Father Paul Dumais: ‘Your Vocation Is That Vocation That Will Cause You to Love the Most’

Caring for others and giving them comfort has always been an important drive for me,” said Father Paul Dumais, “and food is an excellent way to make that happen.”

Father Paul Dumais
Father Paul Dumais (photo: Father Paul Dumais)

The pastor of two rural Maine parishes — St. Rose of Lima in Jay and St. Joseph in Farmington — Father Paul Dumais was born and raised in Mattawaska, the northernmost town in the state. Located in the St. John River Valley near Canada, his community and town had been profoundly Catholic since the French Acadian settlers arrived, Father said.

“The Daughters of Wisdom came in the early 20th century,” he said. “Public schools were built on the parish property and the towns were named after the parishes. … We had and still do offer release  time from public schools in the middle of the school day to go to the parish for religious education.” When he attended grade school, he did not know anyone who was not Catholic, but since then, he said that the community profile has changed. Note: “The first public school opened in a building built by the parish so the Brothers of the Sacred Heart could come and teach.”

Always involved in religious activities as a youngster, Father Dumais wanted to go to a Catholic college and was accepted at Franciscan University. “It gave me a conceptual look at the Catholic faith for the first time,” he said. “I was raised Catholic because my dad and his family were Catholic. In my studies, I was discovering the reason why I was to be Catholic. I remembered hearing the full weight of the teaching about the Mass and the Eucharist.”

As a student, Father Dumais thought that if all the teachings were true, he could understand why a man would decide to become a priest to make Mass and the Lord available to his people. “There were many intersections along the road,” he said, “but I was always guided by the words of Father Charles from the Camaldolese Monastery of the Holy Family: ‘Your vocation is that vocation that will cause you to love the most.’”

Now an active priest, Father Dumais has taken on a parish project to help feed the local poor and hungry: baking bread. And it is thanks to the Acadians that Father Dumais has garnered parish baking notoriety: “The Acadians had a distinctive buckwheat flatbread called ployes (rhymes with toys) using tartary buckwheat,” he said. “Also I lived and worked on a Kansas farm that produced Turkey Red wheat. … I encountered Thom Leonard's bakery WheatFields, where I rediscovered bread as real food. … This moment served to prompt my interest, curiosity and quest for good bread.”

Today, Father Dumais works with several volunteers in the parish on the project called Ora Breads. It borrows its name from the Benedictine motto, ora et labora. “We do bake two days a week,” he said, “about 7 batches of 12 to 14 loaves of bread and 24 dozens of dinner rolls. We are using an artisan bread-baking process and its photo is posted on Facebook.” The group has baked for a local farmers’ market and for community meals and for accounts at a diner, health food and grocery stores. The revenue is used to support the corporal works of mercy organized through the Parish Social Ministry.”

Father Dumais noted that people have remarked on how good the bread tastes, so he has started a baking class for beginners. “The beginner’s class is in segments,” he said. “It is posted on our Facebook page. It has been a popular pandemic activity, and home baking has become an explosion.”

One of his student interns, Meg Gombajov, commented: “Food has a huge connection to my faith life even outside of the Mass. Food has the ability to bring together anyone, anywhere.  You can show your care and heart to others through a meal and the fellowship that comes from breaking bread together. Caring for others and giving them comfort has always been an important drive for me and food is an excellent way to make that happen.”