FORT KENT, Maine — Members of St. John Vianney Parish could have their former spiritual leader back in time for Christmas following word Thursday from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland that the Rev. James Nadeau is returning after a 7-month voluntary leave of absence.
Nadeau stepped down from his position as pastor of the St.John Valley parish in the wake of a Maine attorney general’s office investigation into possible embezzlement of parish funds.
Earlier this month, that office decided to not pursue criminal charges against Nadeau, citing lack of evidence supporting the allegations which had been brought by an unidentified third party.
Nadeau met for two hours in Portland Thursday afternoon with Bishop Richard J. Malone, Apostolic administrator of the diocese, according to Dave Guthro, communications director with the diocese.
Guthro declined to provide further details about the investigation, but said Thursday’s meeting between Malone and Nadeau “went very well. The two men wanted to keep that meeting a private conversation between Father Nadeau and the Bishop [and] it sounded like it went well with no rancor.”
Neither Nadeau nor Malone were available for comment Thursday.
Details surrounding the timing and conditions of Nadeau’s return to the St. John Vianney Parish remain to be worked out, Guthro said.
In Nadeau’s absence, the parish led through July by Rev. Robert Vaillancourt and since then by Rev. Ray Picard.
Although the attorney general declined to initiate a criminal prosecution of Nadeau due to insufficient evidence, an internal financial audit of the parish and additional procedures performed by an external, independent CPA firm revealed a number of issues and a lack of compliance with diocesan policies, according to a statement from the Bishop earlier this month.
“The fact is [Nadeau] is returning but we are not sure in what capacity,” Guthro said. “The issues raised in the audit will be addressed and there will be further discussion on how things will go moving forward.”
Things cannot move fast enough for members of the parish who have been praying for Nadeau and his return since April.
“For me it is hallelujah and let us rejoice and be glad,” Norma Landry, former parish council president, said Thursday afternoon. “We are so hopeful he can be here for the start of our Advent season because what better way to start Advent than with Father Jim at the helm?”
The Holy Season of Advent, leading up to Christmas, begins Dec. 2.
“We are overjoyed,” Gail Rioux, parish office manager, said Thursday afternoon. “I spoke to Father [Nadeau] today [by phone] and he sounded overjoyed [and] hopeful to be back for Advent.”
The details surrounding Nadeau’s return will be released as they become available, Guthro said.
“There are some more issues and things to go over,” he said. “But the decision on when he will return will be made based on the best time for the parish, for the parishioners and, of course, for Father Nadeau.”