The search for a missing Catholic priest who led a Waterville church in the 1980s continues in a wooded 300-square-mile area more than a hundred miles south of his Caribou home.

Clement Thibodeau

Clement Thibodeau, 85, disappeared from Reno’s Family Restaurant at 117 Sweden St. in Caribou on July 15. He drives a gray 2013 Chevy Equinox with Maine license plate 638A, according to a post on the Caribou Police Department’s Facebook page.

Thibodeau’s cellphone last sent a signal July 18 from somewhere in wooded areas of Washington, Penobscot and Hancock counties, perhaps in the Lee area, according to Caribou police Officer Craig Peterson. Game wardens had scaled back an intense search, he said, but are continuing to comb the area.

The wooded area has a full canopy at this time of year, making the search for Thibodeau extremely difficult, Peterson said. Police and game wardens searched by land and air and were working with landowners in the area.

“We’re still working different angles,” Peterson said.

Police have not ruled anything out at this point, but there are no indications of foul play in Thibodeau’s disappearance, Peterson said, though police are still trying to figure out what transpired before he disappeared. The phone was likely in Thibodeau’s possession the last time it signaled.

Attempts to locate Thibodeau’s vehicle through ONSTAR have not been successful, according to a Facebook post from Caribou police.

Thibodeau was a pastor at Notre Dame Parish in Waterville from June 30, 1981, to June 30, 1987, according to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. He was pastor of St. Mary Parish in Bangor from July 1, 1987, to June 30, 1994. He had retired to Caribou and was no longer active in the ministry.

A Silver Alert, typically used for missing seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or some other form of mental disability, was put out for Thibodeau on July 21. The diocese did not know if Thibodeau suffered from any health problems. Family members have said he was beginning to show signs of confusion.

“The belief is he may be suffering or beginning to suffer from dementia or dementia-related characteristics,” Peterson said.

Waterville resident Joan Phillips-Sandy said she knew Thibodeau when he was in Waterville, as she was active in the parish. He was “exceedingly bright,” she said, had a brilliant mind and knew his theology. He was a big part of the community, allowing the parishioners to start a weekend soup kitchen at the church, Phillips-Sandy said, and he also did a lot of work with recovering alcoholics in the area.

“He was huge when he was here,” she said.

It was very shocking to hear Thibodeau had gone missing, Phillips-Sandy said. A friend from Bangor told her Thibodeau had gone missing, and she was stunned to hear it.

“I was shocked, totally, totally shocked,” she said.

Phillips-Sandy said Thibodeau is from the Caribou area and is a self-sufficient man, but she said it’s not a good sign that he’s been missing for so many days. The longer he stays missing, the less hopeful she is that things will end well.

“I really pray that he’s well wherever he is,” she said.

Another former parishioner of Thibodeau’s, Carol Mitchell, remembered him as a highly regarded and respected priest who “electrified” parishioners with his homilies and gave them chances to do things like starting the soup kitchen.

Mitchell said she was concerned when she learned Thibodeau had been reported missing, but said he was a resourceful man who knew the area. She was encouraged by the fact the car hadn’t been discovered yet.

Anyone with information about Thibodeau’s whereabouts should call the Caribou police at 493-3301.

Colin Ellis can be contacted at 861-9253 or at:

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