Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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Deacon Jim Blaine retires as Sacred Heart Parish’s pastoral associate
Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the April 10, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
Deacon Jim Blaine has retired as pastoral associate at Sacred Heart Parish, Spokane. (IR photo)
Deacon James Blaine, of Spokane’s Sacred Heart Parish, recently retired from active ministry.
Growing up in Boise, Idaho, the future deacon continued to live there as a young adult. In 1973, however, his employer transferred him to Spokane, where he and his family were members of St. Mary Parish in what is now Spokane Valley.
“When we came to Spokane in ’73,” Deacon Blaine said, “I was a marginal Catholic. We started in going to St. Mary, and we got involved in a few things – adult education, and I was a Eucharistic Minister. At one time I was scheduling all the Eucharistic Ministers; we had about 150.”
Another future deacon, Dick Malone, “was still in formation at that time, asked me if I was interested. I said, ‘I never really thought about it.’ So I thought about it and prayed about it, and I said, ‘Okay, I’ll do the formation program and see what happens.’”
Deacon Blaine is a member of the second group of deacons ordained for the Diocese of Spokane, the class of 1980. His ministry included assignments at two parishes, St. Mary in Spokane Valley (1980-1996) and Sacred Heart in Spokane (1996-2008).
Deacon Blaine was active in youth ministry and marriage preparation, plus he presided at countless baptisms, weddings, funerals, and funeral vigil services.
He never felt called to be a homilist, however. “When we were ordained, none of us were preaching,” he said. “Then later on, they started having deacons preach, and I just felt that it’s not my gift,” he said with a smile.
Due to another transfer by his employer, from 1989-1991 Deacon Blaine and his family lived in Seattle, but he was never active as a deacon there. At that time, he said, the Archdiocese of Seattle had a policy that required deacons from other dioceses to wait two years before they could become active as deacons. “We ended up visiting lots of different parishes over there,” Deacon Blaine said, “and it was a good education for me.”
After two years in Seattle, Deacon Blaine and his family moved back to the Spokane area, so he took up where he left off in St. Mary Parish.
“I went back to school for two years,” he said, “at Eastern Washington University, when we came back to Spokane, because I had left the job I had before. My wife worked for a dentist, and Father George Haspedis, who was pastor at Sacred Heart then, went to that dentist. He mentioned to my wife that he was looking for someone to be a pastoral associate, which was a half-time job. So we talked, and he hired me. I did the liturgical things a deacon does, plus baptisms and weddings, and lots of marriage preparation. Then when (Providence) Sister Dorothy Byrne retired from Sacred Heart Parish in 2000, my position became full-time. I did a little bit of everything. I started working on processing annulments, and when (Sacred Heart’s current pastor) Father Mark (Pautler) got here, I really learned a lot about that from him. I enjoyed that.”
With no hesitation whatsoever, Deacon Blaine said that what he liked most about being a deacon was “the parishioners; at both of the parishes I was assigned to there were a tremendous number of really great people. I couldn’t get to know everyone, of course, but there are a lot of people at both St. Mary and Sacred Heart who are really dedicated, and active, and anything you ask of them, they will do it. Good people.”
At Sacred Heart, Deacon Blaine said, he had the unique opportunity to minister at Rockwood Lane retirement community, just across the parking lot from the church. “I worked with them, I did a Communion service once a week, and I got to know a lot of older people.”
Deacon Blaine’s wife, Donna, said that, “On the whole,” being the wife of a deacon was “a good experience. A couple of years ago, I gave a talk to one of the deacon (formation) classes, and I said that there are some things you don’t think about when (your husband) goes into the diaconate, and one of those is always sitting by yourself at Mass. Even though your husband is up there on the altar, it’s not the same as being part of the family. That’s one thing that was a surprise to me. Sometimes the demands of the church come before the demands of the family.
“On the whole, I think it was good for him and it was good for the people he came into contact with,” she said. “His idea of ministry was more ministering to the people rather than the liturgical part of it. He had a special gift for the elderly – even when he wasn’t one of the elderly! – and for ministering to the sick.”
Having a husband who is a deacon had a positive impact on their marriage, she said. “For a lot of years we did marriage prep together, and even though we could have done that without him being in the diaconate, the fact that we did it together helped us examine things that happened in our life together, too.”
Donna said that she would encourage other wives to be open to the possibility of their husbands becoming deacons. “I think the diaconate is a great program, and there’s a real need for the deacons today when it comes to the needs of the people, more so than in the liturgy. At the same time it’s important to consider the age of your family.”
Looking back, Deacon Blaine agrees that he has but one regret. When he was ordained he and his wife had four young children, he said, and “I got assigned a lot of baptisms on Saturday mornings, so I missed a lot of kids’ soccer games and that kind of thing.
“It’s very nice to be retired.”