Have You Ever Thought of Being a Priest
By Simcha Fisher | Photo by Michael Richards
In this series, Parable travels the Diocese of Manchester to profile a priest from each region and a male and female religious. Father Michael Gendron is in the Amoskeag deanery, which serves Greater Manchester. In the next issue, Parable will meet with a young woman who is a member of a religious order.
Some Catholic pastors find the business end of their job laborious and overwhelming, but not Father Michael E. Gendron of St. Peter Parish in Auburn. The soft-spoken priest, 58, grew up working on a dairy farm in Bedford, and had a career as an accountant for years before he entered the seminary.
He doesn't personally do the accounting for his parish.
“But I’m well aware of what’s going on. I could do it in my sleep,” Father Gendron said.
Ordained in 1995, Father Gendron was made Parochial Vicar in Manchester, then did a short stint at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Merrimack. He was then moved to Holy Angels Church in Plaistow, then to the Charlestown-Walpole area, where he stayed for nine years. He came to Auburn in 2011.
I asked Father Gendron how he found his way to the seminary after working in the business world. He said that he had always thought of being a priest, ever since he was young; but there was no one clear turning point. Father Gendron said:
“My parents didn’t mention the priesthood per se. It was their example in the home. We always prayed the rosary, went to Stations of the Cross, benediction and adoration. My mom taught faith formation; my dad sang in the choir. That modeling put it in my mind.”
What is the most helpful thing someone said or did that made you realize you were called to the priesthood?
I knew a lot of priests because of my involvement with the Church. It was the influence of Father Marc Gagne that made me want to try. I entered the seminary at age 25, thinking, “Let’s take a look and see.”
In the seminary, there’s a lot to look at. Am I integrated in my person? Am I social enough? Do I have boundaries? There’s the requirement of celibacy, of obedience, of moving around from one parish to another. You have to learn to be alone with yourself...You have to ask yourself, “Can I live this lifestyle?”
What are the greatest challenges of being a priest?
One of the hardest things is the conflict you have to deal with. You’re trying to be as pastoral as possible, while upholding the faith and not watering it down. You’re not there to make people upset, but you have to speak the truth. People aren’t really angry at you, but it may be directed at you, and you have to learn to have a tough skin. People are more vocal now than they were when I was first ordained.
What is most rewarding?
Reconciliation. It’s a really powerful experience when people recognize how great their sin was and how great God’s mercy is for them, and they see for the first time how much it’s changed their life.
What advice do you have for those contemplating the priesthood today?
I ask them if they are praying daily and asking God to direct their hearts where he wants them to go.
I let them know that marriage isn’t an easy vocation, either. No one [vocation] is better than the other, in living a life of faithfulness. But there is great joy in this life.