Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
"Transitions and summertime"
by Bishop William S. Skylstad
(From the June 8, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)
Confirmation and First Eucharist celebrations are coming to a conclusion this season.†These parish gatherings celebrate the sacraments of initiation, and I always find them to be wonderful moments of new beginnings, filled with excitement, receptions and, yes, potlucks.
The sizes of the gatherings vary. In some of our smaller rural parishes, there might be three or four individuals who are fully initiated into the Church. At St. Patrick Parish in Pasco, there were 430!
I have tremendous admiration and appreciation for the many catechists who prepare the children for the celebration of these sacraments.†Can you imagine preparing several hundred children at one time?†This is no small task!†Yet, year after year, so many catechists, both professionals and volunteers, offer their gifts and time to prepare hundreds of individuals for the sacraments of initiation, not to mention the rest of their catechetical formation ministry.
One advantage to the rounds of parish celebrations is the opportunity to drive through the countryside of Eastern Washington, with its beautiful rivers, valleys and mountains. Driving into Walla Walla from the north, looking off to the Blues Ė frankly, itís a spiritual experience.†Palouse Falls (I have a photo of it as one of my computer screen savers), the lava columns in the coulees, the forested mountains, the Okanogan Valley with its desert beauty, the Pend díOreille and Colville valleys, and the Indian reservations: all of these present a wonderful blend of the incredible diversity of Godís gift of creation.
Itís true that I get frequent warnings from parishioners to watch out for deer on the highway, but Iím happy to report that the only close call (recently, anyway) involved a couple of calves who had wandered onto the road as I was returning home late at night.†And yes, in case you are wondering, Iíve havenít had a speeding ticket for quite a while!
The largest single gathering for Eucharist this spring is the celebration of the baccalaureate Mass at Gonzaga University in the McCarthey Center.†I would guess that nearly 6,000 are present as GU celebrates graduations and the conclusion of the academic year.†Almost every parish appropriately honors and prays for their local graduates.†This moment for high school seniors is a significant time of transition as they ponder their future direction, trying to discern what God is calling them to be and to do. These decisions are not easy. There are so many choices, coupled with so much uncertainty, all within an increasingly complex world. We congratulate them and pray for them in their decision-making and vision for the future.
In mid-June the U.S. Catholic bishops will meet in Los Angeles. The fall meeting usually takes place in Washington D.C., but the site of the summer gathering rotates to various cities. An exception will be November 2006, when we will begin meeting each fall in Baltimore. The move is based on cost factors and facilities.
In Los Angeles this month, one of the high priority items on the agenda will be the approval of the translation of the Ordo Missae (the Order of Mass) according to the new guidelines. The bishops will be discussing the reorganization of the USCCB (United States Catholic Conference of Bishops), given our priorities and the need to be good stewards of the resources available. A committee of bishops representing each region of the countryís 13 regions, chaired by Archbishop Sheehan of Santa Fe, has been preparing the materials for this item.
In general, the bishops have been discussing the narrowing of the priorities of the Conference.†Given the complexity of the work and mission of the Church, a plan developed by the committee will be proposed which hopefully will better focus our efforts of serving the Church. The agenda of the meeting also involves an afternoon of prayer and reflection.
Like many of you, I look forward to summer.†Iíll be hosting barbecues in my back yard for various groups Ė the cemetery board, the Bishopís Finance Council, leadership from other denominations (the Octet), leadership from communities of women Religious, the priests, the deacons and their wives, and the board of the Washington State Catholic Conference. The occasions are informal and provide welcome opportunities to gather and enjoy the warm weather. The bishops of the region will have a get-together for a few days near Bend, Ore. Ė again, informal rest and relaxation.
We are very blessed in this area with an abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities such as the lakes, rivers, and campgrounds. Our region has a spectacularly diverse land-scape.†The beauty of Godís creation always stirs the human spirit to wonder and appre-ciation.†Letís not forget to be deeply grateful as well.
I pray that all of you have a good summer. Blessings and peace to all.
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