaret Hurley Doherty.  They and their sister, Annie Hurley, were always very active in the parish, and made notations of such things as arriving and departing priests, proceeds from church suppers, when they had flowers for the altar from their garden, all sorts of small things which were the stuff of life for people born in the Nineteenth century.     

1935-1945 Rev. Adolph V. Anciaux was, I believe, a Belgian. Came to St. Joseph sometime in the 1930s.  Was definitely there by 1937, and I think perhaps a bit earlier.  He signed my baptismal certificate in June, 1938.  He was sent to Mexico, Maine in 1945. (Thanks to Connie Babcock) In 1939, the current church at the intersection of Main Street and High Street was constructed. It was dedicated by Bishop Joseph Edward McCarthy (?) on Sunday, June 30, 1940. (Church World).

1945-1954 Rev. William McDonough came to St. Joseph in 1945 right after Fr. Anciaux. Fr. McDonough was there until 1954, when Fr. Daniel J. Honan came to be pastor. Fr. McDonough was pastor during my childhood.  For some of those years, Fr. McDonough insisted that the “kids” attend the 8:30 mass and sit in the front few rows with some adult “chaperones.” That encouraged us to pay attention, lest we attract negative attention from the altar, and  to participate in the responses during the mass. It was still in Latin, but a layman read it in English. (Thanks to Connie Babcock) 

1954-1963 Rev. Daniel J. Honan in 1963 was sent to Brewer. Was ”promoted” to Msgr. about that time. Great preacher, and had a knack for raising money. (Thanks to Connie Babcock)

1963-1968 Rev Henry Lapin, oversaw the construction of the Rectory, which was completed on May 29, 1964 (MacD), and which now serves as the Parish office. In 1968 he was sent to Kittery.  (Thanks to Connie Babcock)  

1964-2014 One Special Priest:  Of particular note in the history of priests who have served St. Joseph Ellsworth, Rev Fr. Richard B MacDonough, S.S. deserves special note.  For 50 years from 1964 through 2014, Fr. MacDonough came to Ellsworth (most recently from California) where he was reunited with his 1964 Volkswagen Beetle to serve the parish during the summer, which facilitated the opening of three mission churches in Blue Hill, Winter Harbor and Green Lake. Fr. MacDonough died on March 10, 2020 and was buried on March 14, 2020 in the Sulpician cemetery in Catonsville, MD. For more about this remarkable priest, click here.

(1968-???? Rev. John Bellefontaine 

????-1978 Rev. Conrad L’Heureux remained until he was sent to Yarmouth in 1978.

1978-1996 Rev. Peter Gorham.  He was born June 10, 1927, in Portland, the son of Peter B. and Annie M. (Greene) Gorham. Fr. Gorham and his housekeeper, Mary Anderson, would open the rectory door to those in need any time of the day or night. They kept a box of food by the door for that purpose. Together, they founded the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, now on the Bucksport Road. It started in the church basement. He was a strong supporter of Open Door Recovery Center, both of Ellsworth. (Obit) In 1992, Bill & Rosemary Sargent spent the first of seven years (taking 1995 off to check out a mission in New Mexico, but returning for four years in 1996) of six-month retreats at the Franciscan mission, Casa Franciscana, in the port city of Guaymas, in Sonora Mexico -- about 400 miles south of Tucson, New Mexico. In honor of these retreats, Fr. Gorham named the St. Joseph chapel, Guaymas. 

1996-2002 Rev. Leo James "Jim" Michaud was at St. Joseph when my mother died in February, 2002, and presented me with the idea of selling her home  to the parish for use as a rectory.  That was accomplished later that year, by which time Fr.Michaud had been “relieved  of his command” by the bishop. I, and I’m sure many others, will always remember his kindness, goodness,  and professionalism.  (Thanks to Connie Babcock)  St. Joseph's had a religious education program with 175-102 students.

October 2002-February 2003 Rev. Jim Gower 

February 2003-2004 Rev. Louis "Lou" Phillips 

2004-2014 Rev. Scott Mower A native of Orono, Fr. Mower attended Orono High School and received his B.S. in child development from the University of Maine in Orono. Prior to entering the priesthood, he was a third-grade teacher at Indian Island School on the Penobscot Indian Reservation in Old Town, Maine (1982-1991). Fr. Mower completed his clerical studies at St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore, Maryland, the nation’s first and oldest seminary. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Joseph J. Gerry on June 15, 1997, at St. Mary Church in Bangor. At St. Joseph's he conducted a Capital Campaign and oversaw the replacement of the steps at the front of the church on High Street.

August 2014-June 2018 Rev. John Skehan  Fr. Skehan is a Bangor native. Prior to entering the priesthood, he was the educational coordinator for “Up with People” and a junior high science teacher in Oakland. He completed his clerical studies at the Theological College in Washington, D.C. He was ordained in 1986 by Bishop Edward C. O’Leary at St. Matthew Church in Hampden. For two months of August & September 2014 he was parochial Vicar at St. Joseph. In October 2014, he became Pastor of our Cluster (11), which made him Pastor of St. Joseph's. Conducted a Capital Campaign and oversaw the reconstruction of the parking lot, with a plan to replace the roof and upgrade the maintenance of the cemetery.

Oct 2014-May 2015 Rev. Emile Dube was parochial Vicar at St. Joseph, before being reassigned by Bishop Deeley as Pastor of Cluster 7, which includes parishes in Dexter, Pittsfield and Dover Foxcroft.

June 2015-2020 Rev. Joseph Cahill was parochial Vicar. From remarks made at his farewell celebration, "And so, we bid farewell to Fr. Cahill – an unabashed son of Ireland – whether by birth or lineage I am not entirely sure; but, Irish through and through there is no doubt. We will miss your homilies – some of which actually met the definition of homily – a short sermon…, others not so much. Regardless of which, they were all characteristically focused on a lesson about how to live our lives and expressing thanksgiving for the God-given opportunity to do so."

July 2018-Present Rev. Emile Dube returned to become pastor of our Cluster (11), which made him Pastor of St. Joseph's.