AMERICAN FORK — Father James Blaine, pastor of Saint Peter Parish in American Fork, will celebrate the 35th anniversary of his priestly ordination on April 30. He was ordained April 30, 1977 in the Cathedral of the Madeleine.
"The priesthood is a special calling. It’s very challenging, yet very rewarding," Fr. Blaine said. "April 11 was the fourth anniversary of my major heart attack. That really changed a lot for me, having almost died a couple of times. I’ve been called a miracle. All the prayers and support I received were really big for me. It made me realize how special life is, especially coming back from a three-week coma when people didn’t expect me to. There must have been a reason for it."
Fr. Blaine woke up from his coma on the anniversary of his ordination. "It was powerful," he said. "My surgery was on the day after my birthday, and I told the surgeon that was a new gift of life."
Fr. Blaine’s became a prison chaplain at the same time he became pastor of St. Peter Parish.
"I’m the first priest to actually do prison ministry and serve a parish," he said. "Before me the prison ministry was a full-time appointment. The prison ministry has been exciting; I see something different almost every day. In 2011, I changed my status to a volunteer chaplain. As a paid chaplain I spent eight hours a day, three days a week hearing confessions, celebrating Mass and working with the inmates. I still hear confessions and celebrate Mass five times a week, but I can’t spend as much time there; we have about 375 families at St. Peter, which covers the northern third of Utah County."
Fr. Blaine exemplifies the priesthood as a very dedicated and loyal priest, said Chancellor Deacon Silvio Mayo of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. "He never looks for accolades and has been very obedient to the point that wherever they sent him he has gone and done a good job. Since he has been pastor of St. Peter, he has not only served the parish very well, but has done a wonderful job as a prison chaplain."
Fr. Blaine grew up in the Detroit area, attended a Catholic grade school and entered Sacred Heart Seminary for both high school and college. "I first heard the calling to the priesthood after I received my First Holy Communion," he said. "I was an altar boy from fifth grade through high school and was attracted to what the priests were doing. Helping them seemed natural for me. We attended Mass every day in school, and I developed a natural attraction to it."
Fr. Blaine went to Saint John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Mich. to study theology. While in the major seminary in 1973, he came to Utah on vacation with his family.
"We had car problems and as a result spent time in the Salt Lake area and I felt this was where the Lord was calling me," Fr. Blaine said. "I inquired about Salt Lake and a year later I was accepted by Bishop (Joseph Lennox) Federal."
Fr. Blaine was ordained in the diaconate in June 1976 and assigned to Saint Vincent de Paul Parish, where he also spent his first year as a priest.
After serving as an assistant priest at the Cathedral of the Madeleine and Notre Dame de Lourdes in Price, he became a pastor at Christ the King in Cedar City.
"It was a big adjustment for me being that far away from Salt Lake City," he said. My ministry went well. We started building a new church by the time I left and I earned a degree in elementary education from Southern Utah University."
Fr. Blaine then moved to Saint Helen Parish in Roosevelt and was a hospital chaplain for seven months before being assigned to St. Peter Parish in August 1996.
Fr. Blaine also is the State Chaplain for the Knights of Columbus. "Being a Knight of Columbus is very important to me. It was a dream my dad always had but never had a chance to do. Being a Knight is a very beautiful experience; they are very good supporters of the priests."
Fr. Blaine would strongly encourage a young man discerning a call to the priesthood to pray and think about it, he said. "It is a great life; it’s not easy, but what vocation or calling is easy? I’ve had beautiful experiences throughout my priesthood."