When Father Joe LeClair delivers his homily at the Glebe’s Blessed Sacrament Church every Sunday, there is rarely an empty seat.
© Mark Holleron
Father Joe LeClair at Glebe's Blessed Sacrament Church.
Where many churches suffer from dwindling numbers, Father Joe has overseen a surge in worshippers of all ages who wouldn’t miss a service.
What makes this man Ottawa’s most popular priest? “Father Joe walks the talk and isn’t afraid to call it like it is,” says parishioner Jean Ledo.
Ledo’s wife Mariette adds, “Father Joe transcends and exemplifies Christian values like compassion, selflessness, integrity and generosity. His sense of community, of reaching out, is what makes people want to participate.”
That’s a glowing reference for a man who wasn’t sure if a religious vocation was for him. “The priesthood was a calling, but it was a real struggle to answer it,” he admits with a laugh.
While church was a central part of life for Father Joe and his eight siblings growing up on Prince Edward Island, his early path saw him teaching school, working in social services, and even hoping to find true love, before realizing that the priesthood was a calling he couldn’t ignore.
So he approached his religious vocation with vigour and pragmatic optimism.
“I want to make the lives of everyone I meet better,” explains Father Joe. “When I wake up, instead of saying ‘Good God it’s morning,’ I prefer to say ‘Good morning God!”’
“I’ve known Father Joe for many years,” says Ottawa native Erin Phillips. “He’s been a special part of all the significant events in my life – from my marriage to Chris to the baptism of our three children. He inspires me in my faith and encourages me to be a better person and to get involved in our community.”
And community is an important word for Father Joe. “My parishioners and I may be Roman Catholic, however we belong to the greater community of Ottawa, and we must be an active part of that community,” he explains.
To that end, he works diligently to raise money and awareness for various charitable initiatives, including mental health.
While there have been bumps in the road – Father Joe openly admits that he suffered a burn-out and had to choose whether or not to recommit himself to his faith and vocation – he says he enjoys his work and is satisfied with who he is.
And who he is, according to parishioners, is a compassionate and dedicated man, devoted to those who just need a little faith.— Catherine Clark is the host of Beyond Politics on CPAC.