PORTLAND — The Rev. Roland Nadeau has experienced a lot in his 80 years: military service in Vietnam, marriage and three sons, and a call to the priesthood in his later years.

And through it all, he saw the hand of God. 

Nadeau will retire from active ministry on his 80th birthday, Feb. 16, the Portland Catholic Diocese of Maine announced in a news release.

Born in Lewiston, Nadeau attended grammar school at St. Peter’s elementary school before attending St. Dominic’s Regional High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Providence College in 1961. In 1967, he joined the U.S. Army and was deployed to Vietnam where he served as a chaplain’s assistant during the war.

“All you could see was God’s mercy all over the place,” Nadeau said in the news release. “I was shot at a few times. But by the grace of God, I survived. He had a different plan for me.”

Nadeau completed his military service and began working for the Postal Service in 1969, the same year he fell in love with and married Catherine Flanigan at St. Mary’s Church in Bangor. She almost became a nun.

“Before we met, my wife was going to join the Sisters of Mercy,” Nadeau said. “Her dad drove her down to Portland, but on the way she said, ‘God doesn’t want me to go into this convent. He wants me to be married to a good, Catholic young man.’”

She went to work for the telephone company. “Some friends introduced us. That’s how we met,” Nadeau said. They raised three sons. She died in 1985.

When Nadeau retired from the Postal Service in 1996, he felt a call to the priesthood.

“How do you know God created the universe? You just do. I just knew,” Nadeau said. “It was wonderful. When I was accepted to the seminary, Bishop (Joseph) Gerry asked me how I felt about it. I said, ‘I don’t know, but I think God has a sense of humor.’”

He completed his clerical studies at Pope John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Mass., earning a Master of Divinity degree in 2000. On May 13, 2000, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Gerry at St. John Church in Bangor.

After he was ordained and met the older priests, “I introduced myself as the ‘baby with the white hair,’” Nadeau said.

Nadeau served as parochial vicar at Saints Peter and Paul Parish and St. Patrick Parish in Lewiston from June 2000 to July 2003.

He was named chaplain at Mercy Hospital in Portland. A year later, he was appointed chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor. In 2010, in addition to his hospital duties, he was named parochial vicar at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Bangor.

Nadeau’s kind and unassuming nature has touched parishioners and patients, diocese spokesman Dave Guthro said.

Bishop Robert Deeley said he thanks Nadeau for “his gracious and generous service.”

After retiring, Nadeau plans to serve his parish, St. Paul the Apostle in Bangor.

“It’s a wonderful life,” Nadeau said. “I can never thank God enough.”

He plans to spend more time with family and friends, including his three grandchildren, all of whom he baptized.

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