Priest given leave of absence

Posted Oct. 07, 2008, at 12:08 a.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 5:55 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A St. John Valley native has been granted a leave of absence to “discern” whether he wants to continue to be a priest, according to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

The Rev. Michael P. Gendreau, 48, of South Portland will go on leave effective Nov. 1, the diocese said Monday in a press release.

Gendreau is the pastor of Holy Cross and St. John Catholic churches in South Portland. Monsignor Michael Henchal, pastor of St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Cape Elizabeth and administrator of St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church in Scarborough, has been appointed administrator for the South Portland parishes.

“My discernment process did not end with my ordination,” Gendreau said in the diocesan press release. “I firmly believe that God continues to call us — our task is to listen intensely to the stirrings and groaning of the spirit within us as we seek to understand more fully what God wants for us and what God wants of us.

“Through prayer and with the help of a spiritual director and counselor,” he continued, “I have reached the conclusion that, in order to continue the discernment process, I must take a leave from priestly ministry.”

In a 2000 interview with the Bangor Daily News, Gendreau, who was ordained in 1990, said he did not leave the Valley for college intending to be a priest, even though at 17 he had told his uncle, the Rev. Joseph Michaud, “the next ordination in this family will be mine.” The young man did not talk about becoming a priest again until 1983.

Instead, Gendreau went to Thomas College in Waterville, where he majored in marketing. The plan was for him to eventually take over the family clothing business in Madawaska. Until then, he chose to work in marketing in southern Maine. In 1983, the company Gendreau was working for went bankrupt and he moved home to work for his father.

“It was then my pull toward the priesthood surfaced again with much more power,” he said in the 2000 interview. “I was at my grandfather’s funeral in St. Agatha and I knew the answer I had asked for [about joining the [priesthood] had been given. … I became a priest because nothing else was enough.”

Gendreau was granted a sabbatical in July 2004 to discern whether to continue his priestly ministry. Three months later, according to diocesan spokeswoman Sue Bernard, he returned and was assigned to the South Portland churches.

He also has served parishes in Bangor, St Agatha, Sinclair, and Augusta.

Gendreau was born in Edmudston, New Brunswick, and raised in Madawaska. He attended St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, Md.

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