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New St. Catherine of Siena Residence to open in Lewiston

The residence is located on Sabattus Street, in the former St. Andre Group Home.

In commemoration of World Day of the Poor (November 19), established by Pope Francis, Bishop Robert P. Deeley recently blessed the new St. Catherine of Siena Residence in Lewiston. The 10-bed shelter for women is expected to open in early December.

The new residence is a ministry of the St. Martin de Porres Residence, a shelter founded in Lewiston 26 years ago by Brother Irénée Richard, O.P. That shelter currently accommodates up to six male guests and four female guests, but there has been an increase in the number of calls, especially from women.

“I think it’s a very big need in Lewiston,” said Sister Monique Belanger, O.P., chair of St. Martin’s board of directors. “There are a lot of women who need shelter. They’ve been going to St. Martin’s, but they need more space. I think we’re going to be helping a lot of women get back on their feet and start living life the way they should, as much as they can.”

The St. Catherine of Siena Residence is located on Sabattus Street, in the former St. Andre Group Home, which was affiliated with the Good Shepherd Sisters of Quebec. Brother Irénée says that, when he learned the property was available, he knew it was the perfect fit. “I visited the house and said, ‘Oh my gosh, this is ideal. I wouldn’t find anything else like this,’” he said.

The original asking price was $145,000, but the Good Shepherd Sisters agreed to sell it for $75,000. At around the same time, Brother Irénée received an unsolicited donation of $50,000. With another $3,000 in reserve, he needed just $22,000 to buy the property, so he wrote to Sister Diane Beaudoin, S.C.S.H., superior general of the Sisters of Charity of Saint-Hyacinthe, who had been supporters of the residence since it opened.

“I said, ‘Whatever you can do to help us, that would be great.’ She sent $30,000, so the home was paid for with some extra,” Brother Irénée explained. “That’s how it happened. When I say this was – and still is – a journey of faith, I mean that. I think when you’re doing God’s work, he takes care of it.”

The new residence will operate in much the same way as the St. Martin de Porres Residence. All guests must have a referral and must be interested in improving their situation. They will be able to share dinner together and stay overnight, but during the day, they must go to rehab, get counseling, or seek employment, depending upon their situation. “It’s a no-nonsense place,” said Brother Irénée. “We don’t want to enable you; we want to help you. It works, but it’s not for everybody.”

Overseeing the St. Catherine of Siena Residence will be house mother Misty Baker, who has a background in the mental health field. When she learned of the position, she was ecstatic. “This is something I always wanted to do,” she said. “I, myself, am in recovery – I have been 33 years sober and clean. This is awesome. I couldn’t be happier.”

She said Catholic Charities in Minnesota, where she was living at the time, helped her at a point in her life when she was threatened with homelessness, so she is excited to have the opportunity to give back.

Baker’s living quarters are on the first floor of the residence, while the women will stay in four large bedrooms on the second floor. The home also includes a large kitchen, a dining room with a piano, a living room with a fireplace, and a small sun room, which will be used as a quiet space for the women.

There have already been inquiries about when the residence will open. Brother Irénée says a few repairs still need to be made, and then the building will need final approval from code enforcement, both of which he expects to happen by the end of the month.

He knows the challenges won’t be over, however. Neither residence receives any state or federal funding, relying solely on donations to operate. Thanks to an anonymous donor, a new endowment for the ministry has been established through the Catholic Foundation of Maine. If you would like to contribute, contact Elizabeth Badger, executive director of the foundation, at 321-7820 or elizabeth.badger@portlanddiocese.org.

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