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

Secretary for Evangelization retires: ‘it’s a ministry, not a job’

by Jami LeBrun, Inland Register staff

(From the June 10, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

Betty NewstromBetty Newstrom, pictured at this year’s Catholic Youth Celebration, has ministered in religious education in the Spokane Diocese for nearly 30 years. She retires at the end of this month as Bishop’s Secretary for Evangelization. (IR file photo)

After serving the Diocese of Spokane for over 26 years, Betty Newstrom, Director of the Parish Services Office (PSO) and Bishop’s Secretary for Evangelization, will retire on June 30.

Newstrom has ministered in the Diocese of Spokane since 1978, when she became the Director of Religious Education at St. Mary Parish in the Spokane Valley. After serving St. Mary for 11 years, Newstrom came to the PSO as Director and six years later added the position of Secretary of Evangelization to her duties. In the latter post she serves as a member of the bishop’s secretariat – his cabinet.

Newstrom received her undergraduate degree from the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn. After graduating, she taught high school math and religion in both Minneapolis and New Orleans. Newstrom married her husband, Jim, in 1963. His job took them to Europe and they spent the next three years in Holland, the Netherlands and Northern Ireland. When her youngest child entered the first grade Newstrom herself entered the parish ministry program at St. Mary Parish in the Spokane Valley and became the Director of Religious Education. Newstrom received her master’s degree in religious education from Fort Wright College.

“I’ve always been involved in religious education, even in high school,” said Newstrom. “I really believe in faith formation and I really believe it’s a lifelong process.”

The PSO is responsible for providing support for the parish ministry programs throughout the Diocese of Spokane. The office works closely with the religious education and youth ministry programs. Newstrom and her staff provide consultations, work shops, advice and a variety of programs to support parish ministry programs.

Newstrom’s service to the PSO has been very fruitful for the diocese. In the early ’90s, the PSO implemented a program called “Renew,” meant to increase faith formation among adults. Over 3,000 people got involved in small groups; about 800 continue to meet today. In the late ’90s the diocese restored the order of the Sacraments of Initiation, bringing the age of Confirmation and First Eucharist down to second grade and facilitating a restructuring of religious education curricula in the process.

Besides school-age religious education, the Parish Services Office also works in adult education and faith formation.

Newstrom has seen a lot of changes in religious education over the past .

“We’ve begun to look at faith formation as a lifelong process; it’s not just for children,” she said. “We’ve created an understanding of how you form children, youth and adults in faith. It isn’t just information. Of course content is important, but we also want to move people to develop a better relationship with Christ. It’s a process. You buy into it with your heart and head and whole being.”

Newstrom says she has really enjoyed her position with the diocese, particularly the time she has been able to spend working with people in a variety of ministries throughout the diocese.

“This position can take an awful lot of hours and time, but that’s something that can’t be changed,” she said. “It’s a calling. It gets in your blood. It’s a ministry, not a job.”

Despite the fulfillment she has found in her career, Newstrom looks forward to retirement. She plans to devote more time to “prayer, relationships and relaxation.”

“After that I’ll think about it,” she said with a laugh.

Newstrom and her husband, who is already retired, have three children and six grandchildren, the eldest of whom is six years old. The Newstroms plan on spending a great deal of time traveling to visit these special family members who are spread throughout the country.

Newstrom’s presence and insight over the last 26 years will be missed.

“I want to express to Betty our profound gratitude on behalf of the diocese for her superb work these many years in service to our diocesan family,” said Bishop Skylstad. “Betty has brought a sense of competence and professionalism to the office which has truly been a gift to catechists and our religious education programs. We shall miss her but we ask God’s blessings now upon her and her husband Jim in her years of retirement.”

Diana Sanderson, director of adult education at St. Mary Parish in Spokane Valley, worked closely with Newstrom during her time there.

“Betty is a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ whose love of God and God’s people comes through in hundreds of ways, day by day, month by month, year by year, into a lifetime,” said Sanderson

Newstrom will be succeeded by Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Judith Nilles.

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