Father Tobin named 2019 priest of the year

Courtesy of the Ekalaka Eagle

Last year, the Montana Knights of Columbus Council instituted a Knights of Columbus Priest of the Year award to be given to a Priest who is a supporter of the KCs, is a leader in the church, and is a true person of charity and a man devoted to his brother knights. In this second year of the award, the Montana Council selected Fr. Thomas Tobin as the 2019 Priest of the Year. Fr. Tobin just completed his 60th year as a priest, with almost all of those years serving the Eastern Diocese of Montana. Matthew Gappa Council #6294 stated they are extremely proud to call Fr. Tobin a brother Knight.

About Fr. Tobin

Father Tobin was ordained in a small country church in Knock Grafton, Tipperary, Ireland on Sunday, June 14, 1959. Following his ordination in Ireland, Father Tobin came to Montana where he was an assistant at St. Pius X in Billings in September of 1959.

Fr. Tobin has served parishes in Billings, Hilger, Livingston, Big Sandy, Baker/Plevna, and Ekalaka. He served more than 38 years in the parishes of Baker, Plevna and Ekalaka. He is currently retired but still says Mass and lives in Ekalaka.

From a very young age, Thomas Tobin pledged his loyalty to the Pioneers, the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart. Roman Catholic children reaching Confirmation were encouraged to “take the pledge” to foreswear alcohol until age 18 and maintain a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. To this day, Fr. Tobin continues his loyalty to the Pioneers and his dedication to the Sacred Heart.

Fr. Tobin joined the Knights in 1959, receiving his 2nd and 3rd degree when he came to Baker in 1977. He later became a 4th Degree member of Msgr. Hennessy Assembly #1865 in Glendive, MT. He has served as Chaplain of Council #6294.

Fr. Tobin has been a strong supporter of all Knights of Columbus activities and programs.

In particular he has been a strong Pro-Life advocate; from the pulpit, the Right to Life March and in promotion of Pro-Life activities. When the KC Supreme Council took up the cause of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and the rebuilding of Karamlesh on the Nineveh Plain in Iraq, he pressed the Baker Council to donate to the cause and donated a large sum of his own money to be added to the cause. Fr. Tobin has been active in the instruction of youth. He has taught classes and guided all in the instruction of youth.

When the opportunity arose, he purchased some land where the abandoned Catholic Church sat in Ismay (Joe), Montana. Prior to the 4th of July dedication of Ismay as Joe, Montana, he hired the youth of the parish to paint up the abandoned church in Notre Dame blue and gold. Years earlier, he had taken the opportunity to attend classes there and considered it his alma mater in addition to Joe’s. The following year, he erected a beautiful petrified wood Grotto of the Holy Family on the spot. He made many mini-pilgrimages to the site and Parishes hold an annual picnic there.

Fr. Tobin made but a few trips home to Ireland but when he did, he returned more Irish that ever. The brogue was thicker for few weeks but he certainly had the congregation’s attention with his freshened Irish wit. After a long stretch in local parishes, he decided to take a long awaited vacation to New York City and flew east in September, 2001. As those terrifying events of 9/11 unfolded, no one heard from him. Five days later, as the parish began to fear the worst, they found that he was there doing what he does. He’d fortunately visited the Twin Towers the day before and spent the following days praying, ministering and, of course, making life-long friends. He was fine and there was no need to call home.

Well known in the community for his chipper Irish personality, he is known by many out of the church community as well. He’s always willing to stop and chat. He talks of the folks in Baker, Plevna and Ekalaka as all being his parishioners. In fact, when he celebrates Mass in Baker it is not uncommon to have a few non-Catholics sit through to see him. The golf course is a likely place to find him with his friends or out at a local dam or lake with a fishing pole. His adventures as a youngster on the hurling fields are also a joy for him to talk about. He’s always taken pleasure in the outdoors and long drives in the country. It was common to find him returning from a six to eight mile walk or run many afternoons a week, fair weather or not. He drives out to Medicine Rocks north of Ekalaka to enjoy the sandstone formations and evergreens as often as he can.

As the Chaplain of the Council, he monthly gave a talk for the Good of the Order, emphasizing the importance that the council needed to be the spiritual leader as well as a physical caretaker of the parish. Distribution of communion and all the sacraments are something he truly lives for. As for Fr. Tobin, he would say his devotion to his Catholic faith and his commitment to the Heavenly Father are his greatest treasures.


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