Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

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

Seminary capital campaign: correct facts are the place to start the dialogue

by John Moloney Jr., for the Inland Register

(From the Feb. 26, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

Newspaper columnists are paid to provide a personal, informed reaction to events, as opposed to objective reporting of events. Rebecca Nappi, columnist for The Spokesman-Review, Spokane’s daily newspaper, has offered thoughtful analysis to the Spokane community for some years now.

Her Feb. 7 column, “Time is wrong for support for seminary plan,” provides more analysis of a community issue. Within the analysis, however, Nappi presented misperceptions and inaccuracies about the Catholic Diocese of Spokane’s capital campaign to fund the education of seminarians - our future priests. Perhaps I can help set the record straight.

Our capital campaign is titled “Here I Am, Lord – Send Me.” The campaign is a concrete example of Bishop William S. Skylstad’s oft-repeated, public commitment: to make sure that our future priests receive the very best screening, education, and formation we can give them. To help them be the very best priests they can be, in service to God and to Eastern Washington. To help alleviate what Nappi identifies as “a critical priest shortage.” She also mentions “building a new edifice hoping the seminarians will follow.” In actuality, our diocese presently has 20 seminarians, a very large number for a diocese our size.

The education of good men to become good priests is an expensive business. It makes good sense to build up an endowment to finance that education. It makes good sense to invest in a complex that will facilitate that education process. It makes good sense to fund the present ministries of the Catholic Church in Eastern Washington. The overwhelming majority of the Catholic laity of the Diocese of Spokane agree with this reasoning and prove it with their financial support for the campaign.

The campaign hopes to raise $10 million. That sum is not being devoted to a new seminary building. Here’s how the donations will be distributed:

• $1.5 million for the Annual Catholic Appeal. As its name implies, the Appeal is taken up in Catholic parishes throughout Eastern Washington every year at about this time. Last year’s goal was $1 million. The Appeal helps fund the Catholic Church’s ministry throughout Eastern Washington.
• $1 million for operating expenses for Bishop White Seminary for the next two to three years.
• $4.5 million to add to the existing endowment for the education of seminarians.
• $3 million to build a new Bishop White Seminary complex. The present building, nearly 100 years old, is now more expensive to repair than replace. The living quarters are cramped and substandard.

Some $3 million of the campaign’s goal will fund a new seminary complex. The rest of the campaign’s donations will ease the strain on the diocese’s present budget, already stretched to accomplish so much good work throughout Eastern Washington. By increasing the education endowment, by funding the seminary’s operating expenses for the immediate future, by conducting the Annual Appeal, the limited resources of the diocese can be applied to a number of other crucial ministries.

Nappi wrote that the present Bishop White Seminary is “on Gonzaga University’s campus.” It is not. The seminary is on private property across Sharp Avenue from GU.

The campaign materials show “women in only three photos,” she wrote. “In one, women are seen in the background in a kitchen.... The kitchen is no longer where Catholic women do all their work in the church.” In point of fact, the photo she references shows women volunteering in the Othello Food Bank, where Deacon Pedro Bautista, a Spokane seminarian, also served as a volunteer before returning to his theology studies this year.

“(B)rilliant Jesuits taught me theology and philosophy” at Gonzaga, she writes. The same Gonzaga University where Rebecca Nappi received her education will be where the seminarians also will receive instruction. The same Gonzaga where her husband has been employed as an instructor provides an excellent education. But this education is not free, it’s expensive.

Nappi’s essay included a powerful quote from Father J. Bryan Hehir, who spoke recently at GU. Father Hehir called the church to convey to the world that it carries “the sense of the burden” of the sexual abuse crisis. Father Hehir speaks prophetically to all of us. Here’s another quote from Father Hehir: “The women’s issues in the Catholic Church are very complex and will likely take 100 years to work their way out. It is essential that women take part in the theological dialogue.”

Rebecca Nappi’s refusal to participate via her newspaper column does nothing to contribute to this dialogue.

(John Moloney Jr. of Spokane is chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Catholic Foundation.)

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