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The right place

Thu., July 22, 2010

“I want St. Mary’s to always be a community of prayer,” said the Rev. Victor Blazovich, the newly appointed senior pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Spokane Valley.  (J. BART RAYNIAK)
“I want St. Mary’s to always be a community of prayer,” said the Rev. Victor Blazovich, the newly appointed senior pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Spokane Valley. (J. BART RAYNIAK)

St. Mary’s new senior pastor has deep ties to Spokane Valley

The Rev. Victor Blazovich has only been in his new position as senior pastor at St. Mary’s Catholic Church since the beginning of the month, but he’s already enthusiastic about the parish and how he is fitting in there.

St. Mary’s is the second largest parish in the Spokane Diocese and the largest in Spokane County. “It feels so right here in the Valley,” said Blazovich.

Blazovich, 54, feels like he is returning home. He grew up in St. John Vianney Church and graduated from University High School and now jokes that he’s “crossed the line.” “I’m on the other side of Pines,” he said.

He said he was happy to see that the church has an active school. “It’s like the soul of the parish,” he said.

Blazovich has more than a little experience with Catholic schools. Most recently he spent three years leading St. Patrick’s and St. Francis Xavier Catholic Churches on Spokane’s North Side. St. Patrick’s has a school that found itself floundering last year, spending thousands more each month than it was taking in.

Blazovich stepped in and took over as principal after the previous principal retired. “I didn’t want to see it go under,” he said.

He had worked for Safeco for 10 years and holds a graduate degree in business administration. He used his experience to look around and see what he could do to fix the problem. “The Lord and his ways,” he said. “He used me well.”

When he realized how bad the school’s financial situation was, he hit the emergency button. He called in a team of business professionals to go over the school’s books and met with parishioners to discuss the issue. “I called out a five-alarm fire,” he said. “I let people know immediately.”

Enrollment had been dropping for years and some parents were behind in tuition. Bills were past due. Blazovich said he apologized to his congregation for the situation. “It was no one person,” he said. “We laid everything on the line. It was not a rosy picture.”

Parents were asked to get current on their tuition and even pay a little more if they could. Parishioners and school alumni were asked to donate. The Diocese chipped in what it could. Volunteers went to work recruiting new students. By the end of the school year things had turned around and the school was again in the black. “There’s money in the bank for my successor,” he said. “The groundwork has been set.”

Blazovich said he was determined not to let the school close in part because he knows what churches go through when they have to close their schools. The school run by St. Francis Xavier closed several years ago. “I know the heartache the people still carry from having their school close,” he said.

He wasn’t expecting to leave his two North Side congregations. He had been appointed to a six-year term only three years ago. But maybe he should have been expecting something. His first six-year assignment was at the parishes of Colton and Uniontown. He was reassigned after only three years to Kettle Falls, Colville and Northport for another six-year term. Again he was transferred after only three years.

“It’s always the third year,” he said. He would get to know the people “and then the good Lord moves me.”

Blazovich said he was expecting a call from Bishop William Skylstad to have his associate pastor reassigned. Instead Skylstad asked if he would consider leading a large parish. “I was speechless,” he said. “It was so unexpected.”

He has faith in God’s plan and that he is where he is needed. “This is exactly where God wants me right now in his big picture, whatever that is,” he said. “God’s plan is so big. He has everything planned out there so far. We only see a little slice.”

A firm believer in not holding anything back, Blazovich is putting his heart and soul into his new church. “Just throw yourself in the water,” he said. “Don’t inch your way in.”

An avid hiker, he’s pleased by the landscaped church grounds and has checked out the nearby Dishman Hills. He already feels embraced by his new congregation. “This is a very warm and welcoming parish,” he said. “They’ve laughed at my jokes. That always helps.”

And who knows. Maybe this time he’ll be able to complete his full term. “They said six years, so let’s go for it.”


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