Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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Father Skok’s 50 years of priesthood: teaching, parish ministry, and learning
by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff
(From the May 2, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)
Father Charles Daniel Skok has been a priest for 50 years. He was ordained at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes April 30, 1952, by his namesake, Bishop
Charles Daniel White. His golden anniversary was celebrated at St. John Vianney Parish, Spokane, where he is in residence. Parishioners held a reception for him there April 26 and the children at the school also gave him a party for the occasion.
About half of Father Skok's active ministry was spent in parish work; the other half teaching. More often than not, they overlapped. Father Skok said he always wanted to be a priest, but he had no thought of being a teacher. "That's why I didn't join the Jesuits; I didn't think I wanted to teach," he said. He admitted he "didn't like teaching for about the first 20 minutes; then after that I liked it."
Dates and places come easily to Father Skok as he talks about his life. He was born in Jump-Off near Valley, Wash., the 12th of 15 children, and entered St. Edward Seminary in Kenmore, Wash., when he was 13 years old. His first assignment after priestly ordination was as assistant pastor at St. Patrick Parish in Walla Walla, where he served from 1952-1957. During that time, he taught in St. Patrick High School, before it became DeSales. He was the school's principal for two years and coached junior high sports, "with a lot of help from Whitman College."
He was appointed chancellor of the diocese in 1957 and returned to Spokane. In addition, he was named spiritual director and superior for Marycliff High School.
Father Skok left those posts in 1960 to attend the Angelicum University in Rome. His studies there earned him a doctorate in moral theology. He was in Rome the summer before the Second Vatican Council opened, and met some of the key figures of that momentous event. Father Skok said this became "really important. I learned what would happen before it took place. This helped me so much," in being prepared for the changes that followed the Council's work.
When he came back to the diocese in 1962, he was named diocesan superintendent of schools. The post was new in the sense that it combined duties of the superintendent of Catholic schools with those of the director of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine - and Father Skok became responsible for both. He was also named pastor at Holy Rosaiy Parish in Rosalia. "Bishop Topel tended to give multiple jobs," Father Skok said.
In 1964 Father Skok became pastor at St. Joseph in Trentwood, and in 1965 he was named rector at Bishop White Seminary. The seminary was still for high school students at that time, and one of the subjects he taught was Latin. During this period the priest organized Bishop White into a college seminary. Mater Cleri became the diocese's high school seminary.
He taught theology at Mater Cleri in Colbert in 1965. He went to Sacred Heart Parish in Pullman in 1968 and then to Sacred Heart Parish in Spokane in 1972. Four years later he became pastor at St. Patrick Parish in Pasco, serving there until 1980. He guided that parish in building its new parish hall-gymnasium.
In 1980 Father Skok became professor of theology at Gonzaga University and served as head of the religious studies department there. He also served a third time as rector at Bishop White Seminary.
Father Skok retired in 1997, but continued teaching half-time at GU. He decided last fall to cut back on his teaching duties. He will continue, but only on a limited basis.
In June he will teach a class on "Christian Morality on a Global Basis" during GU's Wisdom Week.
In residence at St. John Vianney Parish, Father Skok offers Masses and does other parish work such as preparing couples for marriage, celebrating weddings, and funerals. He laughed as he told about getting asked to go there. "The bishop asked me to make a list of parishes I might like to serve " he said. "When I gave it to him, he said, 'But I want you to go to St. John Vianney.' None of the Valley parishes were on my list. I just hadn't thought of them." Apparently it was a good match: "I've been there ever since," he said.
A hip replacement a few years ago slowed Father Skok, but not too much. He still skis when he can and occasionally plays golf “but not too well."
He enjoys the people he encounters, both teaching and through his pastoral ministry. He appreciates the affirmation he's received from parishioners and students during his years of ministry. "I seemed to have been liked wherever I was," he said.
The affable priest reflected on his life and how much he has seen.
He remembers the last five popes, compared with today's younger generation who've only known Pope John Paul II. During his stay in Rome he met Blessed Pope John XXIII and he recalled what a blessing that was.
Father Skok said he believes the Second Vatican Council's greatest impact on the laity was "primarily through liturgy. This is where they have contact with priests and where they develop the attitudes they have."
A man ordained to the priesthood 50 years ago can take a long view of history:
The Church is still working on developing ecclesiology, which is its understanding of itself.
Every town that has a church should have a permanent deacon. "There would be deacons all over the diocese. And they would be connected with the town and with the church."
Women should have a stronger role in the church. "Only half the human race is involved in the church," he said.
Pedophilia "needs to be brought out into the open. We need to admit where we were wrong.”
With his years of experience, his travel, his ministerial activity, his teaching and scholarship, his words for new priests are pretty simple and straightforward. They should “keep learning as they practice their ministries. Learn the people and learn themselves.”
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