SOLDIER POND, Maine — Three months after the Maine attorney general cleared him of any wrongdoing, the pastor of St. John Vianney Parish was back saying his first Mass in 10 months Thursday night at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Soldier Pond.
The Rev. James Nadeau took a voluntary leave of absence last April amid allegations of parish fund embezzlement.
At the same time, Bishop Richard J. Malone, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Portland, announced internal and independent financial audits of the parish did reveal a number of compliance problems, both with diocesan policies and generally accepted accounting practices.
“I am very happy to be back,” Nadeau said Thursday afternoon. “The people here have been great and I am so thankful for their support.”
More than 100 parishioners packed into the Soldier Pond church Thursday night to greet Nadeau, who touched briefly on his absence during the Mass.
“For the past 310 days there have been many times I have had doubts, or been tempted or too mad to say Mass,” Nadeau said in his homily. “When I was feeling all those things, the devil was getting to me but then I would say Mass and even though I was alone, all those thoughts just flew away.”
Over the last three months, Nadeau has been meeting with diocesan representatives on the details of his return.
“It was a matter of Father Nadeau and the bishop and the diocese representatives working out some issues and discussing the issues that came out of the audit,” David Guthro, diocese director of communications, said Thursday afternoon. “All the issues and solutions have been accepted and everyone wants to work together for the good of the parish.”
Office procedures and policy errors have been addressed to help the parish run more efficiently, said Luis Sanclemente, parish council president.
A new bookkeeper had been hired to fill a vacant position and parish administrator Dennis Bouchard will work closely with Nadeau on the day-to-day operations, Sanclemente said,
“We feel this will make the parish much, much stronger,” he said. “Primarily we are so happy to have our shepherd back — he was missed.”
In Nadeau’s absence, temporary priests were assigned to the parish. Sanclemente said they did an outstanding job over the past 10 months.
Before ending the Mass on Thursday night, Nadeau thanked his parishioners for their prayers and support.
“It feels very warm for me that you came tonight,” he said to a round of sustained applause. “I would always tell people the hardest part about the last 310 days was being away from all of you.”
Nadeau greeted each parishioner individually as they filed out of the church after the Mass, accepting handshakes, hugs and well wishes.
“It is awesome to see him back,” Jay Charette of Fort Kent said.
His wife, Lisa Charette, agreed, adding, “We came to Mass here tonight because he needs to know we love him.”
Karen Ouellette also came from neighboring Fort Kent to hear Nadeau’s first Mass now that he is back.
“It’s been a long 310 days,” Ouellette said. “But now our shepherd is back and his flock is very happy.”
Nadeau said he will harbor no ill will about the last 10 months, preferring to look ahead to meeting the spiritual needs of the area while keeping in mind a quote from a former United States president.
“In his second inaugural address, [Abraham] Lincoln had a quote, ‘malice toward none and charity for all,’” Nadeau said. “That is the mantra I want to work on.”