We invite readers to send short stories about the ways in which their lives have been personally blessed by the life and work of priests and religious in our diocese.
By Karina Fabian
Father Stephen Tallman believes God calls everyone. Whether to be a parent, single person in service, or priest, God has a vocation for each of us, and Father Tallman finds joy in helping people find their true path. “(One of) the exciting things (about being a priest) is to see people in their lives responding to their vocation and to help them in their struggles to see where God is calling them,” he said.
Father Tallman’s own vocation began in 1959 when he was ordained with four other priests for the diocese. He first served as the assistant pastor in Butte, then again at Anaconda/Deer Lodge with the added duty of chaplain at the state prison. Next, he spent eight years with the Blackfeet Indians in Browning, eight years at St. Francis in Valier, and nine years at St. Mary’s in the Bitterroot Valley. He retired in 2000, remaining in the Bitterroot Valley, though he travels two weeks a month to help at St. Joseph’s in Harlowton and St. Bartholomew’s in White Sulphur Springs – almost 300 miles away. He’ll also fill in for vacationing or sick priests as needed.
Father Tallman’s favorite experiences were working with the Blackfeet Indians and at St. Mary’s. Both had a historical as well as spiritual element he was quick to bring up, remembering Father Pierre De Smet, the Jesuit who founded St. Mary’s, and those who brought the Word of God to the Native Americans in Montana. It’s significant to remember that the Catholic Church was often the first to take the word of God to people in faraway lands, he noted. Solidarity among the people is a calling the Catholic Church has always worked for.
He remembers when there were enough priests that they had regular summer services at Glacier National Park. Now, many parishes have to be content with communion services because no full-time priest is available. In addition, there are many mission churches in the diocese. Mission churches, which are smaller parishes of 20 or more families, are a blessing to the faith, but add to the duties of any parish priest.
Father Tallman hopes for more people to respond to the call to be priests. He asks that everyone pray for all the clergy, senior, younger and active, and for vocations. “We’ve got to do that. There’s no other way.”
Published in The Montana Catholic, Vol. 19, No. 12, December 19, 2003.