Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Rest in Peace: Father J. Severyn Westbrook
the Inland Register
(From the October 16, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)
Father J. Severyn Westbrook, a priest of the Spokane Diocese for over 52 years, died Sunday, Sept. 21. He was 81.
At his request, there was no vigil service. The funeral Mass was celebrated by Bishop William Skylstad at St. Ann Church, Spokane, on Thursday, Oct. 2. His remains will be inurned at Greenwood Cemetery.
He was born in St. Paul, Minn., where he attended St. Mark Grade School. He later studied at Mount Angel Seminary High School in St. Benedict, Ore., and St. Paul Seminary and College of St. Thomas, both in St. Paul, Minn.
His initial parish work, while still a seminarian, was at St. Rose of Lima Parish, Cheney, where he returned in 1993 as pastor.
He was ordained to the priesthood May 31, 1962, at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Conception, Mo.
His first assignment as a priest was to St. Charles Parish, Spokane, where he serve as assistant pastor for a year. He twice served as assistant pastor in St. Patrick Parish, Walla Walla.
Father Westbrook was assistant pastor at Sacred Heart, Pullman, in 1965, and returned there, to serve 11 years as pastor, in 1977.
He was assistant pastor at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, and in 1973 was named chaplain of Fort Wright College in Spokane.
After his tenure as pastor in Pullman, he was named pastor of St. Mary of the Rosary Parish, Chewelah, followed by his assignment in Cheney in 1993.
Although Father Westbrook retired in 1999, he frequently celebrated Mass at St. Ann Parish, Spokane.
In 1981 he began writing essays for the Inland Register under the title “Letter from the Palouse.” That shifted to “Letter from the West Plains” when his assignment shifted to St. Rose, Cheney.
Father Westbrook continued writing the column well into the 1990s, addressing a variety of topics and situations, some serious, some light, but always writing with erudition and an underlying sense of hope.
In emailed comments, Bishop William Skylstad, Bishop Emeritus of the Spokane Diocese, wrote, “Father Sev Westbrook and I are the same age. Even though he was ordained to the priesthood slightly later than I, we have served together for these many years here in the diocese.
“For years I was part of his Caritas group,” in which priests gather to pray and share their experiences of ministry, “and for these last few years we have been fellow residents at Rockwood Lane Retirement Center. As pastor of several parishes in the Diocese, he was always loved and appreciated. In a special way, I admired his courage as he went through several bouts of depression over the years, always remaining steadfast on the journey of faith,” wrote the bishop.
“In these last few months, as he approached his terminal illness, he exhibited a sense of peacefulness and acceptance that I found inspiring, and for which I am most grateful. May God grant him eternal rest and peace,” wrote Bishop Skylstad.
In an email, Archbishop Cupich wrote, “Father Sev Westbrook has been a faithful priest in the diocese for these many past decades, serving in parishes where he was greatly loved and appreciated as pastor. In a special way I am grateful to him for remaining steadfast while he experienced several bouts of depression that even touched him in these final months. He approached his death with a sense of peacefulness that inspires us all.”
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