Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

Peace Be With You

"Dawn’s Early Light"

by Bishop Blase J. Cupich

(From the February 20, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)

Dear Friends in Christ,

On Dec. 17, 1913, Pope St. Pius X formally erected the Diocese of Spokane. However, news did not reach the Catholic community in Eastern Washington until Wednesday, Feb. 11, 1914, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. So while the actual date of our centennial anniversary has passed, it only seemed appropriate to wait until this mid-February day to launch our diocesan celebration, impressing on us that the Lord does indeed work in quiet, silent and hidden ways even before we know it.

It is important to remember the past and recall that

• the times were marked by strife and uncertainty;
• the daily news was old, a steady stream of stories telling of hardship and turmoil;
• threats of war were in the air as new forces of anarchy and nationalism flexed their muscles;
• few cared about peace;
• new financial pressures forced the intervention of governments, leading to the creation of the Federal Reserve in our own country; and
• nativist prejudices were on the rise, stoking fears with what seemed to some as an unceasing inflow of impoverished immigrants.

These were the troubled times of the second decade of the 20th century – the era in which our local Church in Eastern Washington became the Diocese of Spokane.

Yet, as our new diocesan history, Children of the Sun, chronicles, the Catholic faithful and their leaders seemed undaunted by the strife and uncertainty, the hardships and turmoil, the prejudice and pressures. The installation of our first bishop, Augustine Francis Schinner, on April 18, 1914, just weeks before the outbreak of World War I, was both festive and jubilant, providing local Catholics with fresh energy to establish new parishes and missions.

Now, a hundred years later, we seem to be repeating similar events. These too are troubled times. While the circumstances and characters may have changed, so much is the same. These too are days of terrorism and war, financial collapse and hardship, bigotry and injustice.

Faithful to our heritage, emboldened by the example of our forbearers, we refuse to let these challenges overtake us. Through the pastoral planning initiative, Know Love and Serve, we begin the celebration of our centennial year by making a new commitment to writing the next chapter of our Church’s history with bold imagination and creativity. We will share our hopes and dreams, identify priorities and take action to move ahead as a people who “walk by faith, not by sight.”

To this end, I encourage each and every one of you to become involved in the Know Love and Serve process in your parishes. We want and need to hear from you. In the near future I will be announcing the date of our diocesan celebration, which we hope to coincide with the ordination of new priests this June.

I want to close this letter by recalling that Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) spoke of the Church as the dawn. He too lived in demanding times, with vexing problems from within and without. Roaming hordes of barbarians terrorized citizens and created chaos in the wake of the fall of the Roman Empire. A bureaucracy of insiders in the governing structures of society and the Church, left over from the days of that same empire, were resistant to the renewal this successor of Peter sought to bring.

To speak of the Church as the dawn, he noted, “suggests that while the night is over, it does not yet proclaim the full light of day. While it dispels the darkness and welcomes the light, it holds both of them, the one mixed with the other, as it were.”

What an encouraging metaphor for us as we take up the work of the Church in our time once again, especially as we begin our second century. Yes, there are shadows of uncertainty around us, and the night has been long. But, dawn is upon us, a new day is near, for as a people of faith we believe that not only daylight but our best days are ahead of us.



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