First known as the Downtown Chapel, it was founded in 1919 as an outreach to sailors returning from World War I. The Downtown Chapel became a Roman Catholic parish within the Archdiocese of Portland in 1943. At that time, the parish was named St. Vincent de Paul Parish, although Downtown Chapel remained its primary and common name.
In January 2011, the Archdiocese of Portland changed the official name of the parish to Saint Andre Bessette Church, in honor of Saint Andre’s canonization on Sunday, October 17, 2010. The parish continues to provide hospitality and basic needs to the most marginalized members of our community.
Saint Andre was a Holy Cross brother from Montreal, and the first member of the Congregation of Holy Cross to be canonized. His simple life as a porter and ministry of healing provides for our parish community a patron that lived a life identifying with suffering and poverty, with illness and homelessness. Pastor of Saint Andre Church Father Steve Newton, C.S.C., said, “He opened the doors to whomever came to them, and welcomed all as they truly were, regardless of status or dress or need–the beloved of God, in whom God was well pleased.”
“Changing our name allows us to more clearly communicate our identity and mission,” said Associate Pastor Father Ronald Raab, C.S.C. “Though historic, the name Downtown Chapel didn’t communicate our identity as a Roman Catholic parish. Our new name establishes one name that appropriately communicates all facets of our identity.”
“As a parish administered by the Congregation of Holy Cross, changing our identity, our name, is significant for our parish and serves as a sign of the commitment of the Congregation of Holy Cross to the ministry of people living in poverty and surviving homelessness, mental illness and addictions. The presence of Holy Cross also makes the commitment of education and formation for people serving other people in the issues of social justice and nonviolence.”
At planning meetings over the summer, the parish community decided to honor the Downtown Chapel name by adopting the tagline, “Portland’s downtown chapel since 1919.” The cross and anchors in the new logo are an adaptation of the cross and anchors representing the Congregation of Holy Cross. Beginning today, the new name, logo and tagline will be used in all communications.
For more information on Saint Andre Bessette Catholic Church’s community programs, and liturgy please visit: www.saintandrechurch.org.
You can also read Fr. Ron Raab’s blog which reflects on Saint Andre and the events leading to the name change.