PORTLAND — Bishop Robert Deeley has appointed Fr. Michael Sevigny, OFM Cap., as the Diocese of Portland’s new director of the Office of Hispanic Ministry, effective immediately.

A Sanford native, Sevigny has served in the office since August. He succeeds Sr. Patricia Pora, RSM, who stepped down as director on Nov. 27 after more than a decade of service. Pora will continue as a member of the Hispanic Ministry team on a volunteer basis, according to a news release from Dave Guthro, communications director, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

Funded largely by the annual Catholic Appeal, the Office of Hispanic Ministry assists the Hispanic community living and working in Maine by offering Masses in Spanish and sacramental preparation, including marriage and baptismal preparation; faith formation for adults and children; education on social service support in the state; and help to individuals and families in becoming more involved in parish life. With the Latino community in Maine estimated at more than 20,000, the need for outreach has never been greater.

Fr. Michael Sevigny Photo courtesy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland

“My first reaction was ‘wow, the Lord is blessing me!’ I feel that the Lord has me where He wants me to best serve His people,” said Sevigny, according to the release. “I’m just very grateful because I am truly enjoying what I am doing. This ministry continues to energize and enhance my enthusiasm. I am looking forward to visiting new places and encountering many new people. I’m also grateful to Bishop Deeley for his trust in me and thankful for all the groundwork that has already been done through the diocese and the hands of Sr. Patricia Pora.”

“It is wonderful that Fr. Sevigny will continue to place his considerable experience and abilities in the service of our growing Office of Hispanic Ministry,” said Deeley, according to the release. “The diocese is also blessed to have Sr. Pat remaining with the office. Her continued generosity and commitment to this community has changed lives, and I am pleased that her outreach to our Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters will continue.”

Sevigny is a Franciscan with the St. Mary Province of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (OFM Cap.), White Plains, New York, who strive to live the Gospel with the same simplicity and fervor as their founder, St. Francis of Assisi.

Since arriving in Maine in August, he has served the Hispanic community through celebrating Masses and holding Holy Hours in Spanish, organizing sacramental preparation classes, and finding new ways to connect despite the ongoing pandemic.

“I’m having a great time. I love what I do, the Lord has a great vineyard,” said Sevigny. “Rosario Starratt and José Lopéz in the office have been great sources of support as we work together to encounter the community of Hispanics in Maine and let them know of our support and care.”

Sevigny, who grew up in Sanford, was ordained to the priesthood at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City in 1978, and his path to Hispanic ministry began shortly after his priesthood did.

“After ordination, I served at a bilingual parish in Brooklyn and then a totally Spanish-speaking parish. I thought, ‘What am I doing here?’ laughed Sevigny. “I knew what I had to do.”

He headed to Guatemala and Honduras to learn the language and immerse himself in the culture of those he wished to serve.

“I went to language schools and being thrown into using it day after day was a big help,” Sevigny said. “When I came back, my parishioners would help me too. In the middle of a homily, I would say ‘how do you say this?’ and they would tell me. I just picked it up.”

After returning to New York City, he served for more than 20 years in parishes, both as a pastor and assisting with Hispanic ministry. It’s a community he felt drawn to, even after being named chaplain at Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, both in Boston, which was his last assignment before returning to his native state.

“My ministry with Spanish-speaking people continued when I was doing healing ministry as a chaplain,” said Sevigny, according to the release. “I would help communicate and I had a connection to some young Hispanics from Lawrence, while at the hospital. It was a blessing. When I heard about this opportunity (in Maine), it really excited me. I knew that’s where I should be.”

It’s a second homecoming for Sevigny, who served at St. Joseph Parish in Portland for a year in the mid-1980s before returning to New York City.

With his new role as director, Sevigny is happy that this time, his stay will be longer.

“We want to invite members of the Hispanic community into a deeper spiritual life as well as incorporating them into the parish life through sacramental participation,” said Fr. Sevigny. “Another focus is building leadership teams in different areas to animate and support the ministry and dynamically keep the faith alive and vibrant.”

Heavy interest has led to a new and expanded schedule for Spanish Masses at Maine parishes, including Masses at St. Teresa Church at 425 South Main St. in Brewer, every Sunday at 8 a.m.; Sacred Heart Church, 65 Mellen St. in Portland, every Sunday at 12:30 p.m.; Basilica of Sts. Peter & Paul, 122 Ash St. in Lewiston, every Saturday at 6 p.m. and livestreamed at princeofpeace.me; Notre Dame Church, 116 Silver St., in Waterville, every Sunday at 12:15 p.m.; and Holy Family Church, 66 North Ave., Sanford on the first and fourth Sunday of each month at 5 p.m. and livestreamed at facebook.com/StThereseMaine.

Those who know of someone who might benefit from the services of the Office of Hispanic Ministry can call Sevigny at 207-777-1200 or José Lopéz at 207-653-5609, and visit the office’s Facebook page.