After 25 years, Deputy Chief John S. Brennan is retiring as a police officer and becoming a clergyman.

Brennan, 48, is one of nine Catholics ordained as deacons, the first to complete a four-year program begun by the Diocese of Portland. The idea was to give church members a new option for full-time ministry and offset a serious shortage of priests.Deacons can preach, baptize, comfort the sick and counsel the distressed. They cannot perform sacred rituals such as consecrating the Eucharist.

Brennan sees a natural transition from lawman to cleric. Cops, he said, are "in a profession where your whole day is involved in helping people."

And, he added, "You need a strong faith to survive. Otherwise, how do you hold a 2-year-old rape victim in your arms, as I did? How do you face fatal car accidents? How do you deal with the fact of women viciously abused by their husbands?"