Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

The Bishop Writes

"Welcome and transition"

by Bishop William S. Skylstad

(From the July 1, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)

Soon we will receive the news of the new bishop for the Diocese of Spokane. At of the time of the announcement, I will be appointed in the interim the apostolic administrator until the installation of our new bishop takes place. I now conclude over 33 years of service as an active diocesan bishop. I have been blessed to serve for 13 years in the Diocese of Yakima and now over 20 years in Eastern Washington. I have been humbled and yet privileged to serve in this capacity. No one deserves to be a bishop. I have been tremendously blessed in episcopal ministry, and yet in the same breath I must express profound gratitude first and foremost to God, and secondly to the Church, to the people whom I have served. I must also ask forgiveness for the ways I have failed and hurt others. Every bishop comes to his role of service with gifts and limitations. Bishops, more than most, live in a glass bowl, so there is no need to elaborate. That is the human journey for all of us. Yet Godís grace and a loving, prayerful community of faith strengthen all of us.

One the great blessings in a bishopsí ministry is to serve with brother priests and bishops. These men have always been a great inspiration to me. I have also felt close to the communities of women Religious who have demonstrated tremendous dedication and selfless service to Godís people in so many ways. Their love of and service in the Church must be recognized as a wonderful gift and treasure to the community of faith. The ongoing visitation by the Holy See of the Religious communities of women in this country must be seen in light of profound gratitude and a deepening appreciation of their unique call: service and witness in the Church.

Deacons and wives, Religious Brothers, married couples, singles, youth, children: all provide a rich mosaic of our family of faith who enrich us all. My continuing contact with such a rich diversity in the Church is a great blessing without end. My sisters and brothers in other faith denominations have been very special.

As I have now celebrated my 50th year as a priest, my time at prayer again and again is filled with thanks to God and thanks to so many people who have touched my life. I hope in some small way I have assisted others on their faith journey as we all come closer to the fullness of the kingdom.

The question I am frequently asked these days is: What I am going to do in retirement?

First of all, I do hope to slow down a bit. A bishopís life is very intense. In part, that is due to my own decisions of not taking enough time for relaxation and recreation. Yet, I have been blessed for the most part with very good health and energy. Last October, I received a pacemaker for a slow heart rate, and the beat now goes on at a more appropriate pace. My weakness of muscles has been slowly progressing, but at 76, one also has to recognize that our earthly tent doesnít last forever.

On the national level, I will continue to serve on the international committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop (USCCB). I also continue to co-chair the Catholic-Methodist Dialogue with Bishop Tim Whitaker, a Methodist bishop from Florida. My activity with World Wide Marriage Encounter has increased regionally and nationally. I have been a team priest for WWME for almost 30 years. In many ways that movement addresses the five priorities of the USCCB: support of marriage and family life; continuing faith formation; diversity in the Church; the dignity of the human person; and finally, vocations to Religious life. I will probably pick up on my activity of giving retreats since my calendar will free up considerably. In addition, I have received requests to substitute for pastors on weekends when there is need in parishes. We need to appreciate the wonderful work of our retired priests who continue to serve in this capacity as they are able. I now join their ranks.

Finally, I have been living since Thanksgiving in one of the cottages at Rockwood Lane, a Catholic Charities retirement facility next to Sacred Heart Parish in Spokane. Bishop Cupich may wish to use me in some capacity, but I do want to make it clear that he is now the bishop of this diocese. In no way should I interfere with his ministry, nor be used in a manner that directly or indirectly weakens his role. My loyalty is to him.

I ask you to pray for our new bishop, for our diocese, and for our Church. Please pray for me, too. One of the blessings for me will be the ability to spend more time in prayer. I need to continue to give thanks. May God bless us all as witness to a Church that continues to be touched by the power of the Holy Spirit through so many who use their gifts in love and in genersoity!

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