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

Seminarian James Peak to be ordained to the diaconate March 24 in Chewelah

by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the March 22, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

Seminarian James Peak (third from left), a member of the Army Reserve, recently received a promotion to the rank of Major. Peak, studying for the priesthood for the Spokane Diocese at North American College, Rome, will be ordained to the diaconate March 24 at St. Mary of the Rosary Church, Chewelah. With him, from left, are fellow North American seminarians Deacon Kenny St. Hilaire, David Kuttner, and Deacon Luke Tomson. (IR photo courtesy of Bishop White Seminary)

James Peak, a seminarian studying at North American College, Rome, for the Diocese of Spokane, will be ordained a deacon on Saturday, March 24, at St .Mary of the Rosary Parish in Chewelah.

“Although this is not the parish I grew up in, I consider Chewelah to be my home parish in the diocese,” Peak said in an interview via e-mail. “My first summer assignment as a seminarian was with Father José (Millan, the pastor) to serve in the parishes of Chewelah, Valley, and Spring-dale, and it was in serving God’s people in this area that I was able to witness many examples of extraordinary love in the ordinary events of life. And since one of the distinguishing characteristics of a deacon is service, I thought it would be most appropriate to be ordained in a community where I witnessed such loving service. They have been a continual source of encouragement and support through the many trials of seminary life.”

Peak was born in Anchorage, Alaska, Jan. 5, 1973. Five years later, his family moved to the Silver Valley of Northern Idaho. Since then, his parents, Joe and Rose Mary Peak, have managed a restaurant there. Young James attended public schools near Kellogg.

While an undergraduate, Peak was enrolled in Gonzaga University’s ROTC program. Upon receiving a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Religious Studies in 1995, he received a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army’s Medical Service Corps, serving as an Environmental Science Officer. “I worked in many different areas of public health, including: drinking water analysis, restaurant inspections, radiation protection, hazardous materials and waste management, communicable disease surveillance and prevention, environmental health threat assessment, and insect surveillance,” he said.

He served three years in Germany before a transfer to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula for 13 months with the Multinational Force and Observers. The final assignment in his eight years with the army was at Fort Lewis, near Tacoma, Wash. From there he traveled all over the U.S. as a consultant and instructor in the field of environmental health threat assessment. During that time he also served on a team designated to respond to natural disasters and terrorism-related events.

Currently serving in the Army Reserve in the chaplain candidate program, Peak was recently promoted to the rank of Major (“Spokane seminarian in Army Reserve receives promotion,” IR 12/21/06). “During my Christmas vacation periods,” he said, “I serve with the chaplains in the U.S. military hospital in Landsfuhl, Germany, which is the primary healthcare treatment facility for all wounded soldiers leaving Iraq and Afghanistan. After ordination (to the priesthood), with the permission of the bishop, I will be eligible to serve in the Reserves as a Catholic chaplain. The diocese which serves the military services requires that all Catholic chaplains be ordained for at least three years before they serve on active duty.”

Several factors led him to the seminary.

“My parents are wonderful role models of faith in God and selfless service to others. Many good, holy priests have shown me incredible examples of priestly service in the parishes that I have been associated with. Friends have also been very supportive of my vocation, especially while I have been in the seminary.”

It was only after he graduated from Gonzaga University, however, that Peak began to seriously consider priesthood.

“In many ways,” he said, “the Army facilitated that. In Germany I was stationed in northern Bavaria, which has a deep Catholic culture and many important shrines that I often visited.” He also visited a number of traditional European pilgrimage sites, such as Rome, Lourdes, “and many other places of Catholic significance during my time there.”

While serving as a peacekeeper in the Sinai Peninsula, Peak said that he lived in “the same land that Moses and the Jewish people wandered through for 40 years,” and was able to visit the Holy Land.

He spent part of his time at Fort Lewis involved with prison ministry at the Army Corrections Facility, ministering with several retired priests. Eventually, he came to a point in his military career where he felt that he needed to make a decision to continue until retirement or resign from active duty in order to further explore his vocation.

Peak began his seminary studies with one semester at Gonzaga University during which he completed pre-requisite courses in philosophy. Since that time he has lived at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where some 160 men from the United States currently are studying for the priesthood. He attends classes at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas.

“It is an awesome experience to attend Mass with hundreds of thousands of people from over 100 different countries, all with unique languages, cultures, and ideas, yet to be united in the one, holy, catholic, apostolic church by professing one Faith and one Lord,” he said. “Not only was I able to learn more about the Catholic Church in other cultures, it also gave me the opportunity to tell others about the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Spokane.”

Matthew Nicks, another seminarian studying for the Spokane Diocese, will be ordained to the diaconate on Sunday, April 29, at the regular 10:30 a.m. Mass at Assumption Parish, Spokane.

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