Pr. Blaine remembered as a humble priest who worked tirelessly in the service of the Gospel

Friday, September 16, 2022

IC photo/Marie Mischel

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Bishop Oscar A. Solis celebrates a funeral Mass Sept. 8 for Father James Blaine, who served in the Diocese of Salt Lake City for 45 years.

By Marie Mischel

Intermountain Catholic

SALT LAKE CITY — Father James Blaine, a retired priest from the diocese who died August 31, had deep faith, enormous patience and served God’s people with compassion and love, those who remembered him said during his funeral.

“As a priest of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, Fr. James Blaine gave himself to build up the Church in the service of the Gospel. With great kindness and energy, he offered his very life for the people of God in the Church of Utah,” Bishop Oscar A. Solis said during the August 8 Christian burial Mass at the Madeleine Cathedral.

Prof. Blaine was a friend, mentor and confessor to many, Deacon Dale Dillon said at the Sept. 7 vigil at the cathedral. The deacon served with the priest in ministry at Utah State Prison and also at St. Peter’s Parish in American Fork.

Five words describe Fr. Blaine’s life: “Take care of the people,” Deacon Dillon said, adding that many people described the priest as caring, generous and caring while serving as a Knights of Columbus chaplain, of the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women and Scouts.

“In his many years of ministry to the people of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, so many lives have been changed for the better because a young man named James Edward Blaine heard and acted on the call of God to a priestly calling, and heard Jesus, “Jim, take care of my people,” said Deacon Dillon.

Serving in prison ministry, the deacon came to know the stories of the men who were incarcerated, and especially the younger men: “I realized that for many of them, Fr. Blaine was the first role model positive masculine that they had in their life. Sometimes that priest was the first male figure who truly cared about them and loved them with the love of a father,” Deacon Dillon said. “He was a shepherd of faith, but he also guided them on a path that led to responsibility for their lives and actions, learning to respect themselves and their families.”

In the funeral Mass homily, Fr. David Bittmenn said that Fr. Blaine “had a faith, a deep faith” and was drawn to the Gospel message. Furthermore, he had “a great deal of patience: patience for our wide variety of circumstances, patience with himself, patience with others, patience that saw him through the darkness. It wasn’t total patience – Jim could say an angry word or two, but usually no more.

In addition to these graces, Fr. Blaine had a healthy dose of practicality and common sense, Fr. Bittmenn said.

“He worked tirelessly year after year; he would work to tend his flock, he would be there day after day, he would go through the joys and he would go through the difficulties and there he offered a vision of faith – the central mystery, the mystery of the Eucharist, which we heard in this reading the Gospel”, Fr. says Bittmenn.

“And, there was a sense of humility that worked its way through all of those gifts,” the father said. Bittmenn added.

“This humility would cause Jim to recognize that what he did here on earth was to try to use the gifts given to him for the benefit of the Body, of the Church, and that because he was humble in the truest sense of the word, he would in no way suppose he was a shoo-in for heaven. He would rather turn to the passage of Scripture which tells us that ‘Lord, I have done nothing wrong. ‘other than what I had to do, worthy of no particular great reward.’ And so, when asked whether he would be in heaven or not, he would sincerely answer, “I hope so. I’m working on it.”

Bishop Solis presided over the funeral mass. The concelebrants were Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, vicar general; Msgr. J. Terrence Fitzgerald, vicar general emeritus; the Very Reverend Martin Diaz, rector of the cathedral; Prof. Kenneth Vialpando, Vicar of the Clergy; and many priests of the diocese. Attendants were Deacon Dillon and Deacon Sunday Espinoza.

At the end of the Mass, Bishop Solis said that Fr. Blaine taught him a beautiful lesson, that “no matter what challenges, obstacles or tribulations you face in life, with deep faith, nothing can take away our relationship with God”.

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