By Karina Fabian
Rancher and deacon Robert Lane embodies the spirit of Montana: frontier, faith and family. A lifelong resident of Three Forks, he has lived most of his life on the family homestead started by his grandfather and now continued by his own sons, helped build the parish where he is now a deacon, and has participated in many projects to help not only the community, but the environment.
Deacon Lane was born in 1931, attended college at Montana State, then returned to the family ranch his grandfather founded in 1875. He married his first wife, Carol Ann Toner, in 1953 and they had four children – two boys and two girls. She died after a lengthy illness in 1997, but he found love again with Marietta Jaeger.
Since deacons take a vow of celibacy should they become widowers, he received a special dispensation to marry Marietta. She plays an active role in his ministry, working with him in RCIA and marriage preparation, as well as prison ministry.
Deacon Lane serves in Holy Family Parish, where he has been a member for over 50 years. In fact, he helped build the present church in 1950-1951. He has served on the parish and pastoral councils as a member and as president. He was also appointed to serve two terms on the Diocesan Pastoral Council under Bishop Elden F. Curtiss. In 1990, he felt a need to make a more serious commitment to the Church and joined the Lay Ministry Formation Program, then the diaconate program. He was ordained in 1995.
“This ministry has been very rewarding for me, in being able to baptize, to witness marriages and to help families during the death of a loved one. I have also been assistant spiritual director and spiritual director for men’s and women’s Cursillo/Journey weekends. I also participate in Discovery Weekends at Montana State Prison as part of the team that sponsors this evangelization ministry for the inmates. Marietta and I participate in the prison Ultreyas once a month when possible. This also has been a very fruitful ministry for both of us,” he said.
One of his more interesting ministries is that since he is the only deacon in that part of the diocese, couples from various parts of the country who have ties to the Big Sky Community request him to celebrate their wedding liturgy at St. Joseph of Big Sky Chapel.
In addition to his work in the Church, he has served in the community as school board member and chairman, and on a fundraising committee that raised over $80,000 to reopen a clinic to provide medical services to Three Forks and the surrounding area.
He also spent 22 years on the Gallatin County Soil Conservation District as a supervisor. “In that role we encouraged sound stewardship of the land and water resources that people who engage in agriculture make use of. It was a very rewarding experience.”
He also supports Marietta in her ministry of speaking about forgiveness and healing, and in support of the abolition of the death penalty. “She has been invited to speak in Italy and Germany recently, and I accompany her to give her support through prayer and presence. It has been a blessing for both of us to meet young people who are living the gospel message to minister to the poor and homeless and to work for peace and abolition of the death penalty throughout the world.
“God has blessed me abundantly in my faith life and my family, and in being able to be of service to his people and his Church,” he said.
Published in The Montana Catholic, Vol. 25, No. 1, January 23, 2009.