In the beginning………
In 1970 three women, Sister Marie Ahern, (then Sister) Lucy Poulin and Ellen Moore, became concerned about the plight of poor people in rural Maine. Lucy, having been born and raised in Maine, was particularly distressed about the lack of homes and jobs for these people. The three women resolved to do something to improve the situation. Initially, they purchased 23 acres of land along Maine’s Route 1, near Orland, Maine, and there set up what would become HOME, Inc. (or Homeworkers Organized for More Employment). More information about HOME can be found at (WEBSITE link).
Originally the three founders lived in separate sites and commuted to their work at HOME. In 1975 they were able to obtain additional acreage about five miles east of HOME along Route 1. They first named this property, where they would build living quarters for themselves and others, “Mandala,” referring to a Sanskrit image suggested by a homeless man. A year later the name was changed to “Saint Francis Community”, after a Franciscan nun, Sr. Barbara Hance, joined the community where she remained until her death.
The growth of Saint Francis Community…….
This new homestead was comprised of 230 acres of undeveloped land. It was heavily wooded, hilly, and rocky. Lucy Poulin described it as “back to nature.” To make the land useable for homes, whether large or small, would require a great deal of work over a period of many years. Within the first year Sr. Marie, Lucy and Ellen were living in two small houses.
With the arrival of Sr. Barbara in 1976, the four women and volunteers constructed their first community house. That year they took in their first homeless family. At the same time, the women were developing and operating the work and life skills facility they had named HOME. It remains located five miles down the road. “Five miles” doesn’t count the winding, rough, forested, narrow, rocky, uphill drive from well-kept Route 1 to the top of the hill where the homes were built!
As the need for homeless housing increased, so did the work at Saint Francis. The first large animals to arrive were “Teddy” and “Tim”, who now rest in Horse Heaven. They were used to haul the wood from trees cut down for firewood. Another arrival, “Susie,” a Great Pyrenees, gifted the Community with eight puppies, which were sold to help provide food for the Community. Before leaving, these little ones also provided much joy and laughter!
To house the horses a horse barn was built. The building was constructed with recycled boards and “experienced nails”, e.g. old ones straightened and reused. Lucy’s mother, Beatrice, came to spend her final years with the Community. To make everyone more comfortable in a community group setting, the horse barn was converted into a Farmhouse. Teddy and Tim were initially kept in a new lean-to, until a new barn was built several years later.
A large new Farmhouse…….
The Farmhouse continued to house the Community founders and others who were in need of temporary housing until 2008. That year a tremendous fire occurred and destroyed the Farmhouse. The group was able, with the help of many volunteers, to rebuild a bigger and better Farmhouse that same year. It is the currently existing Farmhouse at the end of the long, narrow, rough trail, just barely drive-able, off Route 1.
During the late 1970’s many animals joined the Community. A new horse barn was built to house Norwegian Fjords, which were lovingly bred. The amazingly beautiful foals were raised there and then sold to provide much needed income. Over the years, in addition to horses, the property became home to sheep, goats, chickens, and miniature horses. Many of these animals were taken in by the Community from owners who could no longer care for them. The loudest resident is Romeo, who knows what a gorgeous peacock he is. In the summer of 2017 he and his current Juliet became the proud parents of three baby peacocks!
During the winter of 2013 one of the three founders, Sr. Marie, passed away during heart surgery. The other two founders, Lucy and Ellen, currently inhabit the Farmhouse. They are joined there by some permanent guests, and by other guests, both young and old, who are there until they find homes of their own.
A small new house…….
The Community grounds, in addition to the animals, include vegetable gardens, flower gardens, apple and plum trees, and a grape arbor. A conversation piece is the Ginkgo biloba tree, known for its medicinal properties. The small house under construction, adjacent to the Farmhouse, will house a couple who will serve as caregivers, so that Lucy and Ellen can continue to age in place at the Farmhouse. Completion of this small house will require both volunteer labor and financial gifts.