Father James W. Hazelton, age 93, a retired priest of the Diocese of Helena passed away on March 18, 2020.
Father Hazelton was born February 6, 1927 in Helena to Wilfred and Stella Hazelton. He lived the first five years in Townsend and became a resident of Helena when the family moved there.
He attended St. Helena Grade School, Cathedral High School and graduated from Carroll College in 1949 with a degree to be a high school teacher. He worked as a common laborer at Mike Horse Mine northwest of Helena during the summer months. After graduation he didn’t have a teaching job and the mine didn’t have a teacher and he was asked to fill in. He taught one year at Mike Horse, four years at Wolf Creek and then returned to his alma mater at St. Helena where he taught and coached for three years.
In 1957, he was accepted as a candidate for the priesthood and he was ordained in 1961. He served as an assistant at St. Joseph Church in Butte for three years and then was accepted as a candidate to work in the Guatemala Mission project of the Diocese of Helena where he served for 47 years.
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His first parish in Guatemala was the small village of Sant Maria Visitacion, a mountain parish of people of Mayan descent. He rediscovered his teaching vocation when he found his parish contained many villages with no access to education. He trained young men with sixth grade educations to be teachers and then provided schools for them. His project attracted more than a thousand young people eager to study.
Father Hazelton was very proud of the eight young men from this parish that were ordained to the priesthood.
When the second parish of the Helena Mission, Santo Tomas La Union, became vacant he moved there where he continued his interest in educating young people. With the generous help of the people in the Helena Diocese he was able to build a junior-senior school to prepare primary school teachers. The school grew to have 600 students.
He celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination in June 2011 and retired in August of that year to live in Helena where he enjoyed hiking in the surrounding mountains.
He was preceded in death by his parents and two sisters, Mary Rita Cinker and Eileen Quinn. He is survived by his sister, Dorothy Hazelton, his nieces Kathy Quinn and Karen Alley, and nephew Michael Price. The family would like to give special thanks to the people at Compassus Hospice and Cooney Health for the care they provided during his last illness.
A private family Funeral Mass will take place on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 with Rite of Committal to follow the Mass at Resurrection Cemetery. A celebration of his life will be planned for a later date. Please visit www.retzfuneralhome.com to offer a condolence to the family or to share a memory of Father Hazelton.
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