Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
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Chris Smith is diocese’s new Development Director: ‘I love our Faith, and I love the Church’
Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the Dec. 1, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)
Right: Chris Smith comes to the Diocese of Spokane with an extensive background in business and finance. (IR photo)
The new Development Director for the Diocese of Spokane is Chris Smith, a lifelong resident of Tekoa, Wash., where he and his family are members of Sacred Heart Parish.
Smith joins the staff of the Catholic Pastoral Center in Spokane at a time in the history of the diocese which brings unique opportunities and challenges for anyone whose main concern will be to encourage giving to the support of the Church in Eastern Washington.
Born in Yakima, Wash., Chris Smith has lived in Tekoa, about 45 minutes southeast of Spokane, for 50 of his 52 years. He grew up in a family with two brothers and two sisters. He attended Tekoa High School and majored in Business Administration at the University of Idaho, with minors in Marketing and Real Estate.
Following graduation in 1976, he and his high school sweetheart, Liz (McCormack), married and “set up housekeeping” near Tekoa. “Actually,” he says, “we live in the country and can see Tekoa out our front window.” The couple has four children, ages 24 to 14.
“We’ve lived in Tekoa for a long time,” Smith says with his irrepressible grin. “Honestly, I’m just a small-town kid.”
Over the years Smith worked for his father’s chemical and fertilizer business in Tekoa, and later helped manage a John Deere dealership. After a few years, he went to work for the Bank of Latah, which was later bought by American West Bank, where he was the regional president until accepting the position of Development Director with the diocese.
“My parents both have very strong faith, and I think they’ve done a very good job of passing that down to their children,” Smith said. “I have always wanted to, I guess you could say, give more time to God. But the world is so demanding and fast-paced it’s hard to find time. When this opportunity came about, my wife and I talked and prayed about it, and tried to discern whether this was the right move for us. It’s like God opened up this door a little crack, and he said, ‘Here’s an opportunity.’ The decision has been even tougher because many of my customers and employees of the bank are also close personal friends. My wife and I, however, decided to jump in, and since that time I have never looked back. I just feel very strongly that this is where God wants me right now.”
Even though Smith has no professional experience with fund-raising, he has no qualms about taking on his new position with the diocese. “I have done a lot of fund-raising, small things. I’ve helped with fund-raising for the ambulance service in Tekoa, and for the golf course, and for families in need. Small towns are so supportive when someone’s in need. So I’ve never done fund-raising on a business level, but I feel that my sales background, and my ability to meet and get to know people, will be valuable. I really like people, and I like to visit with people and get to know them. I look forward to meeting the priests and people in the parishes in the diocese.”
With the recent history of the diocese, including the widely publicized tragedy of sex abuse of minors by a few clergy, and the Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Smith acknowledges that his job will not be easy. Still, he believes that an adult faith finds it possible to address these sad realities and still maintain a relationship with the risen Christ and with his imperfect people, the church:
“I had it explained to me this way: there’s divine, and there’s human, and if we put our faith in human, whether it be a priest, or a parent, or other humans, we always stand the risk of being let down. Our human nature, because of sin, is something we always have to deal with. On the other hand, if we put our faith in the divine – which I feel is God and his church – we will never be let down. That is my honest answer to people. To me the saddest thing that could happen would be for someone to leave the church, or lose their faith, because of another person. I really would ask them to put their faith in God and try and move toward the divine, because I really believe that’s our hope. That has always been our hope, and it will continue to be our hope.
“As painful as things are – and believe me, I’m very sympathetic to the pain that has been caused, and I realize that bad things that have gone on in the church – but we need to restore ourselves and move forward to support others who are in need. There are things we need to do to support our programs and to continue the church’s mission, and that is something that I think we are all called to. We’re called to step up to the plate and support the programs and services that benefit others.”
Getting out into the parishes, to meet and get to know the priests and people who make up the parishes, is high on Smith’s list of priorities. He wants to find out what their needs are and find ways that he can help them, ways that everyone can work together to support the church, which is all of us.
“Probably my most pressing responsibility, right away, will be to support the Annual Catholic Appeal,” Smith says. “This is a time, like no other in recent history, when we need to step up and support the ACA because of the large need that we have throughout the diocese.”
At present, Chris Smith wants to express clearly to everyone that he is “very, very excited to be here. If anyone has any questions or concerns, or if there is any way that I can help them, I would be more than willing to meet with them. I love our Faith, and I love the Church.”