Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

The Bishop Writes

"Looking forward to 2006"

by Bishop William S. Skylstad

(From the Jan. 12, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)

The year 2005 has been remarkable, though not always with the most pleasant of events.

Just after Christmas in 2004, the tsunami hit Southeast Asia with catastrophic im-pact. Over 200,000 people died. Even a year later, that part of the world is trying to put itself back together again. The response, the outreach, and the assistance from around the globe reached inspiring levels of generosity.

In our own country, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused massive destruction, forcing the relocation of thousands and disrupting and destroying significant urban areas, particularly New Orleans. Cities and dioceses continue to try to recover from the massive scale of these disasters. Yet once again, throughout our nation there has been a generous response, without clear indication at the present of what the total needs will be as the area and the Church looks to the future.

The massive earthquake in Northern Pakistan was added to these natural disasters, with tens of thousands of deaths resulting from a single devastating event. Hundreds of thousands of homeless people face the onslaught of winter. The world community has come to their aid. But the needs in all of these events are massive. Recovery will take years. Redevelopment might well result in structures that are very different from those of the past.

Our own Catholic Diocese of Spokane has experienced its challenging time as we try to address in a just and compassionate manner sexual abuse claims of the past.  Once again, I apologize to the victims for the harm they have  suffered in the abuse and in broken trust. I pray for them each day, and I hope all of you do as well.

As we moved along the process of Chapter 11 Reorganization, we have done our best to continue the mission and ministry of our diocese. That effort has not been easy; the financial outcome of our present situation is filled with ambiguity and uncertainty. The work and ministry of our Catholic Pastoral Center has felt the impact of the situation, as have some parish resources which have been used in the litigation process. Periodically, I hear complaints about the legal expenses. While I am sensitive to those concerns, given the extremely complex nature of the legal process in which we are engaged, it would be imprudent not to address this matter in the best professional  manner.  If we had done otherwise, we might well have ended up in a far more vulnerable situation. Blaming, from whatever quarter, is not helpful, nor has it ever been in the spiritual realm of justice, reconciliation, and forgiveness.

As we begin the New Year, we celebrate the Feast of the Solemnity of the Motherhood of Mary and the World Day of Peace. Both are important messages that should challenge all of us to the core of our being.

The life of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is filled with inspiration for all of us to say “yes” to God, even in those moments of our greatest loss and pain. Loss can be equated with darkness and gloom, as we heard from Isaiah in the first reading at Christmas Midnight Mass; but as the prophet continues, the light of God has shown. People have seen a great light. The Word became flesh. The light of Christ trumps everything else. We should try to live that profound reality as best we can.  For some, I know, that challenge is extremely difficult.  But it is possible.

Peace is a tremendous need in our world and in our communities. Disrespect for human life at any stage, from conception to natural death, is contrary to the Gospel and contrary to the teaching of our Church. Lack of generosity, rugged individualism, and hoarding do not build up the common good or support the virtue of justice – the right ordering of relationships. Peace is about building up humanity in love and solidarity – in our world, in our country, in our cities and towns, in our diocese, in our parishes, in every home. Living the Gospel means creating peace. That involves difficult personal choices, each and every day. But we must come to realize that in terms of our relationship with others, anything short of peacemaking falls short of Gospel living. That’s the kind of initiative every disciple of Jesus is called to make. G.K. Chesterton, the famous English author, once said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” Christianity hasn’t failed. It just hasn’t been tried. Those words ring very true today. We are very human people, we are a very human church, and we are a world truly in need of redemption. Jesus is and truly will be the Savior of the world. Following the example of Mary, perhaps each of us and all of us together can “mother’ that presence of Jesus into a vibrant witness that truly will overcome.

This year, 2006, has tremendous potential for growth and realization. We pray with hopeful expectation and profound gratitude to God, as God works, mysteriously, through us. The Lord Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, will make it happen.

Blessings and peace to all.

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