Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
"Confirmation season - and now summer"
by Bishop William S. Skylstad
(From the July 1, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)
Springtime, especially the time after Easter until the middle of June, is filled with parish celebrations of Confirmation/First Eucharist. Because these celebrations take place in almost every parish each year, some have to be scheduled in the autumn, since there isn’t enough time to fit in all of them during spring. I find these celebrations to be especially joy-filled, with the gathering of parish communities and extended families. You can quickly see the way extended families are present around the diocese when grandparents can be seen at several different celebrations. I am also impressed by the dedication and hard work of the selfless catechists who prepare the children for the celebration of the sacraments.
That task of preparation can be considerable. Imagine preparing 470 young people for Confirmation and First Eucharist – exactly the case in St. Patrick Parish in Pasco this past May. Last year, the number was 502. Although we don’t want to get into the numbers game – even a few Confirmations in a parish are a very special event – take a look at these figures of those receiving Confirmation/First Eucharist this spring: 200 at St. Patrick Parish, Walla Walla; 150 at Sacred Heart Parish, Brewster, 125 at St. Vincent Parish Connell. And these are annual figures.
Some find the high numbers surprising, since they represent parishes in the southern and western parts of the diocese, rather than within the city of Spokane itself. I should remind you, too, that these are parishes with significantly large Hispanic populations. You can readily see the need for multicultural ministry. That continues to be a challenge for our priests, deacons and other ministers. But with the challenges come great blessings as well. I wish to thank all who have assisted in making these celebrations so special for communities of faith and families.
The two dioceses in Montana held special celebrations in June. Bishop George Thomas was installed at the new bishop of the Diocese of Helena on June 4. The Diocese of Great Falls-Billings marked the centennial of its founding with a celebration at the Four Season Community Center in Great Falls. That took place on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus. Bishops Thomas Connolly and Robert Vasa of the Diocese of Baker, Ore., joined me to visit the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center on the banks of the Missouri River, just outside of the city, before the centennial Mass. It’s worth seeing.
The courage of these explorers with their Corps of Discovery is a remarkable reminder of how that same kind of courage can be a part of our spiritual journey today. The challenges may be different, but no less daunting.
The summer meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops took place in Denver this year. The main intent of the meeting was to provide an atmosphere of spiritual retreat, but of course a certain amount of time had to be carved out for business; specifically, addressing the audits of the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth. Despite what some reported, support for the continuation of the audits was almost unanimous.
Considerable discussion addressed the issue of political responsibility and the reception of Communion. (Editor’s note: Bishop Skylstad addressed the issue in his column “Engaging the Culture,” IR 6/10/04; in Spanish, "Abrazando la cultura.")
I have always been amazed at how the bishops come together with great respect for one another, even though they hold differences of opinion. In the Acts of the Apostles we can read an account of the early church sorting out difficult and complex issues. We should not – and, indeed, must not – treat anyone disrespectfully because of searching out solutions and directions.
Just today as I write this, I had the chance to have a personal visit with the Holy Father for about 10 minutes. The Catholic bishops of the Northwest are here in Rome for our ad limina visit, held every five years. We now have 12 active bishops in our region. Usually three or four are scheduled each day to visit the Holy Father. This morning it was the turn of the .bishops of Washington State. The pope is very interested in what is gong on in each diocese. Some months before we sent in our ad limina report on the status of the diocese. I shared with him our love, prayers, and profound gratitude for his ministry.
Also earlier this morning all of the bishops of our region concelebrated Mass at the tomb of St. Peter. Other events during the week include visits to six congregations; Mass at the church of St. Paul Outside of the Walls; a reception given by the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See; another reception at Villa Stritch, the residence of U.S. priests who work at the Vatican; dinner at the Casa Santa Maria, the residence for U.S. priests engaged graduate studies; and a general session with the Holy Father, when he gives a special message to the bishops of the region. This message is also released to the press.
My best wishes and prayers go to all of your for a good summer. Much peace and many blessings.