Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



The Bishop Writes

"Summer gatherings"


by Bishop William S. Skylstad

(From the Aug. 19, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

Summer continues to unfold for all of us. Soon we will be into the startup of another school year and the regular schedule of parish and diocesan activities.

My own schedule changes somewhat during the summer but remains just about as busy.†I look forward to our family reunion on Aug. 14 at Rocky Reach Dam near Wenatchee and spending a day or so in the Cascades afterwards.†I suspect that the natural beauty of the mountains refreshes all of us.†I hope to take a trip with the pastors in Okanogan County area to Harts Pass and Slate Peak in the north Central Cascades.†Iím told thatís the highest spot to which you can drive in Washington State.†You have to drive around Dead Horse Point (aptly named) to get there.†Itís a great trip if you havenít taken it.

Last week I spent two days in Dallas with the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus. Usually I try to attend this annual convention as a show of support and affirmation of the Knights of Columbus, which does much work in the Church.†Last year alone, donations of over $120 million dollars were given to special projects and needs.†Even more importantly, the focus of the Knights has been to build up their parish groups (councils) through out the country. We have many such groups in the Diocese of Spokane who serve in many different ways.†I very much appreciate them as a lay group that fosters a sense of community and the gathering of the gifts of people who work together for common cause.

On Tuesday night of the convention was the Statesí Dinner.†Over 2,000 people were there, but what I found especially inspiring was the representation from every state and province in the U.S. and Canada.†In addition, there were delegates from the Philippines, Mexico, Santo Domingo, and Puerto Rico.†No other organization pulls together on an annual basis a gathering of Church in our part of the world as the Knights of Columbus do.†They are to be highly commended for this role and mission.

Last July, the local Knights hosted the state convention here in Spokane.†Once again delegates and their families came from all over the state for a weekend of meeting and strengthening relationships.

Last night I returned from the regional World Wide Marriage Encounter (WWME) convention in Portland, held at Reed College.†Over 100 married leadership couples from Northern California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia came together to be affirmed, strengthened, renewed and refreshed in their work of strengthening and renewing marriages. This is another remarkable group of lay people who for decades have been serving married couples.†There has been an ecumenical spin-off now, with several expressions of Marriage Encounter in several other faith denominations.†The Portland meeting included special recognition and support for the Presbyterian expression of Marriage Encounter.

The couples involved in WWME graciously volunteer their time and talent to present the weekend experience of renewal and to participate in regional gatherings such as the one in Portland.†I made my weekend in the late winter of 1974, with Bishop Thomas Connolly, the now retired Bishop of Baker, Ore. In addition, since the late 1970s, I have been a team priest with the movement and attempt to assist in presenting one weekend a year locally.†The movement is looking for the increased involvement of priests, and I offer strong encouragement for them to do so, within the limits of their already full ministerial roles.

WWME has been around since the early 1970s. Just as the name indicates, the movement has spread to many other countries worldwide. The movement originated in Spain but really took off in the U.S.

Today three groups within WWME have a particular focus.

Engaged Encounter helps to prepare couples for marriage. These weekends are scheduled regularly throughout the year at Immaculate Heart Retreat Center. The program has been very helpful in assisting couples as they begin their married lives together.

The second groupís focus is the regular weekend experience to assist good marriages to become better.†This form is probably the best known and recognized.

The third group is of more recent origin: Retrovaille, a word which means ďrediscovery.Ē†The focus of this effort is a Christian peer ministry to provide a lifeline for troubled marriages.†More information about all three can be found on our diocesan website (www.dioceseofspokane.org).

In a world in which there is so much pressure placed upon marriage and family life, WWME provides significant important assistance to couples at important times in their lives.†I marvel at the generosity of the married couples and priests who generously have taken it upon themselves to serve this mission of the Church, some for many, many years.†I am very grateful to them as well as to others who have assisted couples in the area of preparation for marriage.

The participation of the laity in the Church, in so many different roles of ministry and leadership, is wonderful. The Knights and WWME are just two examples of how profoundly this generosity and commitment have and do touch the lives of so many.†May we be open to receiving these gifts and supporting them in whatever manner we are able.

May God bless you and give you peace.


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