From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Bishop’s Vision Statement: the 2001-2002 Update

by Bishop William S. Skylstad

(From the April 12, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

I am completing this update of the 2001-2002 Vision Statement during the latter part of Lent. You certainly recall the dramatic inauguration of this season on Feb. 28 when the Seattle-Olympia area was shaken by the “Ash Wednesday earthquake.” I cannot help but call to mind the “Good Friday earthquake” of 1964 in Anchorage, Alaska. The timing of these seismic events in the season of Lent gives me pause to reflect. We cannot control the immense powers of nature, but through skill and ingenuity we learn to cope with these forces. In the Seattle quake, careful engineering and construction appear to have greatly minimized damage, injury and loss of life. In fact, no deaths were directly attributed to the earthquake. But here is the great irony. The evening before the earthquake, revelers celebrated Mardi Gras where out-of-control activity resulted in property damage, dozens of injuries and even in death. What is more frightening — the violence of nature that is beyond our control, or the violence emanating from the human heart, the bitter fruit of our misused freedom and malformed values? The mission of the Church and the ministry of each of us is not to build a quake-proof world, but to build up that Kingdom of truth, justice, love and peace upon the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ, the cornerstone.

Living the Good News for a New Century
To begin the Millennium I prepared this statement of my Vision for the year 2000 and beyond. This was not a detailed pastoral plan, but an effort to identify particular concerns in the Church and society that call us to reflect more deeply upon the Gospel and live it more faithfully. My rereading of the statement draws forth a personal amen to its content. It is available for review on the Internet - click here to view it.

I must make two preliminary comments before updating the statement.

The Year of the Great Jubilee was a grand success. I am especially grateful to the Jubilee Churches for accepting their assigned month with such enthusiasm. The Jubilee Mass of June 11 at the Spokane Arena and its rebroadcast by Gonzaga University brought the diocese together in prayerful solidarity. Glory to God, Father, Son and Spirit.

The relocation of the House of Charity and St. Margaret Shelter has significantly increased our service to homeless men and women with children. I am deeply grateful to everyone who contributed to the Shelter 2000 campaign and to those who continue to volunteer their time to these vital Catholic Charities programs.

2001-2002 Reflections
The Gospel Proclaimed to the Family
During this past year at the Diocesan Pastoral Council and at regional meetings of the pastoral leaders of the Diocese, we have been discussing diocesan policies concerning the sacrament of marriage. These conversations have been animated and instructive. Marriage and family life remain central to our experience of faith. In reviewing the Vision Statement, I would affirm its concern for family life and again call your attention to the challenges it sets forth.

Two updates
A. The new diocesan policy on the sacrament of marriage will be more comprehensive than its predecessor and will include the elements of marriage preparation, the celebration of marriage, the multi-cultural challenges of marriage, and the enrichment of marriage and family life. I am committed to completing the draft of the policy in the next two months and will review it with the Presbyteral Council and the Diocesan Pastoral Council. Subsequently, we will need a convocation of pastoral leaders to reinforce the values and the vision that animate this new policy.

The 2001 Catholic Conference scheduled for Oct. 27, 2001 will have the theme of “Family” and will include workshops on marriage, parenting, creating a just society, and living the faith in this culture. I encourage you to attend!

B. In the challenges found in the Vision Statement, I addressed the issues of technology. I have become even more concerned during this year about the Internet and cable TV as pipelines of pornography into our homes. I wrote about this earlier in the year in my Inland Register column.

Nothing has changed. It is a question that calls for broader awareness of the greed of some of the largest corporations in our land who are preying upon our sexual immaturity and confused understanding of intimacy. A recent New York Times article suggested that 50 percent of hotel room rentals include charges for the viewing of cable TV pornography.

The weakness of our sexual integration is great. The failure of our society to deal with this issue will only continue to weaken the solidarity of marriages and family life. It is a plague on our land and on the moral integrity of both adults and children. We must talk about this tragedy of human immaturity — in our homes, in our classrooms. It is not a topic for humor and sexist insults. We must hold corporations like AT&T and General Motors accountable. But more than this, we must hold ourselves accountable to develop new powers of personal integrity in our lives.

The Good News proclaimed to the Churches
On Feb. 22, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Pope John Paul II appointed 44 new cardinals. The geographic, ethnic, and ideological spectrum of these appointments speaks of the multi-cultural spirit of the church, and symbolizes both a universal and local challenge for the Church: the development of leadership for the new century.

The Vatican declaration, Dominus Jesus, was not universally applauded. Some of the terminology used to define non-Catholic ecclesial communities was the cause of much pain. However, the declaration was intended as a corrective to a relativism that would ultimately dismiss the universal salvific meaning of Jesus Christ and the mission of the Catholic Church. The diversity of the Church does not mean departure from the constant tradition of our salvation in Jesus Christ. All differences, all values, all hopes must be founded upon the Lord Jesus and the coming of his kingdom. This certainly challenges our cultural tendency toward quick, relativistic answers to our faith journey.

Three updates:
A. I am committed to a totally inclusive effort to develop ordained and lay leadership for the future of the ministries of the Church. This includes our educational and school ministry, our health care ministry, our social service ministries and the pastoral leadership of parishes and communities. The practical steps toward this effort touch every person and program in our diocese. In October-November of last year, a dialogue among pastors and lay leaders in school ministry was initiated. This project already has shown that our lay leadership is not at odds with the clerical perspective concerning the values of Catholic Schools. But cultivating the evangelizing mission of school ministry within parents and children in our schools, and funding this ministry, which is for the benefit of the whole church, and not merely for the few, challenges us.

B. To build up the solidarity of our diocesan Church, we will work hard this year to expand, update and gain more day to day control over our diocesan web sight. We have put into service a local diocesan e-mail server and we are learning how to use it. To date it seems to be a move in the right direction.

C. One of the highlights of the last year was the presence of Rabbi Jack Izackson at the Presbyteral Assembly. His dialogue with our priests certainly challenges the Catholic community in the Diocese of Spokane to foster our relationship with the Jewish community. The Jewish community expects much from the Catholic community. We must be deeply committed to rooting out discrimination, and feelings of isolation that can be the experience of our Jewish brothers and sisters.

Proclaiming the Gospel in the Global Village
We live in a global village. Sometimes we see positive indications that this perspective enlightens our decisions and directions in political and economic life. Sometimes it is less in evidence.

The election experience of November 2000 will not go down in history as our finest hour. The demographics of the vote tells of a divided nation. As a Catholic community, we are called to work toward the lessening of division. That does not mean we are less than clear about our values, particularly our respect for human life and our concern about family. But our tradition challenges us to promote the common good.

One positive movement of this last year was the effort by this nation and others to reduce the burden of international debt upon the poorest countries in the world. This process must continue. What benefit are tax breaks and new social agendas for people in this wealthiest country in the world and in history if the poorest of the poor remain mired in deeper and deeper poverty, deprivation and social unrest? Our partnership with Guatemala and Bolivia put a face on the cold statistics of globalization which should deepen our interest in these international issues.

Two updates:
A. In the first week of March the pastoral letter The Columbia River Watershed: Caring for Creation and the Common Good, prepared by the bishops of our region, was published. I am proud of both the product and the process of our four years of dialogue that brought together the wisdom of so many in support of the reflection completed by the bishops. It is available through the Catholic Pastoral Center and the text is on the web: click here for the site.

B. During this year Catholic Charities has engaged in 10 local listening sessions held in various regions throughout the diocese. I look forward to the report from the Board of Catholic Charities regarding current and future partnerships between the parishes and Catholic Charities. This process will begin to frame a strategic plan for direct services, education, community organizing and advocacy that is the mission that the Gospel sets before each and every one of us.

Conclusion
We are in the midst of the most sacred days of the Church’s year. In Holy Week we encounter the full range of human experience and emotion, from the agony of betrayal, abandonment and crucifixion to the triumph of forgiveness, healing and resurrection. The mystery of the dying and rising of Christ becomes sacramentally present in those who rise up from the waters of rebirth. Indeed, the whole Church becomes resplendent in the glow of the Paschal flame that proclaims the triumph of the Light of the World over darkness. For the faithful Christian, life is not about solving problems and completing projects, but continuing the journey with indomitable hope and confidence as we advance toward the fulfillment of all hopes even as we pray, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.


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