Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Father Terence Tully: 1914-2002
by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register
(From the Dec. 5, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)
Father Terence Tully, a priest of
the Spokane Diocese for more than 60 years, died Nov. 17 in Spokane. (IR file photo, c.
Father Terence Tully, a priest of the Diocese of Spokane for more than 60 years and
editor of the Inland Register for 22 of those years, died Nov. 17. He was 88.
The vigil service was Nov. 22; the funeral Mass was celebrated the next day. Both took
place at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in Spokane.
Father Tully was born in Spokane at what was then known as Sacred Heart Hospital. He
attended St. Joseph School and then, for three years, Gonzaga High School before entering St.
Edward Seminary, Kenmore, Wash., for his last year of high school.
He stayed at St. Edward for the first two years of college before moving to The
Catholic University in Washington, D.C., for his junior and senior college years. He returned
to St. Edward for four years of theology prior to priestly ordination on May 30, 1942, at the
Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes.
He earned a master’s degree in philosophy while at The Catholic University. He added a
master’s degree in liturgical studies in 1977, earned from the University of Notre Dame in
South Bend, Ind.
He had not quite completed his theology studies when he was told that he had been named
the new editor of the Spokane Diocese’s Inland Register. He later recalled that he
thought it was a joke, since there was no such newspaper at the time.
Spokane’s Bishop Charles White saw the future differently. He assigned the newly
ordained priest to become the first editor of the new diocesan newspaper, which in those days
was part of the Denver Register system of Catholic newspapers.
After two weeks’ vacation, Father Tully found himself enrolled in a month-long boot
camp for new editors.
He was consistently humble and not above turning his own wry wit on himself. “Reading
books on newspaper writing for 30 days did not make me a journalist,” he recalled, “but I got
some idea of the scope of the profession.”
He continued, “I remember some fascination with the writing of headlines. To me it
seemed like writing poetry. Not that it had to rhyme or scan, but it had to fit the space
available on the line. It had to express fairly the content of the story. And often there was
something whimsical or playful in it, if the subject matter allowed.” In his typically
self-deprecating fashion, he added, “Fortunately, I never had to write headlines.”
Father Tully began to learn his job, usually on the fly.
In his 1991 history of the paper’s genesis, he wrote of the mechanics of the trade in
those days: assembling the news in Spokane, marking stories for importance, and putting it all
in a large envelope which he sent air-mail to Denver. A separate packet contained ads for the
issue. The weekly ritual sometimes ran late, forcing him “to drive my car to the Spokane
Airport, where postal workers always seemed able to handle the precious envelopes as long as
the airliner for Denver was still on the ground. Even a day later I could type a hundred words
or so and get them off to Denver by a Western Union night rate that was special for news
writers. Last resort of all was dictating news to Denver by long distance phone, which was the
most costly way. This system worked for us for more than 20 years.”
Father Tully himself worked on the Inland Register as editor twice: from
1942-1959, and again from 1962-67, when he temporarily replaced his successor, Father (later
Monsignor) John Donnelly.
He always had a fascination for theater, and even considered the stage for a career
before discerning his call to priesthood.
Even though he stepped down from the editor’s chair in 1967, Father Tully continued to
write. In December 1994 he committed to writing an article for each issue. Not really a column,
not really a news report, Father Tully’s articles concentrated on another of his great
interests: the Catholic configuration of Boy Scouts.
Father Tully was diocesan Scout chaplain for most of his years as a priest. Even though
retired, he decided to encourage the development of Scouting in the diocese with his regular
articles, reports, reflections, and essays. Each article arrived in the Inland Register
offices with the same gentle reminder on the first page: “Kindly use logo,” meaning to include
the symbol of the Diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting to help people identify the article
as devoted to Scouting.
In his later years he also served on the Diocesan Pastoral Council.
Besides his work with the IR, Father Tully was assigned to several parishes in various
parts of the diocese. His last two assignments were as associate pastor, at Assumption in
Spokane and Holy Family, Clarkston. More often than not he was an assistant or associate
pastor, a position he seemed to prefer. In an interview for his 60th anniversary as a priest he
admitted he “never really liked telling people what to do.”
He also taught at Mater Cleri Seminary, Colbert, and was spiritual director for Bishop
White Seminary in Spokane.
Age never slowed his mind, only his body. Never tall to begin with, he was physically
diminutive by the time of his death. Arriving by cab to drop off copy for the Inland
Register, all that could be seen in the passenger window was his very elegant straw summer
He embraced technology and had a wonder-filled appreciation for improvements and
changes to the news ministry he was a part of for decades.
Despite heart and respiratory difficulties, he never missed a deadline. I visited him
at St. Joseph Care Center to pick up his Oct. 24 column. He didn’t have access to his computer
at the time, and so he’d written it out by hand. He patiently read it out loud to me, to make
sure I didn’t misunderstand any of the penmanship. He laughed. We shared a few jokes. His
reading material included Holy Humor, a collection of pieces from The Joyful
Noiseletter, a humor publication for those in ministry.
For his Nov. 14 IR column he was back to the computer keyboard.
But it was the Oct. 24 article that was, perhaps, his farewell to his Scouts and to his
“I am just exploring the material boundaries of the world,” he wrote. “The whole realm
of eternity is superior to the material. The best is yet to come. Details, we do not yet
“We have been made for it,” he wrote. “Our duty to God points us in this direction....
Meanwhile, we live in this cozy world, with its cities, lands, mountains, lakes, oceans, and
also its dangers of disasters, wars – and its splendid opportunities.
“God bless us.”
And God did.
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