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Founding editor of Spokane, Wash., Catholic newspaper dead at 88

SPOKANE, Wash. (CNS) -- Father Terence Tully, 88, founding editor of the Inland Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Spokane, died Nov. 17 in Spokane after a long struggle with heart disease. His funeral Mass was to be celebrated Nov. 23 at Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral in Spokane, with burial to follow at Holy Cross Cemetery in Spokane. Father Tully, a native of Spokane, was ordained to the priesthood on May 30, 1942. His first edition of the Inland Register was dated Sept. 4, 1942. He learned his editorial responsibilities on the fly. Although he received some training by way of the Denver Register system of Catholic newspapers of the day, in large part he made it up as he went. One of his commitments was his editor's column, "The Spotlight," which ran on the front page of the newspaper for many years.

Inland Register
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Father Terence Tully: 1914-2002

by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register, Dec. 5, 2002

IR file photo, c. 1953

Father Terence Tully, a priest of the Diocese of Spokane for more than 60 years and editor of the Inland Register for 22 of those years, died Nov. 17. He was 88.

The vigil service was Nov. 22; the funeral Mass was celebrated the next day. Both took place at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in Spokane.

Father Tully was born in Spokane at what was then known as Sacred Heart Hospital. He attended St. Joseph School and then, for three years, Gonzaga High School before entering St. Edward Seminary, Kenmore, Wash., for his last year of high school.

He stayed at St. Edward for the first two years of college before moving to The Catholic University in Washington, D.C., for his junior and senior college years. He returned to St. Edward for four years of theology prior to priestly ordination on May 30, 1942, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes.

He earned a master's degree in philosophy while at The Catholic University. He added a master's degree in liturgical studies in 1977, earned from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

He had not quite completed his theology studies when he was told that he had been named the new editor of the Spokane Diocese's Inland Register. He later recalled that he thought it was a joke, since there was no such newspaper at the time.

Spokane's Bishop Charles White saw the future differently. He assigned the newly ordained priest to become the first editor of the new diocesan newspaper, which in those days was part of the Denver Register system of Catholic newspapers.

After two weeks' vacation, Father Tully found himself enrolled in a month-long boot camp for new editors.

He was consistently humble and not above turning his own wry wit on himself. "Reading books on newspaper writing for 30 days did not make me a journalist," he recalled, "but I got some idea of the scope of the profession."

He continued, "I remember some fascination with the writing of headlines. To me it seemed like writing poetry. Not that it had to rhyme or scan, but it had to fit the space available on the line. It had to express fairly the content of the story. And often there was something whimsical or playful in it, if the subject matter allowed." In his typically self-deprecating fashion, he added, "Fortunately, I never had to write headlines."

Father Tully began to learn his job, usually on the fly.

In his 1991 history of the paper's genesis, he wrote of the mechanics of the trade in those days: assembling the news in Spokane, marking stories for importance, and putting it all in a large envelope which he sent air-mail to Denver. A separate packet contained ads for the issue. The weekly ritual sometimes ran late, forcing him "to drive my car to the Spokane Airport, where postal workers always seemed able to handle the precious envelopes as long as the airliner for Denver was still on the ground. Even a day later I could type a hundred words or so and get them off to Denver by a Western Union night rate that was special for news writers. Last resort of all was dictating news to Denver by long distance phone, which was the most costly way. This system worked for us for more than 20 years."

Father Tully himself worked on the Inland Register as editor twice: from 1942-1959, and again from 1962-67, when he temporarily replaced his successor, Father (later Monsignor) John Donnelly.

He always had a fascination for theater, and even considered the stage for a career before discerning his call to priesthood.

Even though he stepped down from the editor's chair in 1967, Father Tully continued to write. In December 1994 he committed to writing an article for each issue. Not really a column, not really a news report, Father Tully's articles concentrated on another of his great interests: the Catholic configuration of Boy Scouts.

Father Tully was diocesan Scout chaplain for most of his years as a priest. Even though retired, he decided to encourage the development of Scouting in the diocese with his regular articles, reports, reflections, and essays. Each article arrived in the Inland Register offices with the same gentle reminder on the first page: "Kindly use logo," meaning to include the symbol of the Diocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting to help people identify the article as devoted to Scouting.

In his later years he also served on the Diocesan Pastoral Council.

Besides his work with the IR, Father Tully was assigned to several parishes in various parts of the diocese. His last two assignments were as associate pastor, at Assumption in Spokane and Holy Family, Clarkston. More often than not he was an assistant or associate pastor, a position he seemed to prefer. In an interview for his 60th anniversary as a priest he admitted he "never really liked telling people what to do."

He also taught at Mater Cleri Seminary, Colbert, and was spiritual director for Bishop White Seminary in Spokane.

Age never slowed his mind, only his body. Never tall to begin with, he was physically diminutive by the time of his death. Arriving by cab to drop off copy for the Inland Register, all that could be seen in the passenger window was his very elegant straw summer hat.

He embraced technology and had a wonder-filled appreciation for improvements and changes to the news ministry he was a part of for decades.

Despite heart and respiratory difficulties, he never missed a deadline. I visited him at St. Joseph Care Center to pick up his Oct. 24 column. He didn't have access to his computer at the time, and so he'd written it out by hand. He patiently read it out loud to me, to make sure I didn't misunderstand any of the penmanship. He laughed. We shared a few jokes. His reading material included Holy Humor, a collection of pieces from The Joyful Noiseletter, a humor publication for those in ministry.

For his Nov. 14 IR column he was back to the computer keyboard.

But it was the Oct. 24 article that was, perhaps, his farewell to his Scouts and to his ministry.

"I am just exploring the material boundaries of the world," he wrote. "The whole realm of eternity is superior to the material. The best is yet to come. Details, we do not yet know.

"We have been made for it," he wrote. "Our duty to God points us in this direction.... Meanwhile, we live in this cozy world, with its cities, lands, mountains, lakes, oceans, and also its dangers of disasters, wars -- and its splendid opportunities.

"God bless us."


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