The tradition of holding a St. Patrick's Day dinner at St. Patrick's Church in Newcastle dates back further than most residents can recall. Pande and Rita Stevens of Damariscotta said that they have been attending the event for at least the last 30 years.
Although many of the 175 people who feasted on the corned beef and cabbage dinner on March 17 are more recent attendees, the tradition is rooted in the church walls itself which date back to the earliest Irish residents of Newcastle.
Shipbuilders and entrepreneurs James Kavanagh and Matthew Cottrill came from County Wexford, Ireland and made their way to what is now Damariscotta Mills in the 1790s. Along with Father Jean Lefebrvre de Cheverus, the partners inspired and financed the construction of the historic chapel which was dedicated on July 17,1808, according to a church publication.
Since then the congregation has outgrown the original chapel and parish center built in the 1980s. Summer services moved to an outdoor chapel to accommodate the growing Catholic community, according to Carrie Watson, a member of the church’s history committee.
Ground was broken for the current church in 2002 and dedicated by Bishop Gerry in 2005. The St. Patrick’s dinner has been held in Cheverus Hall below the main worship space since 2008.
The dinner was sponsored by the “Shamrocks” women’s group and the Knights of Columbus.
Following the dinner, entertainment was provided by the duo of John and Amanda Reinhardt and the Murphy family band.