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 Skylstad: The Diocese of Spokane Financial Report, 2001-2002

Bishop William S. Skylstad

(From the March 20, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

My Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I am happy to present to you the annual financial report of our Catholic community of Eastern Washington. I am grateful for the generous stewardship of the people of our diocese, especially during these challenging times.

I can honestly say this has been the most difficult year of my episcopacy. Financially, this year has been difficult for every aspect of church life. The financial markets have been down for almost three years. Many of our parishioners have been laid off. Many seniors on fixed income are seeing reduced income from investments. Investment income for diocesan and parish support is significantly down. In light of this, the people of Eastern Washington, in their incredible generosity, have made last year’s Annual Catholic Appeal a resounding success.

There continues to be great generosity within the Catholic community of Eastern Washington. Walla Walla’s St. Francis of Assisi Parish has just completed a beautiful new parish hall which will enhance their parish life significantly. Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Spokane, completed the renovation of their heating plant in anticipation of moving ahead with construction of a new church this year. Immaculate Conception Parish in Colville has recently paid off its debt, a task accomplished in just five years. St. Peter Parish, Spokane, has completed a year of uninterrupted debt payment. These are just some of the positive examples of the generosity of parishioners during these most difficult of times.

In December, I established Our Lady of the Lake parish in Suncrest, northwest of Spokane. This is the first new parish in the diocese since St Joseph Parish was established in Colbert in the early 1970s. In this new parish community there is a strong sense of excitement and renewal that energizes the entire diocese. The parishioners will continue to meet in the current facility in Tum Tum, but are enthusiastically planning new facilities in Suncrest, where land has already been purchased.

As these results are published, we are engaged in the process of trying to balance our budget for fiscal year 2003/2004. This is a most difficult task, since we must cut approximately $600,000 – about 25 percent – from our operating budget. Our situation is not unusual, as most dioceses are going through the same process. For us, the reality is a sharp drop in the investment income upon which we have relied. Our reserves have been eliminated. The only prudent thing we can do is to reduce our cost base. The two biggest expenses to the diocese continue to be the education of seminarians studying for the priesthood and the care of our retired priests. This year we have 21 seminarians in formation, studying for our diocese. This is very good news. We are extremely blessed; many small dioceses do not have any seminarians.

To be more transparent about the costs to the diocese resulting from sexual abuse on the part of some of our priests, I have asked for those costs to be broken out clearly in the financial detail you find in this report. They will be identified as Victim Assistance – Counseling, Victims Assistance – Medical/Prescription. I have also asked to have the cost of litigation identified separately. As has been previously reported by Mike Miller, our Financial Officer, our overall historical costs here have been around $65,000. Remember that all previous settlement costs have been covered either by the offending priest or insurance. While these costs are small for the years reported here, they may increase next year, depending upon the resolution of insurance coverage.

The report that is presented here has a lot of details. I find it difficult to strike a balance between too little information and too much. I want this disclosure to be as transparent as possible, which tends to lead to more information. The only comments I get, from year to year, are usually positive and thankful for publishing a report that is so comprehensive and detailed. As always, if you have any suggestions, please let me know if there are ways to improve what we present here.

As I told you last year, this report is a part of my effort to exercise my responsibility as bishop in a spirit of good stewardship. I am grateful to the women and men who volunteer to participate in the oversight boards which collaborate with me in this effort: the Bishop’s Finance Council; the Boards of Directors of the Catholic Foundation, Catholic Charities, the Catholic Cemeteries and the Spokane Catholic Investment Trust. These boards function with full disclosure. I know of no situation in which I have acted against the will and wishes of these boards. I want you to know how committed I am to transparency in our fiscal management and stewardship. We are blessed with a very committed and competent staff in the Fiscal Services Office who really are the ones who work so tirelessly to make sure all the “i’s” are dotted and the “t’s” are crossed.

Finally, I am grateful to all the faithful of the diocese for your faithful stewardship and support of the mission and ministry of the Church. As a diocese we are blessed by the deep commitment and generosity of the community of faith. May the Lord continue to guide us in living the faith mission in which we have been sealed by our Baptism.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

William S. Skylstad
Bishop of Spokane

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