WATERVILLE — Demolition of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church continued this week with much of the roof removed but the steeple still atop the 137-year-old building.

The 21,388-square-foot church at 52 Elm St. was for sale about four years before the Diocese of Portland decided to demolish it and build low-income housing for seniors at the site.

The decision to sell and subsequent decision to demolish were driven by a shortage of priests, high heating costs and the cost of plowing and sanding, according to Corpus Christi Parish officials. The cost of maintaining the building was $40,000 to $50,000 a year.

Valerie Hooper, 68, of Rockland, was at the construction site Friday afternoon looking at the building, now closed off by a chain-link fence, trying to find a way to get a brick from the building as a keepsake. Hooper said she attended the church while growing up and found out it was being torn down by accident when she drove by and saw the demolition.

“I just don’t understand it. … It’s going to be hard to see it torn down,” she said.

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