Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

The Bishop Writes

"Summer 2005"

by Bishop William S. Skylstad

(From the July 5, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)

There are so many reasons to look forward to summer! School is out. The seniors have graduated. Crops are growing and are being harvested. Many families take vacations.

Confirmation and First Eucharist celebrations have pretty much concluded until next fall, although the day I write this (and the day before) I was in Pomeroy and Tekoa, respectively, to celebrate those sacraments of initiation. The scenery was truly spectacular with green fields, the mountains, and the cloud formations. We are very blessed to live in this part of the world.

On Friday evening, June 24, seven men were ordained to the diaconate at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes. A few weeks ago, Jim Barrow of St. Patrick Parish in Walla Walla was ordained deacon. We now have eight new deacons serving in the diocese. The diaconal presence has been a grace and blessing as their numbers increase. Soon we will have several deacons from Hispanic background who will be ordained.

On June 19, St. Joseph Parish in Odessa celebrated their centennial with a Mass and potluck. Parishioners from out of town who had roots in the area also attended. We were very blessed to have with us for the celebration Bishop William Weigand, the Bishop of Sacramento. He lived with his family in Odessa until he was five, when they moved to Tekoa, where his father was transferred as the manager of the Penney’s store. Bishop Weigand’s visit was made more remarkable by the fact that it was a personal celebration of sorts – a public appearance as he recovers from his liver transplant of a few months ago. A donor came forward to share 70 percent of his liver so the bishop could live (“Man feels God called him to make liver donation to ailing Sacramento bishop,” IR 4/7/05). Bishop Weigand’s recovery seems to be going well. Please keep him in prayer.

This centennial celebration had its pictures to display and stories to tell. Photos of weddings and First Communion celebrations tend to be focus of attention as people observe how everyone has changed over the decades. Some of today’s pastors cover a considerable amount of territory as they serve three or four parishes. In the early days of the Odessa area, their pastor served missions from Burke (a few miles from Quincy) all the way to Sprague. Mass was often celebrated in the living rooms of homes. The story is told that one of the pastors always preached his sermon at the end of Mass with the Church door open so he could see the railroad tracks. When the train approached it was time to stop and catch the train to the next parish. Times have changed!

Next Sunday we will celebrate the centennial of St. Boniface Parish in Uniontown. In the middle of November, Colton’s St. Gall Parish marks its centennial. I truly have to marvel at these early pioneers who came to this part of the world to begin new lives. They had a dream of what could be. With little more than the clothes on their backs they embarked on a new venture for them and their families.

The essence of that story is repeated in today’s communities as immigrants come to our area, primarily from the south. They have become an integral part of our Church and economy, and they enrich our faith communities by their presence. It’s another opportunity for us to continue to grow as a church of warm welcome and hospitality, recognizing each other in the Body of Christ.

July 1 saw pastoral transitions as four priests of the Spokane Diocese enter into “retirement.” Officially retiring are Msgr. James Ribble, most recently of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes; Father Felix Lorge, from the parishes in Colfax and LaCrosse; Father John Birk, in residence at St. Patrick Parish in Pasco and chaplain at Lourdes Medical Center; and Father Tom Caswell of St. Rose, Cheney. As most of you know, however, even in retirement, priests continue to serve the people of God. As their health permits, these priests minister in a somewhat limited way, without the responsibility of administration of a parish (or parishes). I am most grateful to all of them who have given so generously of themselves in such dedicated service for decades.

Pastoring a parish requires great skill. Parish life is complex. Its demands present a challenge that many don’t appreciate until they’ve tried to live the experience. Think about a pastor’s responsibilities: good homilies; responsible finances; effective liturgies; pastoral presence, especially in times of great need, such as a death; and more besides. Every person has unique gifts. I hope all of us can continue to grow in appreciation of times of change and openness to new gifts and new possibilities.

So summer is here. As we reflect on our diocesan life and the unique challenges we face at this time as a diocesan family, we must remember the events of our daily lives continue with many good things happening and many opportunities to grow in grace, age and wisdom. The power of the Holy Spirit is within us, and Holy Eucharist constantly reminds us and calls to be a people of Jesus our redeemer.

Peace and blessings to all.

Bishop Skylstad’s Schedule

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