Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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Spokane priest retires from military chaplaincy
by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the July 5, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)
Father Ty Schaff, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Spokane, recently retired from his ministry as an Air Force chaplain. (IR file photo)
Father Tyrone J. Schaff, pastor of Spokane’s Our Lady of Fatima Parish, recently retired after more than 20 years as a military chaplain for the Air National Guard.
Father Schaff first joined the Air National Guard in 1987 after receiving permission to do so from Bishop Lawrence Welsh.
“It was advertised,” Father Schaff said, “but I had already talked to someone who was a chaplain, and we talked about the work that they did. I was struck by the importance of having priests for the Catholic community (in the military).”
Father Schaff doesn’t come from a military family; there were no career military people in his extended family, although some uncles served in the army during World War II and during the Korean War in the early 1950s.
“The last several years, ever since the first desert war, have been incredibly busy with regard to the regular troops because of their increased operations deployments – separations from home, family problems. I’ve deployed to the Middle East seven times, and each and every one of those times has just been an incredible experience. It’s an extremely worthwhile way to spend one’s time, partially because so many of the people we deal with are really young folks. This last deployment, I can’t remember seeing so many people that young before.”
As a military chaplain, he didn’t have much time to think about, for example, the right or wrong of the United States’ presence in Iraq. “In one way, you get so involved in dealing with the troops themselves that the issue of whether we should be there or not sort of fades, because the ministry is to troops. It’s not an issue of policy.”
Father Schaff acted as a Catholic chaplain for members of all branches of the military, not just those in the Air National Guard. “When I was in Kuwait, earlier,” he said, “I used to serve the army in Kuwait City, and interestingly enough the U. S. Ambassador was a member of the parish. He would come out to the base from downtown. The army did not have any Catholic chaplains in Kuwait when I was there. Then the last couple of times, when I was in an undisclosed location in Southeast Asia, I was actually attached to a Navy unit and a Marine unit, in addition to the Air Force and some Army personnel in Saudi Arabia.”
Retirement time came for Father Schaff primarily because of what he calls “mandatory separation due to age.” He recently turned 60.
Father Schaff began his military chaplaincy as a Lieutenant and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.