Priest says he hasn’t decided if he’ll seek different position
25 April 2011
By ANDREW DUFFY AND MEGHAN HURLEY
Father Joseph LeClair announced during Easter weekend masses that he will be leaving Blessing Sacrament Parish. Photograph by: Wayne Cuddington, The Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA — Father Joseph LeClair has announced that he will be leaving Blessed Sacrament Parish, ending his 14-year association with the Glebe church.
LeClair told parishioners of his decision during Easter weekend masses at the church, which is now the subject of an internal audit by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa.
LeClair said he made the decision in consultation with his family and with Archbishop Terrence Prendergast.
“I love being a priest,” he said in explaining how difficult that decision had been.
LeClair said he is now “transitioning,” but has not yet decided whether to quit the priesthood and begin a second career, seek another posting within Ottawa, or move back to Prince Edward Island where he was born and raised.
Lisa Hardey, chair of the Blessed Sacrament parish council, said she was very sorry to hear the news Sunday about LeClair’s departure. “He has done untold good,” she said.
LeClair, 53, is widely credited with orchestrating a renaissance at the church, which had seen its attendance and revenues dwindle in the 1990s.
Charismatic and energetic, LeClair rebuilt the parish by reaching out to neighbourhoods beyond the Glebe and recruiting Catholic students from Carleton University. He made music a central part of his services.
In the past week, however, LeClair has been embroiled in controversy.
A Citizen investigation revealed that LeClair received more than $137,000 in cash advances on his credit card at Casino du Lac-Leamy during 2009 and 2010.
The story also revealed that LeClair racked up personal credit card bills of more than $490,000 and repaid Visa more than $424,000 during those years, according to documents obtained by the newspaper.
How he could afford to repay that much is not known, other than the fact that as a church pastor, LeClair earns a net salary of $24,400. He also receives money for officiating at weddings, funerals, baptisms and marriage preparation courses.
A review by the firm Deloitte and Touche LLP, initiated by the Archdiocese of Ottawa, took place in early March.
Auditors raised questions about $250,000 worth of cheques issued to LeClair from church accounts between 2006 and 2010.
LeClair had the authority during those years to issue a cheque, even to himself, without another signature.
At the time, the parish’s financial controls were poor. The parish finance committee did not meet together as a group at all during 2010.
The Archdiocese of Ottawa has said that its internal audit is continuing.
During his sermon Sunday evening, LeClair admitted to “challenges” during his priesthood.
But he maintained that he had been stalked by people determined to do him damage and that it had been difficult psychologically to withstand that treatment.
He thanked parishioners for the thousands of supportive letters, cards and flowers that he has received in the week since the Citizen published its story.
LeClair said he didn’t deserve to be splashed on the front page.
“If you have written a letter to the Citizen or cancelled your newspaper,” he said, “bless you.”
LeClair has admitted that he had a gambling problem, but has repeatedly denied taking any church money.
He said he used his own money to gamble and won enough to keep himself financially stable.
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Ottawa could not be reached Sunday.
Father Joe LeClair Leaving Glebe Church
CFRA radio (Ottawa)
25 April 2011
Father Joe LeClair is leaving Blessed Sacrament Parish.
LeClair told parishioners during Easter weekend masses that he is leaving after consultation with his family and Archbishop Terrence Prendergast.
The Ottawa Citizen reports LeClair has not yet decided whether to quit the priesthood, seek another posting in Ottawa or move back to Prince Edward Island.
LeClair’s decision to leave the parish comes after admitting to having a gambling problem. Father Joe insists he never took any money from the church and covered his debts with his winnings and personal resources.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa has brought in Deloitte and Touche to conduct an audit of Blessed Sacrament Parish’s books.