The Rev. Ivan Cendese knows all about fatherhood.
He's in the middle of his second career in the field. When he was 18, he joined a Catholic order, the Oblates of St. Francis De Sales, and became a priest.After spending exactly half his life there, Cendese was "hit with a crisis of faith."
He didn't question, as many in such a crisis do, the existence of God. But he did question his family life - or lack of one. The father wanted to be a father, a husband, a family man. And he still wanted to serve the God he'd always loved and leaned on.
At the time, Cendese was principal of Judge Memorial High School and "pretty successful there, I think." His decision to take a leave of absence to think things through shook him, because it was a drastic life change that he contemplated.
While he was thinking about his future, he landed a job in the Jordan School District, where he taught briefly at Brighton High, then became assistant principal. Later, he was assigned to Hillcrest, where he focused on alternative education. "I had a real sense about working with dropouts," he said.
Deciding his religious future took six years from the initial questioning. He began the process of leaving his religious order in 1972 in what was to be a four-year process. Laitization, as the process is called, goes through the Vatican and is similar to having a marriage annulled. When it was finished, he was a Catholic layman.
Along the way, he founded Valley High School in the Jordan School District and ran it for seven years, keeping the school open from noon to 9 p.m. each day. It was a learning and building experience, he said, and "I got a wonderful Ph.D thesis out of it."
Next, he moved to Glendale Junior High, still contemplating God and his role as God's servant. At the time, the community was beginning to see guns and gangs, but they hadn't become entrenched. Cendese started a break-dancing club involving South Sea Islanders, American Indians, blacks and whites. "It brought peace to my school."
After 18 years living under vows of poverty, celibacy, chastity and obedience, his new life "was a real challenge." Dating was hard. He took his time. "It was clear to me that the move from a monastic life straight to a married life would have been disastrous."
Twenty years ago, he married, and a couple of years later he and his wife started a family.
But his life direction, while changed, was not resolved yet. He still didn't know how he was supposed to serve God.
"I was always really aware that I was attracted to the religious life and things of the spirit. And even as the principal of a public high school, I couldn't do that. I enjoyed school and had wonderful experiences. But I wasn't always there emotionally."
In 1985, he again entered the priesthood - this time as an Episcopalian priest. "All that attraction to spirituality and the ministry came back."
He stayed in the public schools, as an Episcopalian priest, until 1995. Then he went to work full-time for the Episcopal Diocese of Utah.
It has been a chance to meld together his love of the priesthood, education and administration.
He is canon to the ordinary, which translates into "administrative person to the bishop." As such, he does education planning, social services programs, outreach and the candidacy programs for people who are interested in being ordained.
His religion is still quite Catholic, he said - a comforting and comfortable fit. Like Catholics, Episcopalians are attached to the Scriptures and love liturgy. "The differences come out in governance of the church, celibacy, the authority of the pope. It is distinct from Catholicism, and the reason I'm Episcopal is I discovered my theology was informed by the Anglican ethos and ethics."
Still, the change was difficult. "My life was rooted in tradition I had to re-examine and understand. There's a guilt factor in taking vows and then asking to be relieved of them. There were family issues (relationships with siblings, for instance). And communities I was part of that I had to break away from.
"It forced me to go inward. What is it I need to understand about God and the relationship with human beings? Who am I called to be?"
He's a better priest today, he said.
He and his wife, Jan, a psychotherapist and clinical social worker, still grapple with the role of Christ in their lives and how to live that out. Their children are young adults, 16 and 18. They attended Judge Memorial, the school their father once headed.
Had someone once told a young priest that he would leave his church and his lifelong background of parochial education and set out on unknown seas, he'd never have believed it.
"I never asked for that crisis. I felt real shock and anger that this was happening to me. I didn't look for it, consider it or want it. And when it came, I had to start from scratch. I've made some bad decisions and some very good ones.
"But I've been fortunate. I have always enjoyed what I was doing."
Editor's note: This is one in a periodic series of profiles on Utahns who seek to foster discussion of religious and ethical issues.