Rev. Dr. Mary Jacques

Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Rev. Dr. Mary Jacques

The Reverend Doctor Mary Jacques, at the age of 79, went to her home in heaven after 11 years suffering dementia. She is in a much better place where there is no confusion or pain. God is making her to shine like the sun and is holding her in the palm of his hand.

Mary was born in Miami, Florida, on Dec. 28 in 1940. She grew up in the Tampa Bay area. After high school she attended the University of Missouri and received her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She then attended University of Washington’s school of psychology in St. Louis, Missouri, where she received a master’s degree and a inter-disciplinary doctorate in three disciplines of psychology: in clinical psychology, developmental psychology, and social work.

After graduating from Washington University, she went into academia and became the Dean of the school of Social Work at the University of New York in Schenectady, New York, and later moved to Cincinnati where she became the dean of the school of Social Work at the University of Cincinnati. During her tenure there, she worked with the United Way and created a number of national programs for them (some of which are still being used). Also, Mary created a number of programs that she used for and to help the people of rural Appalachia.

Mary left academia and moved to San Francisco, California, where she opened her own successful consulting business that reached out to top executives including senior vice presidents of Wells Fargo Bank. At the age of 44 she decided to go to seminary to become an Episcopal priest. She attended CDSP (the California Divinity School of the Pacific). After graduating from CDSP, she did an internship at the Fort Hall Indian reservation in Idaho for a year and a half as the Lay Vicar. Since her main interest had always been to do rural ministry, she had hoped to become the priest there after ordination. Unfortunately the reservation did not have the money to hire.

After finishing her internship, she moved to Montana where she was ordained to the priesthood in Virginia City by the Bishop Jackson Gillam in 1985. She was offered and accepted the position to become the priest for the Episcopal churches in Sheridan and Virginia City.

During that time, Mary formed and implemented what became “The Majestic Mountains Ministry.” It consisted of six churches: Trinity church in Jeffers/Ennis, St. Paul’s church in Virginia City, Christ Church in Sheridan, St. James Church in Dillon, St. James Church in Deer Lodge, and Andrews in Philipsburg. Besides those congregations, she also formed a number of fellowships in the outlying areas. The area ministry virtually covered all away from West Yellowstone to Philipsburg – almost a full day’s drive from one end to the other. Mary was the only priest for the six churches and the fellowships. The model that Mary used to form the area ministry was a circular model where she, as the priest, was only one part of it and each congregation already had all the gifts of ministry they needed, that they had been ministering among themselves for many generations.

In 1991, the Bishop of the Anglican Church of New Zealand came to Montana and was a guest in her home in Dillon. He wanted to discuss with Mary the work she was doing with the area ministry and to view it in person. He was implementing a similar program on the North Island of New Zealand, which is also a very rural area. His vision also became a reality and is still flourishing and continues to grow. In fact, the Anglican church is using it in many different areas of the world.

The national Episcopal Church in 1993 chose Mary and her ministry with “The Majestic Mountains Ministry” as one of seven world wide ministries for the national stewardship film titled “Outpourings of Love, Images of Stewardship.” Some of the other ministries included were in Haiti, Mexico, The Dominican Republic, and Africa. Mary has been on a number of national church boards and planning groups regarding ideas, development, and implementation for rural ministry.

Mary, during that time, became the rector of St. James Church in Dillon and The University of Montana Western in Dillon asked her to be an interim psychology professor, a position she filled for several years. After 24 years of active ministry in the Episcopal Church, Mary retired from being a parochial priest. After retiring, Mary for several years held services twice a month at All Saints Church in Big Sky, Montana, and helped them in organizing and forming a congregation developed on a shared ministry between the Episcopal and Lutheran churches.

Some of the many other things Mary enjoyed was her love and care for animals. She was also very involved in art/ painting (she had a number of one-person exhibits), writing stories, and the outdoors. Mary also developed and aired a one-to-two minute daily radio program, called “Pathways” for radio stations, which were carried for over five years.

Mary was preceded in death by her adopted father and mother, Jesse and Addie Jacques of Tampa, Florida.

Mary had no children and is survived by her husband of 34 years, Jay Burgin of Dillon, Montana.

Mary will be greatly missed by her husband, Jay, and by all those whose lives she touched throughout her life and ministry.

In God’s mysterious way, Mary and the new Episcopal Bishop of Montana, the right Rev. Marty Stebbins (the first female bishop in Montana) paths crossed many years ago without actually meeting. The Anglican Bishop of New Zealand, who visited Mary, was presenting a seminar in the United States on rural ministry which Bishop Stebbins attended before she came the bishop of Montana. Bishop Stebbins was very impressed with the very successful ministry that had been implemented in New Zealand. Bishop Stebbins was and still is interested in exploring new models of ministry for churches in rural America.

A “Celebration of her life and ministry” service is planned for Saturday, Feb. 15 at 11 a.m. at St. James Church in Dillon. A reception in the Guildhall will follow after the service. The service will be presided over by Bishop Stebbins. All are welcome at the service and also to meet the new Episcopal bishop of Montana during the reception following the service.