Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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Twenty-five years of priesthood: ‘Being a priest means being a servant of the people of God’
Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the May 20, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)
Father Steve Dublinski (IR photo)
Ordained June 29, 1985, Father Steve Dublinksi will celebrate the 25th anniversary of his priestly ordination on June 22 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes. At the same evening event for priests of the diocese, Bishop Skylstad will celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination, and Msgr. John Steiner will celebrate his retirement.
Father Dublinski’s first assignment following ordination was as associate pastor at St. John Vianney Parish, in what is now Spokane Valley, an assignment which lasted four years. Subsequently, he was associate pastor, then parish administrator, then pastor at Spokane’s St. Charles Parish. Next he became pastor of Spokane Valley’s St. Mary Parish. In July of 2002 he was named Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Spokane, a position he continues to hold today. The following year, he became pastor of the parishes in Rosalia, Tekoa, Oakesdale, and St. John, before moving to the Cathedral in July 2005.
He grew up in Walla Walla, where he attended St. Patrick School and graduated from DeSales High School in 1977. Following one year at Walla Walla Community College, the future priest was accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Spokane. He joined the other seminarians at Bishop White Seminary while attending Gonzaga University, where he graduated in 1981 with a B.A. in philosophy. He studied theology at the Angelicum while at North American College, Rome, and graduated in 1985.
Looking back over the past 25 years of priesthood, he said that his understanding of what it means to be a priest today has deepened in two ways.
“One is that being a priest means being a servant of the people of God. It’s a servant leadership, but ‘servant’ first. The second way is that the only way to follow Christ, no matter what your vocation is, married, or a priest, or single, is to offer your life for others. Being a priest is a great way to do that, and it has happened in surprising ways over the years. When I started I had a theoretical understanding, but now it’s something that is much closer to the bone.”
What continues to be a surprise for him, as a priest, is “how God continues to manifest himself in people’s lives. God does not follow our way, and God manifests in ways that are unique in everybody’s lives. I’ve been privileged that people share with me how that manifestation occurs in their lives. It’s never the same between any two people. So God is the constant surprise.”
The celebration of the sacraments is what he continues to enjoy the most about his priestly ministry. “Presiding at liturgy, baptizing people, celebrating Reconciliation, and marriages, anointing people before they die, confirmations sometimes, as well: These are all generally joyful occasions. Even the Anointing of the Sick has an element of joy to it – not always for the people (observing), but for the person receiving the sacrament.”
The flip side of the coin, the least enjoyable part of being a priest, Father Steve said, has been “that in dealing with the realities of parish life, sometimes you have to do things that are unpleasant. Just as parents sometimes have to do things that are hard and unpleasant, but they just have to be done. There are elements of that in parish life, and over the years I’ve learned to do those things, and I’m thankful to the people who have helped me learn to do those things. Still, they’re tough, but they need to be done if good order is going to be kept in the community. Part of the sacrament of Holy Orders is to keep good order.”
Some “first time” memories have stayed with him, he said. “Certainly my first Mass,” he recalled with a smile. “After the homily, a group of my friends stood and held up score cards. That made an impression. That was a funny event in the course of the liturgy. But after the Mass was over, a little old lady said to me, ‘We should do that score card thing every Sunday!’”
Over the years, Father Dublinski has cultivated some favorite leisure time activities. “I really enjoy the outdoors, and I try to take advantage of whatever outdoor activities are available wherever I live. Right now, through the spring, a lot my outdoor time has been fly fishing. I like to ski, I like to golf, I like to kayak, I ride my Yamaha FJR 1300 motorcycle. I really enjoy doing pretty much anything that’s in the outdoors. I ride my bicycle for exercise. When I was younger, I used to jog. As I’ve gotten older that caused some inflammation in the knees,” so now it’s the bicycle.
Looking to the future, Father Steve said that it’s a personal thing to him to want to “pay off the diocese’s debt. Realistically, that looms fairly large in my mind, the level of debt that we’ve incurred from the Chapter 11” bankruptcy reorganization. “I have a big feeling of responsibility to help see that through. That has been so much a part of what I’ve done in my diocesan position over the past eight years.”
At the same time, Father Steve said, he looks forward to the church gradually “becoming free of a kind of toxic secret that it’s been sitting on for so many years, the clergy sex abuse scandal. “I believe it was always there undermining evangelization, and now that it’s out in the open and it’s being dealt with in a more healthy way, I really want to leave behind me a church that’s healthier for Catholics” in the future. “They won’t have that constantly working against them. That might not sound very personal, but it’s pretty personal to me because my whole priesthood has been somehow touched by all that.”
Father Dublinski said that he is “really grateful to priests and parishioners who have helped me over the years. You start off a rookie, and priests help you out, but also a lot of the laity help you out, teaching you the ropes and bringing you along, and helping you to improve. I’m grateful to the parishioners in all of my assignments who have done that. I have a real sense of thankfulness for the companionship in the work of the Gospel that people have given me.
“The one thing I value above all others is the work of the Gospel for Christ, and that’s a big reason that I became a priest,” he said. “You find, as you walk along the journey, that there are lots of other people doing that in other ways. Look at the work being done in parishes, and the work being done by Catholic Charities. Every one of those people is furthering the work of the Gospel. I value that so highly, and I’m so thankful. That brings joy to my heart.”