Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Blaney: 'Man of God's people'


Fr. Jim Blaney

A funeral Mass and potluck reception will be held starting 6 p.m. Dec. 19 at Sacred Heart Church for Father Jim Blaney, a personable Catholic priest who served in Haines for six years after arriving here in 2000.

Blaney died Dec. 4 in Sitka. He was 76 and had been serving as pastor at St. Gregory Church in Sitka.

"He was one of the last, old-fashioned priests," said local writer Heather Lende. "He saw himself as the town's priest. He'd be at the Elks burger feed. He took numbers at the Kluane bike race. He had a community, pastoral presence."

In a written tribute, resident Vince Hansen said Blaney was the person who asked him to consider becoming a Catholic deacon, and became a mentor and role model.

"He somehow knew I wanted to grow seriously in my faith, and he provided solid spiritual support and encouragement throughout the process. He is the example I needed in order to see myself in ministry. He is a man of God, and a man of God's people. He gets to know people without any reservations or judgment, and treats people the way I think Jesus would," Hansen wrote.

Blaney often chatted up strangers who became friends after meeting him aboard the ferry or at a gathering. He held masses in the outdoors punctuated on different occasions by breaching whales and crying loons. He was involved in Scouting, and also enjoyed camping, backbacking and cycling. "He was truly a man of God and of his people," Hansen said.

When a doctor gave him his final diagnosis, Blaney responded, "Well, when God taps you on the shoulder, you gotta go!" Hansen said.

Blaney was born July 30, 1937, in South Boston, Mass., the son of a prison warden. He and twin brother Joe were ordained together as priests in 1965. He was assigned to work in parishes, hospitals and prisons in the Midwest and South.

In 1988, Blaney was assigned to the Diocese of Juneau, where he first served as pastor in Klawock. He oversaw construction of a new parish that incorporated Alaska Native art and spirituality. He was adopted into the L'eeneidi clan there.

Blaney came to Sacred Heart Church in Haines in 2000, also working as pastor of St. Therese Catholic Church in Skagway. He later served in Petersburg, Wrangell, Hoonah, Gustavus, Pelican, Kake, Tenakee and Elfin Cove. Around 2009, he returned to Haines before his most recent assignment to Sitka in 2011.

Blaney is survived by sisters Mary Johnson, Port Orchard, Wash., Margaret Quirk, Boston, Mass., and by brothers Paul Blaney of Pembroke, Mass. and John F. Blaney of Bayside, N.Y.

He was preceded in death by his parents, by his twin brother and by sister Clair A. Blaney.

A funeral Mass was held at Sitka's Centennial Hall Tuesday. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to St. Gregory's Catholic Parish in Sitka.