It all began in 1980, when Parish Priest Father J.R. Prince of Estevan’s St. John the Baptist Church asked Doug Third to conduct a lay prayer service for a funeral vigil. “He gave me a book and said go at it,” said Doug Third in a telephone interview. In January 2018, he conducted his last service. “I couldn’t stand for a half hour anymore so I told them I had to stop.” Third was talking about his local parish, and the local funeral homes in Estevan and surrounding communities in southeast Saskatchewan that were the benefiters of his commitment.
“I’m old and know a lot of people” the 89-year-old explained as the reason for his longevity as a lay minister. For over 38 years he has officiated at more than 1,100 services, funerals and vigil services. As well as the book Father J.R. first gave him, he has collected and saved a lot of material which he used in his ministry. He did not confine his ministry to Catholics; he served people of all faiths, whoever asked him.
A special recognition ceremony was held for Third, on Sunday, February 25 at St. John the Baptist Church. Archbishop Donald Bolen was present to give a special blessing to Doug Third and his wife Alice. Bolen served as Associate Pastor at St. John the Baptist for a time and thanked Third for his service. “I remember even then how grateful people were to have you preside at services for their loved ones. You brought your many gifts to the task at hand, made those services meaningful and hope-filled for the grieving families and friends.” Archbishop presented Third with a letter of commendation in which he congratulated Third for generously sharing his talents and his time, and said, “Well done.”
Newly installed St. John the Baptist Pastor Reverend Sathiadis Antony also wrote to Third; “You are obviously a person of great empathy, with an ability to give great comfort and encouragement to people in times of pain and loss.” He also presented Third with a letter of commendation.
Dustin Hall of Hall Funeral Service said one of Third’s trademarks was to work a special story into the service. “Doug’s ability to personalize each service to suit the deceased person made him the perfect choice for so many Estevan and area families. He will not be impressed if this (the accolades) goes on much longer. He is not one to want any kind of public recognition,” said Hall.
Third said the accolades were all very nice, but he was uncomfortable with all the attention.
As well as letters of commendation from the Archbishop and Pastor Antony, parishioners were given an opportunity to express their respect and appreciation of Third’s years of service. Envelopes addressed to Estevan’s St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation were distributed and parishioners were asked to donate to the Foundation in Third’s name.
While in Estevan Archbishop Bolen blessed the newly constructed office space attached to St. John the Baptist Church. The parish offices were previously in the former St. John’s Community Centre. The Centre was sold in 2017 and the developer plans to construct a seniors living facility on the site.