Father Paul H. Dumais
Diocese of Portland, Maine
Early in Father Paul Dumais’ vocational discernment, he met a wise old monk who serenely told him his vocation: Your vocation is that vocation that will cause you to love the most.
“He seemed to say everything and nothing in the same moment,” said Fr. Paul. “Subsequently I have spent years attempting to apply that proverb as the measure for what to do next. And in doing so often discovered that I have not yet begun to love fully.”
In a society that has grown cynical of religious ideas but remains open to works of charity, Father Paul leads by example. In the impoverished area of Franklin County, Maine, Father Paul works to alleviate hunger and create long-term change in his community.
Under his leadership, a closed school now houses a food pantry and free thrift store. He created two parish staff positions to aid this ministry, believing that parish social ministry deserves the same staff support as faith formation.
While farmers across the country continue to age, Maine is one of only two states that has seen a significant increase in young farmers in recent years. Two of Fr. Paul’s most unique contributions are an annual Catholic Rural Life Festival and the creation of a parish-based online farmers' market provides an opportunity for local farmers as well as affirming their work.
Doug Fox of Unity College says that the Catholic Rural Life festival has revived community celebrations. “This ministry rooted in Catholic Social Teaching revives the spirit of festivity,” he said. “This celebration nourishes the soul of the person and the Church by demonstrating the unity that runs through liturgy and conversation, craft and dignity, the sacraments and local food, charity and folk music.”
Father Paul’s demonstrations of sincere love of neighbor give him credibility to speak to enduring truths: Christ and the Church, the Sacraments and prayer. The many seeds of charity he has planted through his work, are now leading to spiritual growth in his parish.
The year he arrived, the parish did not celebrate one First Communion. This year they anticipate seventeen. This jump comes from a renewed effort to meet with and offer parents not only information, but also formation. When the parish first offered a Lenten Bible study, they welcomed 120 people. They also now host a small group outreach for 131 people in 12 ongoing small groups.
A native of Madawaska, Fr. Paul attended the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theology after taking a three-year hiatus to work on a farm in Kansas. Prior to entering St. John’s Seminary in Massachusetts in 1999, he taught middle school at St. Joseph’s in Manchester, New Hampshire.
While at St. John’s Seminary, Fr. Dumais completed his academic preparation for ordination with a M.Div. and M.A. in theology in addition to earning a M.A. in philosophy from Boston College. He was ordained to the priesthood in 2004 and has served at parishes and as chaplain at the Main Correctional Center, several medical centers, and Bates College.