A community that has benefited from the priestly ministry of a man for the past 37 years is saying goodbye.
By Lori Kesinger
Father Thomas Tobin is retiring from his service to St. John’s Catholic Church in Baker at the end of August.
Born in Ireland in 1934, Father Tobin left County Tipperary, his father and mother, brothers and sisters for the sake of a call he received at an early age.
“The Lord called me when I was about three and from that time on I knew I was going to be a priest. I never wavered,” Father Tobin said.
Father Tobin was ordained in a country church in Knock Grafton, Tipperary, Ireland in June 1959.
He left his homeland on August 23, 1959 with another priest by his side. They made their way to the United States and stayed about a week in New York then went on to Boston. The first of September they travelled to Montana, lamenting along the way as they saw the brown landscape of the prairie.
They arrived at their destination in Great Falls to meet with the Bishop.
Unlike communication today, there was no other way but letters to speak to their families. They finally wrote them from Great Falls to let them know they were safe.
Father Tobin first served as an assistant at St. Pius X Parish in Billings for about nine months. In 1960, he went to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Livingston of which he has fond memories of beautiful mountains and friendly people.
Following in 1963, he served at Our Lady of Lourdes in Great Falls, in 1964 at St. Mary’s of Columbus and in 1965 at St. Victor’s in Hilger and St. Margaret Mary’s Church in Big Sandy.
He served the Big Sandy community for ten years before being asked by the Bishop to go to Baker.
He came to Baker in 1977 but never expected to stay so long. His predecessor, also Irish, Father Denis Keane, from County Galway served from 1971-77.
In addition to Baker, Father Tobin has served the parishes of Plevna and Ekalaka.
“Some of the finest people in the world are here,” Father Tobin said. “Even some of the children I have baptized and married. Not everybody has done that.”
Though Father Tobin’s golf game got pretty good over the years, his first commitment was always to the call God put on his life.
“It’s hard to retire from God’s work,” Father Tobin admitted.
Regarding his family, Father Tobin has one sister remaining that still lives in Ireland whom he speaks to often.
He plans to live in Ekalaka and serve the church there as much as he is able.
A farewell gathering will be held for Father Tobin on Sunday, Aug. 30 at St. John’s Catholic Church Hall in Baker. Open house will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and a potluck supper at 4:30 p.m.