Fr. Steve Newton joins the Downtown Chapel with a past
reflected in the community he now serves
By Joanne Zuhl
Oct. 25, 1975. It is probably the most important date in Father Steve Newton’s life.
More important than the day he was ordained – April Fools Day, 1989, a fitting twist he’s rather proud of. It is more important than July 29, the date he arrived to become pastor at the Downtown Chapel Roman Catholic Parish of the Archdiocese of Portland. The former pastor, Fr. Bob Loughery was headed to a new assignment at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend.
Oct. 25, 1975, was the day Newton took his last drink, the final draw after a decade of alcoholism that took him far away from the church, his family and his life — and ultimately brought him back again. It is an experience he credits with keeping him from becoming a “nice-guy priest.” Which is probably best for a parish in the challenging and dynamic neighborhood Old Town, where the Downtown Chapel opens its doors daily to a community living with homelessness, addiction and little or no health care.
“The experience of going through the rest of the progression, and the experience of going through recovery outside the priesthood, I think is a wonderful deepening experience — to hit bottom,” Newton says.