Embattled priest says he’ll be back in September

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18 May 2011

Updated: Wed May. 18 2011 1: 52:16 PM

Picture below:  Fr. Joe LeClair speaks publicly for the first time after his gambling addiciton was exposed last month. (CTV – Picture taken: May 17, 2011)


Fr. Joe LeClair of Ottawa’s Blessed Sacrament church says he will be back to work in September after stepping down because of a gambling addiction.

Hundreds of LeClair supporters surprised him with a farewell party Tuesday night.

They sang and shared stories of how he helped them get through some of the toughest times in their lives. Now, they say, it’s time to return the favour.

“We were three people who thought that it was very special to say goodbye to Fr. Joe on a friendly basis,” says one organizer Linda King.

King says LeClair deserves a joyful send-off with well wishes.

The room was filled with hundreds of people who say their love for the priest was not wavered by last month’s article in the Ottawa Citizen exposing his addiction.

“He came in the middle of the night to bless a baby, give a baptism and give last rights to a baby that was dying,” says Kelli Thompson. She is a nurse who was working at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario at the time. She says she was so touched by his words and compassion towards the family she converted to Catholicism.

Thompson was not the only one with personal stories. Almost everyone there had a story of their own.

Some spoke of how LeClair helped bring them closer to God. Marie Riopelle says she has followed him from church to church ever since he was ordained more than 25 years ago.

“You can’t express how much we’re going to miss him, and all we can do is hope he comes back,” says Riopelle.

“(I want to) have a nice retreat in the summer and rejuvenate myself spiritually and do a lot of reflecting,” says LeClair. “I want to pastor. I want to bring more people to the Lord.”

This party was LeClair’s first public address since news broke of his addiction mid-April. His supporters say he will always be able to come home.





odd…He is the one that destroyed himself..he just didnt do it publicly



He’ll give you 10 to 1 odds that he’ll be back. 100 bucks says his gambling is over with…



He will be back, better than ever! Good for him to deal with his problems even if they have become public. He will continue to inspire those that want inspiration, and for those that don’t, leave well enough alone.


Mike Beard 

Rideau Carleton Slots, here I come!!!!!!



Whay not ask God for help? He must be so close to Him. Why did god let it go on for so long All lies and more lies.  Do we ever get to know the results of the audit



It’s up to the bishop if and when he comes back.


Mary Downe

Deloitte & Touche is a large firm, i.e, as the audit started well over a month ago, it shouldn’t have taken them very long to do an audit on a simple church parish. Am asking, in the interest of all catholics giving their hard earned money to their parishes, like a fellow commentor am asking “when are we going to know the result of the audit-as it was reported earlier at least $250K worth of cheques alone written to Fr. LeClair?”



I can’t believe the ignorant comments posted here.

Good Luck Father Joe.



Did I miss the CITIZEN front-page story where the police investigation has been started to find out who stole this person’s VISA receipts and other personal information? Is there a parallel investigation underway on the CITIZEN’s use of information obtained by illegal means?



I left the RC church 29 years ago to seek God and found Him. I’m sure Leclerc can too and see his life drastically changed.



Wow. people commenting here do you not have anything better to do then to critisize ?

Father j oe is probably the most honourable person ive ever met, as a part of the youth at The parish i peronally know that he has changed the lives of soo many, Everybody deals with problems like this, just because hes a priest doesent mean anything , hes still human and i bet 300 that hes coming out of this an even better priest



Anyone who has met Father Joe would not be posting such terrible comments. Father Joe provides inspiration in a world where it’s easy to be jaded and forget to see the real reason we’re here…

Judith Yaworsky

One of the reasons why Father Joe is so loved by his SEVEN THOUSAND parishioners is that he never pretends to be perfect, like most members of the clergy. Now the real work begins. The Ottawa Citizen and the police need to step up their investigation as to who broke into Father Joe’s office and stole personal information. Are they the same people who have hounded him for years for some sick reason?


mike lol

You’re funny Mike! The guy steals money to gamble and you defend him by accusing someone of stealing his visa statements! lol


Gerald Bullock: Regardless, he’s a Good Man

We are all Friends of Father Joe. He has done more good for this city than the last 15 mayors of Ottawa. Ottawa cannot afford to lose him. If you look for any good that has happened in this city in the last 25 years, you will find Father Joe, or another Father Joe.

He blessed me last night in what was probably his last official event in Ottawa. I had a huge Cancer Operation at 6am today, and I believe his blessing last night, and over the years has helped me to survive cancer for over 7years. He is one great motivator, and inspirational speaker.

Any who try to bring this man down, are killers of hope, inspiration, love, and life. Is this the kind of person you hope to be. Imagine you are on your deathbed, you are looking back at your own life like a movie. What will YOUR life look like, and represent? Will you die alone, loveless, hated by most. Is this where you want to be?

It takes courage to be selfless, to admit you have failings, but you know we all have them, and you can’t have love if you have hate. Let it go.

I’ll be the first to say I failed Father Joe. It is a lonely life being a priest, and I wish I had recognized this a long time ago, and been there for him. I failed.


Gerald Bullock: Response to 4 others, for Fr. Joe

Mike Beard and Glen, did you guys just get stupid or have you been that way since you were born?

Eric and Mary Downe: You actually have to have given money to Blessed Sacrament and have a receipt to go anywhere with that line of thought, and then he has to have done that. If you have all that, go to the cops if you want and complain. At least when you do that, we’ll then know who you really are.

Oh, and do you know anything about the separation of church and state. You might want to read up on that before you go to the police.

As for the auditors, the report to the church, and to those of us who can prove they gave money to the church. Are you an Envelope Giver? If you aren’t then just do us all a favor, and go away, cuz You can’t prove squat!

Mike, go man go, yes where indeed is THAT INVESTIGATION? Sounds likened another one of the investigations like LARRY O’BRIEN VS TERRY KILRAE. Funny how they never investigate the accusers eh? The cops never really solve crimes, they are merely apolitical arm of the other politicians and

Father Joe is human, and has flaw like everyone here, me included. Funny, that’s his greatest asset. Father Joe is my Pastor, my Priest, and my friend. You take him on, you get me. Frankly, I’m not half the man Father Joe is.



1)  The longer the audit goes on (2mos already), the more likely there will be bad news about the 200K of cheques. At some point, the police and Revenue Canada may have to get involved.

2)  Calling a intense treatment program a summer retreat shows that Fr Joe may be minimizing the intensity of therapy he may undergo.

3)  He is under the obedience of the Archbishop. Only the Archbishop knows when he will be able to be back in active service. Perhaps, a hospital chaplain in the new year?

4)  Following a priest around for 25yrs shows a little cult-like behaviour. Pastors are moved to different parishes for a reason!

The parish still is under-stating the severity of the matter of cheques being written to self and violating canon law by not having an active finance committee etc.


Ian Ottawa

Catholic priests need to have normal lives with a family and not be expected to continue on their self destructive ways. The time for the usual, “Take two Alter Boys, and call me in the morning.” is no longer acceptable to any of us. In fact it never was unless you were in the Clergy.



What about CTV? Didn’t anyone notice how they used the most unflattering pictures and then furthermore in their last video clip, went well out of their way to finish off by showing Father Joe saying ‘oh, my God’ when he saw someone at his good-bye party. Bias lives here. Ottawa media has sunk to a new low.



As a catholic parishioner I know people love Father Joe Leclair. He first realized he had a problem after the Citizen told him what they had and that they were writing a story. Unanswered questions-Was there an audit? Where did the $250k in cheques to himself go? How did he repay 420k in 4 years … mostly in the last 2 years? Has he offered proof of his immense gambling winnings? Have I missed the answers to these questions?



thankfully no child was involved this time … now that is a miracle.


Gerry L

A good priest, a good pastor, good luck to him. So he had a weakness, who hasn’t. He will be back to help people, that’s his real passion.



As christians we should be supporting and forgiving.

To the media and others ….” Let he who is without sin cast the first stone…!!!

8 Responses to Embattled priest says he’ll be back in September

  1. Sylvia says:

    A link to CTV Ottawa site with video clip of farewell under “CTV News Video Player” http://ottawa.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20110518/OTT_leclair_110318/20110518/?hub=OttawaHome

  2. prima facie says:

    Sylvia; you know many of the above comments are valid….and many questions left unanswered. Yet, let’s pretend everything is okay-HAPPY THOUGHTS!!
    But what has always annoyed me, as you well know Sylvia, is the number of alleged offenders/accused, who for some reason, come forward just days before the story becomes public or a whistleblower is “gagged” and labelled an “outcast” for life ie) Perry Dunlop. Who is then presented in the brighter light?

  3. Sylvia says:

    In this instance the media has certainly taken a hard hit for running the story, that’s for sure. Shoot the messenger.

    • :Mary Kay Martin says:

      As for the media taking a hard hit….. Are we to believe that the Ottawa Citizen is now a sister paper to the likes of the Enquirer ?
      Maybe that is why so many with common sense cancelled their subscriptions.
      Good for them !
      Speak up when others are too cowardly to do so !!

  4. muriel maclean says:

    The Catholic Church must makes some changes. In this modern day and age this type of anarchy is completely unreasonable.

  5. Jennifer Goostrey says:

    “Let he without sin cast the first stone.” It never ceases to amaze me when I see people who would not set foot in a church leap into action with burning torches and express their outrage when it looks like a priest (who they likely don’t even know) has done wrong. People forget that priests are human, therefore not without flaws. I am by no means condoning illegal acts. Not at all. If the end result shows that Father Joe has taken money from his parish, he should absolutely be held responsible. But you are not judge and jury.
    The good that Father Joe has done, the life he has brought to the church, the kindness and humour he has passed on without end has done so much for his parishoners, for the Catholic community in Ottawa, to the many people he has taken time for regardless of their faith, at all hours of the day or night to provide comfort, to listen, to let them know they are not alone, is immeasurable. As a result of the good he has generated, anyone who has come into contact with someone he has helped has benefitted. You may be one of those people.
    He has an addiction. He is dealing with that addiction. Let him.
    The efforts that people make to tear him down are astounding. If you made efforts anywhere close to that to be kind, to reserve judgement, to have compassion for anyone, not even just him, the world would be a much better place. Focus your energy on making the world better, on helping people. Hold a door open for someone, give up your seat on the bus to someone, smile at a stranger, whatever.
    Whatever the outcome, I will always admire Father Joe and what he has given to this world. I will pray that he overcomes this addiction, and is back in a church doing what he does so well. And I will also pray that all of you who are hell bent on crucifying him find some real purpose in your lives.

  6. Jack says:

    Do not be bothered by a few who attack the church and priests, some with right reasons and many others with wrong reasons!. It is human nature to pick up the news that gives excitement and money! Read the story of that priest from Winnipeg who went to Hawaii!. All media picked it up as grat story when he was accused! But when he is aquitted, you do not read anything in detail or hard to get any info. I saw only in one news paper that he is aquited because the other woman want to lure money from church. But all other news papers just simply wrote that he is aquitted off all charges thats all. This is the case in many things that happens in society.
    Guys who attack are people who do not go to church or have any faith. If this priest is good, follow him and support him.

    • 1 abandoned sheep says:

      Jack you are right about the good-news- bad news type of reporting. The papers are more interested in bad-news reporting, especially if it involves the Catholic Church. But, and this is important, as Cathiolics we are called to follow Jesus Christ- not any particular Priest. Put your Faith in Jesus, and not in man !

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