Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
by Bishop William S. Skylstad
(From the Feb. 28, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
Today as I write this column is the Second Sunday of Lent. The first reading for Eucharist was taken from Book of Genesis. God called Abraham and Sarah to leave their homeland and go to a land God would show them. They responded to Godís call with fidelity and became known as our parents in faith. In one way or another, that call continues in our modern generation, for all of us.
On Ellis Island in New York Harbor is a museum of this important entry port of migrants coming to the United States in the 1800 and 1900s. Many of our ancestors came through that port, including my father.
Several years ago I visited that museum and observed wall after wall filled with pictures of migrants who came to the United States to find a better life. I would like to think the Holy Spirit had a lot to do with their decision to come to this land of promise. Their lives werenít easy, yet they had the hope and dream that this would be the land of opportunity. Sometimes those hopes and dreams werenít fulfilled until the next generation. So many of us experience the wisdom of their decision.
Many of us experience a kind of taking leave, not so much from another country but in the place where we live. In a sense, our experience of the Chapter 11 and the reorganization of our parishes according to civil law is one example. For me, over and above the actual journey through this challenging time, there has been a distinct transition, out of a sense of comfort with diocesan finances to much less certainty, even as we come to the conclusion of this painful episode and build for the future.
As I visit our parishes I am frequently asked about my own living situation. Last April as part of the bankruptcy settlement and in the disposition of our diocesan assets, the bishopís house on West Cleveland was sold. It was a great place to live. I had the opportunity to host auction dinners at the house, most of them in support of Catholic schools. The back yard provided a generous space for summer barbecues, and a lot of good memories. I had great neighbors in the area. We gathered twice a year, once for Christmas and once for a barbeque in the summer. In addition, 10-15 barbeques were scheduled during the summer for various diocesan groups. Those gatherings were a great way to say ďthank you.Ē But when the house was sold, I had to take leave.
Father Dublinski, the rector of the Cathedral of Our Lourdes, invited me to live in the Cathedralís rectory. With lots of help and the sorting out of things that had accumulated for 17 years, I made the transition after last Easter.
In one sense, taking leave can be considered a loss, but on the other hand, life in the Cathedral rectory has been a real blessing. Father Dublinski lives on the third floor of the rectory, while Father Vincent Dao, Father Patrick Baraza (from Kenya, who teaches at both Gonzaga and Eastern Washington universities) and I live on the second floor. The facilities for me are as comfortable as they have ever been. Beside a sitting room and bedroom I have a small office down the hall which provides an additional office away from the Catholic Pastoral Center, as well as a space for my amateur radio station. One of the considerations for amateur radio is not to have too obtrusive an antenna in the neighborhood, especially at the Cathedral rectory. No complaints so far! I also have a simple ham radio in the car, which provides enjoyment while driving.
Living at the Cathedral gives me an opportunity to interact with parishioners and attend at least some of the Cathedral events and functions. When possible, I am able to pray Morning and Evening Prayer with parishioners. There is the great convenience of just walking across the street to the Catholic Pastoral Center. Living in a rectory with a group of priests is also a plus. Even though all of us go our different ways, our frequent interaction is also a blessing. These last few weeks Father Patrick has been keeping us abreast of what is happening in his home country of Kenya, with the post-election disturbance there.
I continue to host auction dinners here at the rectory, with up to eight guests, instead of the 10 I could accommodate at the house on Cleveland. The summer barbecues take place on the grounds of Immaculate Heart Retreat Center, providing an excellent venue of facility and grounds. Really, there arenít many places where you can enjoy a barbecue dinner while watching deer stroll just a short distance away. The staff has been very helpful, and so my preparation time has been eliminated.
All in all, this past year has been a new journey of life.
Finally, I would invite you to join me in prayer and fasting on Friday, March 14, in reparation for the sin of sexual abuse in the Church. For the past four years I have spent prayer time in the Cathedral from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on the Friday before Palm Sunday. You are welcome to join me in the Cathedral, but I well recognize most of you canít. However, you can be with me in spirit and prayer wherever you are, and I invite you to do so.
Blessings and peace to all. Best wishes for a blessed Lent.
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