Easter, 1942. Katherine Joly, 6 years old, and her parents, Judge Cyril M. Joly, and his wife, Lorette, walked from their home to attend Mass at Sacred Heart Church.

They sat, as they did each Sunday, in the same pew where the morning sunlight streamed through the stained-glass window Cyril had installed years before, bathing them in colored light.

It was kind of a custom in such parishes, enjoyed by many of the old Catholic families, and the space was always “magically” open there for them. Tradition.

The patches of light that fell softly on Katherine’s white Easter dress delighted her. It’s a memory she has never forgotten.

In later years, we brought our own daughters, when they visited, to that same church, down the same aisle, to the same pew, to be bathed in the same warm, colored light.

Spring, 1985. Katherine, home from Los Angeles, went to Mass at her childhood church.

The former Sacred Heart Catholic Church property at 72 Pleasant St. in Waterville. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel file

She walked down the aisle to the left and stopped at the remembered pew. Two older women were there alone with plenty of room in the pew. Katherine genuflected and began to step in.

One of the women frowned and gestured down the aisle. “There are more seats down there where you could sit,” she whispered loudly.

Katherine stepped back without speaking, while patches of colored light from her father’s window coated her white linen jacket.

She walked slowly up the aisle to another pew, where she sat alone while a shadow passed over her heart.

It was only a small moment, of little importance to the woman, a cold stranger who did not know her.
But to Katherine, who only wanted to sit in the past for a while, it was so much more.

The following Sunday, Kay happily joined the parish of St. Joseph Maronite Church on Front Street. Peace.

She and I didn’t return to Sacred Heart until years later, when on a hot August day, we decided to renew our vows there in a private ceremony only a few feet from her family’s window. Sweet.

This month, Sacred Heart is in the news. Some local entrepreneurs seem excited about bringing new colors of their own, in an “event center” in the old church. “Celebrations, weddings and other activities, such as craft fairs, birthday parties, baby showers, receptions, conferences and retirement celebrations” are promised.

Katherine Joly, daughter of Cyril and Lorette Joly of Waterville, has had her events in the Sacred Heart’s pews. I wish them more luck with theirs.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 

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