Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

The Bishop Writes

"Giving thanks"

by Bishop William S. Skylstad

(From the Nov. 16, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)

The month of November reminds us of several important aspects of our lives. First, in the Church’s liturgical calendar, we began the month with the Feast of All Saints and All Souls, Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, respectively. Our rich tradition of honoring those holy people formally declared saints reminds us to thank them for their inspiration and witness. On All Souls, we are especially mindful of our family members who have gone before us as we pray for them and for ourselves. Our families, especially our parents, have given us so much.

Three weeks ago, I traveled to Rome with Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago. We went to Rome for the regular meetings with the various Vatican offices on behalf of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, which I serve as president, and Cardinal George as vice-president. We were blessed to have a half-hour meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. Such a visit reminds me of the power of the universality of our Church, and how interconnected we are in the Body of Christ.

On the first day of the visit, we were able to attend the canonization of four saints, two of whom were from our part of the world – St. Theodore Guerin, a Providence Sister from of Indiana, and St. Rafael Guizar Valentia, the Bishop of Vera Cruz in Mexico. St. Rafael resided briefly in the U.S. during the early part of the last century. Both of these new saints were great signs of fidelity to the Church amid challenging circumstances.

When I stand in St. Peter’s Square, when I visit St. Peter Basilica, I can’t help but be impressed with wide range of diversity of peoples who come to visit from all over the globe. Our Catholic Church in the United States is only 6 percent of the total world Catholic population. We need to keep that fact in mind as we reflect who we are as part of the universal Church. With all of our struggles and challenges, our global Church is a rich gift and consolation to us.

(Incidentally, they tell me that the crowds of visitors to the Vatican are up about 40 percent over this time a year ago.)

Last Friday evening, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Bishop White Seminary. The seminary has contributed significantly to the diocese over the years. The list of alumni is impressive, as is the list of priests who have given of themselves in the service of priestly formation. None of them has served more years at Bishop White than Father George Haspedis. The history of Bishop White, its staff, and its alumni, is something for which we all should be deeply grateful.

On Saturday, I drove to Walla Walla for the Catholic Daughters’ dinner and auction. Sunday, I spent most of the day celebrating Masses for the prisoners in the Washington State Penitentiary. Security concerns keep the gatherings for Mass small. Priests, deacons, Sisters and laity serve our prison populations faithfully, as much as their time allows. I have always been touched by celebrating Mass in prison. Inmates, too, are brothers and sisters in Christ. Somehow, the power of the Redeemer comes through wonderfully in these smaller, more intimate gatherings for Eucharist.

As you read this, the Catholic bishops of the United States are in Baltimore for our annual fall meeting. (Editor’s note: See page 7 of this issue of the Inland Register for a look at the meeting’s business.) This year will be the first meeting in Baltimore, where we will now regularly gather for the November meeting. The move to Baltimore is especially appropriate this year because of the rededication of the Basilica of the Assumption. There will be a special Mass in the Basilica on Sunday afternoon before the plenary assembly begins. This is the oldest cathedral in the United States, so in a sense, the Basilica of the Assumption is the mother church of our nation. But it’s good to remember that the Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., was the second archdiocese established in our country.

Our national observance of Thanksgiving approaches. It’s a wonderful holiday for many reasons. We need to be grateful for our local Church, with all of our 81 Catholic parishes and the many Catholic institutions which serve us and serve on our behalf. These last few years have not been easy ones for our diocese. I am profoundly grateful to all who have been faithful in presence and generosity in so many ways.

In a special way I give thanks to the staff here at the Catholic Pastoral Center who again and again have gone the extra mile to serve. Our retired priests deserve our gratitude for decades of faithful service to the Church. The infirmaries of the Providence Sisters and for the Holy Names Sisters remind us of those many generous women Religious who have dedicated their lives to service and love of God’s people. We are most grateful.

Our list and reasons for giving thanks can go on and on. On Thanksgiving Day, may we give thanks for rich blessings from Church, nation, family, and especially from our God.

A blessed and happy Thanksgiving to all!

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