Father Al Grasher retires after 33 years in parish ministry
Even in middle school, Father Al Grasher was interested in the priesthood, but his path to ordination in 1986 took him first to Omak to serve as a teacher. Father Grasher said, “Other people say I am like a teacher, I think I am just myself.”
As part of an eighth-grade careers course, Grasher wrote an essay on his three top career choices: teacher, businessman and Catholic priest. This ranking was a conundrum for the young Grasher: “In my heart of hearts, I knew that being a Catholic priest was at the top of the list. But I didn’t want to put it at the top of the list because I didn’t want people to think I was crazy.”
Upon earning a teaching degree at Washington State University, he taught in Omak for five years, but the call to priesthood did not fade. “In the last few years of teaching, I decided to rate each day, how much I wanted to go and become a priest, and how much I wanted to stay teaching,” said Grasher. In the end, his desire to enter seminary became constant and he eventually reached out to the Spokane Diocese.
Grasher was ordained a priest after studies at Gonzaga University and the North American College in Rome.
His passion for teaching the faith and building community is evident. Learning the ropes as a parish priest under Father George Haspedis at St. Mary in Spokane Valley and Father Jo Hein St. Francis Xavier on Spokane’s Northside, to his first pastorate at Holy Ghost in Valley, Wash., Father Grasher liked to gather parishioners together for social and spiritual activities, community events and Bible studies.
Which assignment was most memorable? Father Grasher quickly says, “That’s like asking which baby do you like better!” Speaking about one of his longer pastoral assignments at St Mary Presentation in Deer Park, he said he prided himself on helping the community come together: “In meetings and gatherings, and in building a new church, the community became very active.”
His last assignment at St. Patrick in Colfax and St. Joseph in Lacrosse allowed him to build community with parishioners, assist in maintaining parish grounds and, most importantly, be present with the people in Colfax and Lacrosse. What is he looking forward to in retirement? “I like to describe retirement as being a grandparent or grandfather. So, you are not Father but Grandfather. Maybe you have some wisdom,” he said. “I don’t know about that,” he added with a chuckle. Father Grasher likens being a retired priest invited to help parishes to that of a grandparent spending time with the grandkids. “You can play with the kids but then tell them, Oh, I don’t know, you have to ask your parents about that.”
Retirement will be a homecoming for Father Grasher as he returns to Blaine, Wash., north of Bellingham, to live in the house his mother called home as a child. He plans to volunteer at a nursing home and a hospital and substitute at local parishes.
Thank you, Father Al Grasher, for your many years of prayer, service and leadership for the Diocese of Spokane.