Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
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Deacon Jack Back dies in Spokane, age 90
the Inland Register
(From the December 20, 2012 edition of the Inland Register)
Deacon Jack Back (IR file photo)
Deacon Jack Back, ordained June 3, 1978, died Dec. 14 at his home in Spokane. He was 90 years old.
The vigil was scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 19, at Hennessey-Smith Funeral Home, Spokane. The funeral Mass was scheduled for the next morning at St. Aloysius Church, Spokane, where he ministered for many years. Burial would be at Holy Cross Cemetery, Spokane.
Deacon Back was born in Vasa, Finland, Oct. 21, 1922. He entered the United States Dec. 7, 1941, and served in the U.S. Merchant Marine during world War II.
He married his wife, Thelma Kayser, in 1950. She preceded him in death in 2008 after 58 years of marriage.
Jack was baptized Dec. 21, 1957 into the Catholic Church, and confirmed July 6, 1958.
He worked as a wood craftsman for Exchange Lumber for 35 years before retiring.
As a deacon, he was involved primarily in ministry to retirement homes, including the O’Malley Apartments, Davis Health Care Center, and Riverview Retirement Home.
He also was long involved in detention ministry, visiting prisoners in the Spokane County/City Jail.
In a 1979 Inland Register article about deacon ministry, Deacon Back recalled writing to and visiting with inmates, accompanied by his wife, Thelma.
“The first young man we wrote to didn’t write us back for about two months,” he said. “And then he told us he couldn’t believe it was true – that someone really cared about him.
“About 90 percent of the inmates we’ve helped have little or no family, and we fill that place for them,” he said.
Deacon John Sicilia, the diocese’s Director of Deacons, recalled that he first became acquainted with Deacon Back through detention ministry.
“He was my mentor as I began jail ministry,” said Deacon Sicilia. “Jack, in my opinion, was one of the most giving, humble persons that I have had the privilege to work with. He was a very devoted, loving husband to Thelma, and cared for all those around him.
“I am sure God is blessing him now for all the good he did in his 90 years of life on Earth,” said Deacon Sicilia.
“While I did not know Deacon Jack well,” said Bishop Cupich, “I was blessed to have a chance to visit with him two days before he died and to let him know how grateful we all are for this service and the witness he and his late wife, Thelma, offered for the good of all.”
Bishop William Skylstad, Bishop Emeritus of the Spokane Diocese, also remembered Deacon Back as “a humble servant of the church, and along with his wife, Thelma, was a great witness of a faith-filled life.
“He was one of the first deacons ordained in the Diocese of Spokane, an example of an inspirational pace-setter that now the Catholic faithful see as almost commonplace in the life of the Church,” said Bishop Skylstad. “In his own quiet, yet strong way, his witness as husband and deacon is an inspiration to all of us. May he rest in peace.”
In 2001, Deacon Back called his conversion to Catholicism “the best thing that ever happened to me.” His deacon ministry “has been a wonderful time for me, to be able to help all those people who were not able to attend church services.
“May the Good Lord bless you all as he has blessed me.”
The family requests that memorial contributions be made to the House of Charity, P.O. Box 2253, Spokane, WA 99210-2253.
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