Deacon Peter Bernier’s commute just got a lot shorter. Until recently, Bernier drove four to five hours each day from Windham to Massachusetts for his work as an engineering manager at Oncore in Wilmington. Starting Jan. 19, Bernier will have a much shorter trip to his new job as director of ministerial services for the Diocese of Portland.

Bernier is an ordained deacon, whose new directorial responsibilities primarily involve the selection and training of new potential deacons, along with overseeing the continuing education of ordained deacons in the diocese.

Bernier grew up in Westbrook, but resides in Windham with his wife, Debra, in a home he designed and built himself.

Bernier and his wife have been members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in North Windham for 30 years. He was involved in youth ministry at the parish when his three kids were growing up, and after that become involved in adult ministry and liturgical ministry. Bernier said he and his wife will continue to be involved at Our Lady’s.

He credits his wife with playing an important role in his work as a deacon and beyond.

“She’s been an incredible support of encouragement (and) of faithfulness,” he said.

Bernier spoke with the Lakes Region Weekly about his faith, working full time in the ministry, and his stint in the music business.

Q: How do you feel about transitioning from working part time in the ministry to a full-time role?

A: It’s exciting for me because it’s something that I never really expected. In fact I did not pursue this ministerial opportunity on my own, but the diocese approached me first to consider taking on this role. And after much prayer, discernment and discussions with my wife, Debra, it became apparent that God was calling me to move in this direction. I accepted this position with a humble heart knowing that I’m stepping forth in faith and in a new direction.

I had wanted to be in the ministry full time my whole adult life (but) the time wasn’t right. It wasn’t God’s time. At this point I never expected to be in full-time ministry but God had a surprise for me. A wonderful surprise.

Q: What got you interested in the ministry?

A: I went through a very profound conversion experience when I was 17-18 years old. I had been sick for a long time, (then) I had a real encounter with Christ that changed my life.

At that time there was a priest, Father Ray Gauthier, who became a very strong mentor in my life. He was the one who got me engaged in liturgical ministry and that’s where it all started. My faith and ministry have blossomed out from there, over the years. It was a process, it wasn’t one specific event, that helped me discover my faith. And it continues to play out now, and this (new role) is a part of that journey.

It’s not something I did on my own, that’s for sure. (I had) great mentors along the way who really gave me affirmation and training, which has really made a big difference in my life. That’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about being a good mentor for other people, because I see such value in recognizing other people’s giftedness and helping them see that for themselves.

Q: How has the church changed since you first became involved?

A: Vatican II (The Second Vatican Council) was a big change for the church, it really opened up the doors for a lot of things including ministry opportunities for lay people, enabling them to become more involved in the life of the church…which opened up a lot of opportunities for me.

The church for me today is a much more welcoming communal faith experience. We encourage people to grow in their faith and to share their gifts, and recognize that we need to enable people to use their gifts to help their parishes and their communities grow.

Q: Do you have any hobbies?

A: I love spending time with my family. My wife and I love to be outdoors…it’s part of our Franciscan calling to be connected with nature. So we love to spend time at the lake and the beach.

I’m a professional musician as well. I play guitar, and I write religious music. I actually recorded an album back in 1995 and I hope to produce another one sometime in the future.

Q: What was the album called?

A: “God is in Control.” That was a really fun project. My son was in high school and he played the drums on the album. It was a contemporary form of gospel music with a rock twinge to it.

I grew up as a musician. I love music, it’s in my blood, and I still love to play the guitar. On occasion I play for prayer and worship services. I just feel so in tune with worshiping God through music. I also enjoy playing with musician friends, and for my own enjoyment.

Deacon Peter Bernier at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Windham. Bernier recently accepted the position of Director of Ministerial Services for the Dicoese of Portland. 

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