Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

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

Priest ordained 50 years loves saying Mass ‘and I always will’

by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the Aug. 18, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)

Father John SandRight: Father John Sand celebrates his 50th anniversary as a priest this year. (IR file photo)

It’s standard practice, these days, to point out that priests celebrating a 40th or 50th anniversary of ordination started out in a church that looked quite different from the church of today. For the Diocese of Spokane’s Father John Sand, however, the differences have made little difference to him, “except for having to face the people during Mass. As far as I was concerned, the switch from Latin to English was a relief.”

The formal celebration of his 50th ordination anniversary was June 26 at Holy Family Church, Clarkston. A reception and parish picnic followed the Mass, in the parish school’s gym.

Ever since he was a boy of 14, John Peter Sand wanted to be a priest. He even recalls that when he was young he and his twelve brothers and sisters would “play church” at their farm in Minnesota. “I was always elected to be the priest,” said Father Sand.

By 1939, the Sand family had grown weary of the Minnesota winters, so they moved to Clarkston, Wash. When he was 14 and a student at Holy Family School, John told his parents that he wanted to become a priest, and before long he was on a train headed for the Pontifical College Josephinum near Columbus, Ohio. Twelve years later, following seminary high school, college, and graduate studies, on June 4, 1955, Father John Sand was ordained for the Diocese of Spokane by Bishop Charles White.

In the course of his years as a priest, Father Sand has served at the following parishes: St. Patrick, Walla Walla (twice); Christ the King, Omak (twice); Our Lady of Fatima, Spokane; Sacred Heart, Spokane; Pure Heart of Mary, Northport; St. Joseph, LaCrosse; Holy Rosary, Pomeroy (three times); Holy Family, Clarkston; Immaculate Conception, Davenport; St. Francis of Assisi, Harrington and St. Joseph, Odessa (simultaneously); and St. Joseph, Dayton, and St. Mark, Waitsburg (simultaneously).

Father Sand officially “retired” on June 1, 1999, but to this day he has more than enough to keep him occupied. As winter comes on each year, he drives his older model Tioga RV to Mesa, Ariz. – a suburb of Phoenix – where he sets up camp for the duration and helps out with weekend Masses, plus the occasional weekday Mass, at Queen of Peace Parish. While in Arizona, Father Sand also goes high tech, as the parish gives him a beeper so he can be contacted for emergency hospital calls and the like.

About three times a week, during the balmy Arizona winters, Father Sand also plays golf, a game he became enthusiastic about during his first years as a pastor in Pomeroy. Then, as the Arizona summer heat comes on, Father Sand is on the road again, back to his beloved Clarkston and Holy Family, the parish of his boyhood, where he once again pitches in on the weekends. While in Clarkston, he parks the RV and takes up residence in a small apartment.

Father Sand is fond of pheasant hunting in the fall, so about October he hightails it to his old stomping grounds in the Pomeroy area to stalk the elusive birds and bring them back for frying up. “You have to fry pheasant slowly,” he cautions, “or it gets too tough.”

Holy Rosary Parish in Pomeroy benefits from Father Sand’s pheasant hunting. It turns out that there is a market for pheasant tail feathers. Father Sand gives them to a Pomeroy parishioner, who sells them to a business in Moscow, Idaho, which in turn sells the feathers to a business in New York that uses the feathers for decoration on women’s hats. “He gets a dollar for each bird’s tail feathers,” Father Sand said. The proceeds – last fall, about $25 – go to Holy Rosary Parish’s religious education program.

After 50 years as a priest, Father John Sand says that what he has always been most grateful for, and continues to be most grateful for, is “being able to say Mass each day. When I was in high school, I really wanted to be able to say Mass, and I love doing that and I always will.”

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