Mesa Catholics mourn loss of World War II veteran-turned deacon

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Dcn-James-Battista-WEB[dropcap]D[/dropcap]cn. James Battista, 88, who once served at All Saints Parish in Mesa, died Sept. 29. Dcn. Battista was ordained Feb. 13, 1982 for the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois.

He came to the Diocese of Phoenix in 1988 where he served as an extern deacon at Holy Cross Parish in Mesa. His last assignment in the Diocese of Phoenix was at All Saints Parish in Mesa, but he retired from active ministry several years ago, according to Dcn. Jim Trant, diocesan director of the Office of the Diaconate.

Earlier in life, he served in World War II as a Marine, but not by choice. He had hoped to join the Navy as a corpsman so that he could later become a doctor — he wanted to save lives, not take them.

Instead, he was chosen to become a Marine, assigned to mortars and served some of the most harrowing battles at Okinawa. He witnessed a lifetime of horror and death, and after discharge, spent two years living with a Japanese monk in a monastery, caring for children orphaned by the war.

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Dcn. James Battista

Born: Oct. 29, 1926
Ordained: Feb. 13, 1982 for the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois
Died: Sept. 29, 1986

Service in the Diocese of Phoenix
Beginning 1988
Holy Cross Parish in Mesa
All Saints Parish in Mesa

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A man of deep Catholic faith, Dcn. Battista felt drawn to serve as a deacon. At Holy Cross Parish in Mesa, he served in the marriage preparation program and also helped with baptisms and funerals. He often attended daily Mass.

Geri Adams, receptionist at All Saints, noted what a caring person Dcn. Battista was and said that he was in the habit of walking her into church.

“He’s all hunched over with a cane and he’s helping me into church,” Adams said. “He was so good to me and always so nice.”

The funeral Mass took place at All Saints Parish Oct. 6.

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