RUMFORD — Faith in God works to a point for Monsignor Daniel P. Beegan of Pine Street.
But when it comes to security, the padre packs a pistol.
Beegan, a nontraditional priest who is licensed to carry a concealed weapon, draws the line at carrying his Kel-Tec .380-caliber automatic handgun into a bar.
“I consider myself as a sheepdog on guard against the wolves,” he said Tuesday.
For him, being a gun-toting priest isn't awkward.
“The Bible gives very ample justifications for self-defense, defense of family, defense of plot,” he said.
An avid deer hunter and firearms enthusiast as a youth in Vermont, Beegan said he now enjoys shooting guns at Dixfield's Webb River Sportsmen's Club, where he is a member.
“There's an old New England saying, 'God helps those who help themselves,' for one thing, and I think that carrying a firearm is an example of that,” he said.
He said he carries a handgun openly in the woods to ward off coyotes while walking Maeve Dog — his 5-year-old Newfoundland, named after a Celtic war queen — Beegan said he occasionally carries a concealed weapon.
“I am very discreet,” he said. “I also obey the law and do not carry in federal buildings, schools, barrooms or other places where such carry is either forbidden, or, in the case of a gin joint, just plain stupid.”
Beegan isn't affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. He became a priest after retiring from a 35-year career with The Associated Press. He and his living-room “church” are considered independent.
Curiosity, and his long-term disability from back and other health problems, led him into the priesthood.
"I went to the University of Vermont for college, finishing up with an online college, and then spent about five years studying for the priesthood," he said.
His degree is in pastoral psychology.
Ordained as a deacon in October 2005, he said he was ordained on Jan. 8, 2006, as a priest of the Charismatic Church by Patriarch Michal I, aka Archbishop J. Paul A. Boucher, of Holy Catholic Charismatic Church of Berlin, N.H.
He is now under the jurisdiction of Bishop Heyward Ewart of St. James The Elder Seminary in Jacksonville, Fla., and through Ewart, of Metropolitan Archbishop Joel Clemente of the Philippines.
On Feb. 16, the self-proclaimed 30-year student of religion was promoted through the Holy Catholic Charismatic Church of Jacksonville as "the reverend monsignor."
Father Beegan calls his own church St. Brendan's Catholic Charismatic Oratory but has no parishioners.
A framed certificate he removed from a living room wall near his church altar — behind which were stacked many boxes of freeze-dried food — states that Beegan is “a Priest of God” who “has been granted full Sacerdotal Faculties to administer the Sacraments of the Church.”
“I'm Father Superior of the Interdenominational Order of St. Barnabas,” Beegan said. “It was a rather quick rise, but purely job-related. Really, it gives me nothing except some command authority. It's sort of the equivalent of being a top sergeant or a master chief petty officer.”
Since becoming a priest, Beegan said that through the Internet, he counsels people like himself who are in chronic pain, acting more as a life coach than a counselor.
“I do pastoral counseling, what any priest would do,” he said. “I am not a mental health counselor. I don't recommend medications or anything like that. I pray for people who are in pain and ask them to pray for me. But never is prayer a substitute for good science-based medicine.”
Counseling is what eventually led Beegan to carry a concealed weapon.
“I was being stalked by a female back in 2007,” he said. “I met her through counseling, and then she turned into a stalker.”
The counseling-gone-bad session with an unidentified Texas woman ended his telephone counseling work. That's also when he took Scott Blaisdell's concealed-weapon course through the Dixfield sportsmen's club, qualifying with his wife's Smith and Wesson .38-caliber Special revolver.
“And then I discovered Kel-Tecs," Beegan said. "They're a small, lightweight (palm-fit); sort of the poor man's Glock, but they're reliable.”
He acknowledged that the gun is under-powered for self-defense, but he has carried it concealed in Lewiston and would consider doing the same in certain areas of Rumford.
As for the freeze-dried food stacked beside his altar, he said he only uses it when he can't find inexpensive meat.
“I'm a bit of a survivalist, but not one of the wacky ones,” he said. “I'm a believer in being prepared.”