Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

The Bishop Writes

"Give thanks always!"

by Bishop William S. Skylstad

(From the Nov. 15, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

Our national holiday of Thanksgiving is soon upon us. Thanksgiving traditionally has been a wonderful day for families to come together, sometimes traveling considerable distance to make that gathering possible.

Gratitude is important in the life of a faithful disciple. St. Paul in his writings often refers to the need for giving thanks: “Give thanks to God the Father always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 5:20), and “Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness.” (Col 3:15)

For us in the Catholic Church, we remind ourselves that every Eucharist is an act of thanksgiving. How fortunate we are to celebrate this sacrament again and again, especially on Sundays, to remind ourselves of our need to thank God. The Gospel shares the story of Jesus’ cure of the 10 lepers, and the Lord’s wonder that only one of the 10 came back to express gratitude. It’s easy to take so much in life for granted, but the time of Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to be mindful of how richly God has blessed us in many ways.

For me personally, I thank God for all of you in the diocese. These past three or four years have not been easy as we passed through bankruptcy, but the faithfulness and generosity of so many people powerfully demonstrate how their lives are undergirded by faith and commitment to community.

The priests have been exemplary in their service to God’s people and to the diocese in this challenging time. I am grateful to so many men who have come forward to dedicate their lives to priesthood. Given the size of our Catholic population in Eastern Washington, the number of our diocese’s priestly ordinations the last few years is quite phenomenal.

I thank God for our diaconal community. The deacons with their wives continue to be great signs of service in our Church. We can so easily take the diaconal role for granted. If for some reason we lost the ministry of our deacons, they would be greatly missed, I am certain of it. Besides the deacons themselves, their wives provide valuable support for diaconal ministry. They give their own, powerful witness.

Our communities of women Religious have always provided a rich expression of the Church’s expansive approach to ministry. The varied communities of consecrated life have provided a wonderful dedicated presence in the Church in the Northwest for decades upon decades. Additional communities have recently become a part of our diocesan life, with the arrival of the Missionaries of Charity and the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Church. Health care institutions and institutions of care and love for the needy have been sponsored by different groups of women Religious and have left a tremendous legacy and witness that continue to inspire us all. Religious communities of men serve here with great distinction. By far, the largest of these is the Jesuit community.

I am profoundly grateful to families, to mothers and fathers, to husbands and wives who live out their complex vocation with great dedication and commitment. Again and again, I see holy couples who give great witness of holiness of life, oftentimes in circumstances that are not easy. I admire the steadfast courage of widows and widowers.

Single parents deserve our gratitude as they face the great challenge of parenting, oftentimes alone. They exhibit tremendous fortitude, integrity, and commitment to their children. But it’s not easy, and we know that. We need to be grateful to them.

Look at the many ministries going on in our parishes. So many people volunteer to be catechists, choir members and musicians, lectors, servers, members of parish and diocesan boards. On the diocesan level, I am most grateful for the invaluable assistance and wisdom people have contributed to the area of finances and budgets. So many people participated in and guided the decision-making process during our Chapter 11 Reorganization. The Association of Parishes was a remarkable gathering over a period of a couple of years to assist in sorting out the complexity of bankruptcy. I am most grateful to them for their assistance in demonstrating a deep sense of concern for their local parish communities as they met again and again to discern the best possible path for the future. Our people’s generous support of the Chapter 11 settlement, of our Catholic Charities collection, and of the Annual Catholic Appeal has been wonderful.

I realize that these comments are a bit of a “laundry list” of why we need to be grateful. By no means is this list complete! We need to remember to be grateful. We are so richly blessed by God, directly and through the generous gifts of others who answer “Yes” to our Lord’s loving invitation.

I extend to all of you my best wishes for a blessed and happy Thanksgiving. May God grant you and your families much peace and joy!

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