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During visit to Valley, bishop celebrates Mass, blesses building at Mizpah

GRAND ISLE, Maine — Bishop Robert P. Deeley of the Catholic Diocese of Portland celebrated a special Mass Friday afternoon for more than 300 people at Mizpah, the nearly three-decade-old spiritual retreat located off Route 1 here.

Bishop Robert Deeley of the Catholic Diocese of Portland, center, celebrates a special Mass at the Mizpah Chapel in Grand Isle on Friday, Aug. 3. (Morgan Mitchell | SJVT/FhF)

The late Richard Corbin founded Mizpah — which means “helping one another” in Hebrew — in 1991, dedicating the then 15-acre site to instilling the feeling of spiritual healing. Doctors diagnosed him with Hodgkin disease when he was 22 and gave him less than one year to live, but he survived through many treatments and surgeries to age 71.

According to the Mizpah website, Corbin made a promise to God at one point that if he spared his life “for a little while longer I would build a place for cancer people to come to. A place for cancer survivors and people in grief to come and reflect, meditate, console and be at peace with each other and enjoy the beauty nature has to offer.”

Today, more than 4,000 people visit the expanded 109-acre site from May to October. The property has grown to include a cancer survival wall, a fish pond, gardens, cabins, a chapel, welcome center, and several trails that visitors are encouraged to walk as they meditate and reflect.

The non-profit now is run by a board of directors that include Corbin family members and is financed through donations and fundraisers.

Bishop Deeley periodically comes to the St. John Valley to visit area churches that are part of the Diocese of Portland. During this particular trip, he also celebrated masses at St. Michael’s Chapel on Long Lake in Madawaska and St. Gerard Church in Grand Isle.

Bishop Robert Deeley of the Catholic Diocese of Portland, center, helps celebrate a special Mass at the Mizpah Chapel in Grand Isle on Friday, Aug. 3. Flanking Bishop Deeley are Deacon Rodney Deschaines, left, and Rev. James Plourde. (Morgan Mitchell | SJVT/FhF)

“It’s always a pleasure to come to the north and the people are always so welcoming,” Bishop Deeley said after he celebrated the Mass Friday afternoon at Mizpah. “I always enjoy being here as I do in every part of our diocese.”

While at Mizpah, the bishop also took the time to bless a meditation house where workers recently completed plumbing and electrical wiring.

“This is a wonderful place of faith, and of course this Mizpah is a wonderful gift to the people who are suffering in any way,” Bishop Deeley said after the blessing of the house. “It is a lovely, peaceful place to come and reflect, and to renew themselves, and to be recreated in God’s love.”

Brenda Forbes, who attended the Mass, said, “I’m not Catholic, but that place is so breathtaking, and every time there is a Mass, I try to go.”

“I thought it was very nice that the bishop came to the Valley,” she said.

St. John Valley Chamber of Commerce Director Brian Bouley is very familiar with the Mizpah area, having grown up with the Corbin family.

“It is always expanding and really nice,” he said. Bouley said he was happy the bishop came to the area. “It was nice to see him come say Mass at the smaller communities instead of focusing on the larger communities,” he said. “Him being here draws a bigger crowd to our churches [in the area].”

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