Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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Father Glatt discerned his vocation early in life
Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the April 6, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)
Father Eugene Glatt is now Senior Priest in Residence at Bishop White Seminary, Spokane. (IR photo)
Father Eugene Glatt, now living at Bishop White Seminary in Spokane with the official title of Senior Priest in Residence, has no trouble remembering when he realized that he was called to the priesthood.
“It just came one evening. I don’t even know if I was in school yet. I went to church with a friend one evening. The bell rang, and out comes the priest, and – would you believe it? – by the time he came out of the sacristy to the time he got to the altar I had my vocation. I got it early.”
Born in Hagus, N.D., on Oct. 5, 1932, young Eugene lived there only until the age of 10, before he, with his parents, Joseph and Mary Glatt, and his seven brothers and five sisters, moved to Spokane in 1943. The family always spoke German at home, since the parents never learned to speak English, although the children did.
“Moving from Hagus to Spokane was like Columbus discovering America,” Father Glatt says with a laugh. “In Spokane we had lights, indoor toilet, movies, radio; in North Dakota we had none of those things! It was really something, yes!”
In 1947, the future priest told the pastor of St. Aloysius, his parish in Spokane, that he wanted to become a priest. The priest told young Eugene that classes at St. Edward, the minor seminary near Seattle, would begin in two weeks. “We were kind of poor,” Father Glatt remembers, “so my sisters dyed my socks black, they dyed my shirts black, pretty well everything they dyed black! I was 14 years old.”
Father Glatt says that what he enjoyed most about his seminary years was – everything.
“I really got into that seminary life, whatever it was that was very good. I didn’t have much criticism of the seminary. There was really very little that went wrong, very little. I liked history, but what I liked the most was English literature, writing about people – oh, I enjoyed that! I did well in that, I enjoyed that. I had seven years of Latin. Latin was no problem, I did well in that.”
He was ordained at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, on May 29, 1959, by Bishop Bernard Topel. The cathedral was the site of Father Glatt’s first assignment as well. In subsequent years he served at St. Charles Parish, Spokane, and in many rural parishes all over the diocese. When he retired on July 1, 2002, he was pastor of Holy Rosary in Rosalia, St. Catherine in Oakesdale, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in St. John, and Sacred Heart, in Tekoa. One might suggest that it’s no wonder he was ready to retire!
Father Glatt was on familiar terms for nearly a decade with the old Latin Mass. “I found the change a little difficult,” he says; “I hesitated to do it in English until I had to. The main thing that was hard was turning around to face the people. Once I did it, it was really nothing, though.”
Over the years, Father Glatt observes, his style of preaching has changed. “Oh, I hope so,” he says with a laugh. “Maybe 15 years ago, I asked some people in the parish about my sermons, what they thought. One of them said, ‘Father, we’re praying for you.’” He laughed heartily as he continued: “I hope I improved, yeah. I tell the people, ‘I’m going to share maybe two or three reflections,’ and then I tell them what they are, and that’s it. I’m very comfortable in my style now.”
Father Glatt thinks that his approach to being a priest has been shaped a great deal over the years by his family’s attitude toward priests.
“When I grew up, my family – wow! – they had tremendous respect for the priest. But they wouldn’t hesitate to criticize. I heard all of that. Boy, I tell you, when I was ordained I had a terrific picture of what to do as a priest and what not to do. It just seemed like, well, that’s the thing to do, and that was it. If you’re a priest you do that, or this, and that’s it.”
A priest, Father Glatt says, “is vulnerable. I was vulnerable. I had that brain surgery when I was about 43. There was a tumor on the pituitary, and that’s the master gland. They took most of it out. Fortunately, they had pills. I still have to take pills. I had a really good surgeon. And with the medication I was okay. I was never really out of commission. I just went into the hospital, had the operation, and then I think I just took off three weeks. I was out at the Wilbur and Coulee Dam parishes then.”
Young priests today, Father Glatt says, should “know what you want to do and then stick with it. I’ve shared with other people, I watched in the seminary, guys go along year after year, then after they’ve been ordained, six months or a year, or two years later, they’re gone.” Father Glatt speaks these last few words in almost a whisper, eyes wide with wonder. “I said to myself, ‘How come all those years, and now that they’re ordained, and bang,’” they’re gone?
When it comes to the “hot button issues” in the church today, Father Glatt remarks quietly, “Maybe I don’t care. But when something happens then you just do the best you can to fix it. I’ve got confidence in the church, and I’ve got confidence in the Lord. He can heal wherever he wants. So the present thing with the priest abuse thing, you have to relate to both sides, and pray for all the people involved. But I just kind of trust the church and trust the Lord.”
That applies, pretty much, to whatever changes tomorrow might bring to the Church. He’s certain that he wouldn’t be bothered. “Not too much,” he says. “I don’t know why it is. Whatever the church says, that’s it. Maybe I learned that from my parents. Something happens, you don’t gripe, you just take things in stride. I just kind of take things in stride. Maybe I should do more, but….”
At Bishop White Seminary, Father Glatt has no official duties. “I’m here for Mass, if I can help out,” he says. “And then I’m here in case the guys want to talk to an old guy.”