Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

The Bishop Writes

"Easter 2007"

by Bishop William S. Skylstad

(From the March 22, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

The cyclic nature of the liturgical year places before us again and again an opportunity for reflection and prayer on the great mysteries of our Faith. At the present moment, we are experiencing the Lenten season as we prepare for the Sacred Triduum of Holy Week and the great celebration of Easter. It’s true that our daily lives reflect the pattern of the liturgical year as we experience new births, the suffering of our many different crosses, new life and, at last, resurrection as we move ahead.

Holy Week, beginning with Passion (or Palm) Sunday, provides the opportunity to enter rather intensely into the life of Jesus as he approached his own suffering, death, and Resurrection. I often reflect that the disciples of Jesus who accompanied him on this journey must have had very mixed, turbulent emotions. Their thoughts must have been confusing, painful, and hard to accept. Yet, they had experienced several years of Jesus’ public ministry, an experience which had given them a sense of direction and solidarity even through devastating times. Little did they realize that on Sunday morning of that first Easter, life would change so very dramatically. In a sense, the experience of Easter was just the beginning of whole new way of life, a whole new way of mission. With great excitement and joy, they leaned into the challenge of sharing Jesus’ presence with a waiting world.

Our own experiences of life lead us through painful times: times of the cross, times of dashed expectations. We see the same phenomena in the early community of faith surrounding Jesus. The Lenten season is a good reminder of how important it is for us to process our lives and our spiritual journey through the lens of faith.

As we accept the crosses of life, we come to Easter Triduum. The Mass for the blessings and consecration of the Chrism, Oil of the Sick and Oil of Catechumens is celebrated on Holy Thursday morning with the priests of the diocese. They also renew their priestly commitment during that Mass.

The celebration of the Holy Thursday evening reminds us of the great gift of Eucharist. Good Friday is the intense day of reflection on the Passion and death of Jesus. Finally, the powerful and moving Easter Vigil celebration, with its rich liturgy, is a special combination of the Easter Light, with Scripture readings, the blessing of the baptismal water, and the initiation into the Church of the “elect” through baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist. Even though the Easter Vigil ceremony is a bit longer, participation in that liturgy is like a mini retreat which helps us to appreciate our rich tradition and the power of the Holy Spirit working through people’s lives – including our own.

Our world today is going through a lot of struggles. Certainly the Church, including our own diocese, has had its challenges as we have moved through the Chapter 11 process the last couple of years. These years have been a certain kind of Lenten journey for us as a diocesan community of faith. Last week, the federal judge approved the diocese’s Disclosure Statement. Now the Consensual Plan can be voted upon by all of the creditors, including the victims, before the middle of April.

Let’s all pray in hope that with the positive response of that vote, the judge will approve the Plan, which will lead us out of bankruptcy. We will still be dealing with the payment of the settlement for some time to come, but the whole process is coming to a conclusion that in its own way speaks of a kind of resurrection. Even though this tragedy of sexual abuse by the clergy has been a very difficult journey, we have tried to treat all of the victims of abuse fairly, while at the same time continuing the mission of the Church. As difficult as it may seem at the moment, I believe that ultimately, this will be an experience of grace and blessing. We will be a stronger and more genuine Christian community of faith. The cross does have its blessings.

All of our diocesan assets are in the process of being sold, including the bishop’s house, to support the settlement. As of today as I write this, I will be taking up residence at the rectory of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes. I have lived at 1025 W. Cleveland for 17 years, the longest I have lived at any one place in my life. Until about 1978, the bishop’s house on Cleveland was De Porres Manor, a home for unwed mothers. In my new home in the Cathedral rectory, I will continue the practice of hosting auction dinners; the summer barbecues will be held at Immaculate Heart Retreat Center.

The Catholic Pastoral Center – some still call it the Chancery Building – has been sold. For the time being, Catholic Charities will continue to occupy their present space on the first floor of the CPC. Other diocesan offices, including my own, will relocate and consolidate on the third floor, a move scheduled to be completed before June of this year.

All of this involves loss, change, and new life. Of these three, the most important, I think, is new life, and that’s the great Easter story. The themes of the cross, and of resurrection, resound in our daily lives, reminding us at all times, in all things, that we are loved by God, and we are never alone.

Best wishes and prayers for a blessed and joyful Easter!

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