Jesus multiplied loaves and fishes. Father Joseph Valine works in cinnamon doughnuts. While the good father’s foodstuffs don’t appear miraculously—he employs the services of a commercial doughnut-frying machine—there is a touch of the divine in what the 90-year-old Catholic priest has accomplished with his batter in the vast reaches of southern Utah.
Every Saturday afternoon for the last 25 years, Valine has made Father’s Do-nuts, filling 12 to 20 bags for sale after Mass on Sunday. He accepts whatever parishioners feel inspired to pay. His primary place of business, liturgical and otherwise, is St. Bridget’s Chapel in the tiny railroad town of Milford, where he is parish priest. He also peddles his wares in two other area chapels, both built largely with proceeds from his doughnuts. Wherever he sells them, they usually sell out. Some customers leave 50 cents, others as much as $10. “People around the world have eaten my doughnuts and asked, ‘What is your secret?’ ” Valine says. “This,” he then says in a sly whisper, dipping into a 50-pound sack of Rustco Breaktime doughnut mix, “is my famous recipe.”
In May, Valine received the Catholic Church Extension Society’s 11th Annual Lumen Christi Award for outstanding missionary service. “Father Valine will help anybody,” says Helen Banks, a St. Bridget’s parishioner since 1948. Born in Portugal and raised in California, Valine entered the Dominican order in 1922. After serving 12 years in Pittsburgh, he was sent to Utah in 1941 with the daunting task of starting churches in an area where Mormons now outnumber Catholics 18 to 1. To raise money, he tried alfalfa farming and catering before discovering doughnuts in 1963. “Soon,” he says, “everybody was calling me the Doughnut Priest.”
Carrying his holey cargo, Valine drives some 300 miles a week between chapels. “I sometimes have to floor it to make it to Mass on time, and I’ve never had an accident or been pulled over for speeding,” he says. Some would call that divine intervention.