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(From the , 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Tom Mele, 1999 (IR file photo)

 

 

 

Father Tom Mele, ordained a priest of the Diocese of Spokane on Oct. 8, 1977, died April 19 in Walla Walla after a long illness. He was 57 years old.

The vigil and rosary service were held April 23 at Assumption Parish, Walla Walla. The funeral Mass was celebrated the following afternoon. Burial was in Walla Walla.

“On the occasion of Father Tom Mele’s death, I would like to express to his family on behalf of our diocesan community and myself our heartfelt and prayerful sympathy,” said Bishop Skylstad.

“Father Mele’s health had deteriorated considerably these last few years, and I always admired his sense of faith and courage as he continued to experience increased physical limitations, including limited vision,” said the bishop. “I visited him in Walla Walla a little over a month ago in his apartment. We talked about his situation and his spiritual journey. He could smile and laugh, even though he knew as well as I that life was closing in on him.

“Father Mele died on the last day of the Octave of Easter in St. Mary’s Hospital. What a great day to remind us of his transition to the life God has prepared for him – and, indeed, eventually, for us all, when we are called through our death to be forever with the Risen Lord. As priest of this diocese, he has served as parochial vicar, pastor, a chaplain in the armed services, and a co-liaison to the Charismatic Renewal movement. I am most grateful for his service as a priest in our diocese and in the larger Church. May he rest in peace.”

Thomas Francis Mele was born in Walla Walla on Sept. 26, 1951, and was a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish. He attended St. Patrick School there before entering Mater Cleri Seminary, followed by four years at Bishop White Seminary. He completed priestly formation at St. Thomas Seminary, Kenmore, Wash., prior to ordination to the priesthood by Bishop Bernard Topel at St. Patrick Parish, Walla Walla.

As a theology student, he ministered as a chaplain’s assistant at University Hospital in Seattle and taught young adult and adult education classes at Fort Lewis.

He first served an internship at St. Augustine Parish, Spokane, before being assigned as associate pastor of St. Charles Parish, Spokane in 1978.

He became a part-time corrections chaplain in 1981, and in 1982 was named pastor of the parishes in Tekoa and Rockford.

In 1984 he became a Navy chaplain, where he ministered until returning to the diocese as pastor of St. Ann Parish, Medical Lake, in 1995.

In 1999 he was named pastor of St. Thomas More Newman Center in Pullman, where he served before being released from diocesan ministry for further studies at Boston College in 2002.

He returned to Walla Walla last year, though in failing health.

On the occasion of his 25th anniversary of priestly ordination, he was interviewed by Inland Register reporter Bonita Lawhead.

As he reflected on his ministry as a priest, he said, “I’m very mindful that I owe a great debt to all the priests who have gone before. All had an effect, a part in my formation…. I’m just a part of a big, big picture. I find that very humbling.”

“There’s a hunger in the human heart for God’s presence,” he said. “People want to know the church cares about them and wants to give them a sense of the divine, most especially at those key moments of life and death.”

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