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

Ground broken for new seminary; May 1, 2009 is target for completion

by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register

(From the May 22, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)

After years of planning, visioning, fund-raising, and most importantly, prayer and discernment, the Spokane Diocese broke ground for the new Bishop White Seminary complex on the afternoon of May 8.

Although rain dampened all of the participants, adding to the memorable nature of the event, the infectious spirit of excitement continued. Even the wit remained dry.

The groundbreaking ceremony, though abbreviated by the weather, included Scripture, song, and brief remarks by Bishop Skylstad and Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer, president of Gonzaga University. Father Spitzer especially emphasized the blessing the Bishop White seminarians are as they take classes at Gonzaga, and how grateful he and the Gonzaga community are for the seminarians’ presence on campus.

Bishop Skylstad, protected by an umbrella, circled the property, blessing the portion to be used for the new building and sprinkling it with holy water.

Protected in part by a very prudent umbrella, representatives of the Catholic Foundation present Father Darrin Connall with a symbolic check for $4.1 million. (IR photo)

Only one of the living rectors of Bishop White was unable to attend the ceremony, Father Richard Root, who is ministering in the Diocese of Syracuse, N.Y. Father Root wrote to express his congratulations for this new development in ministry formation in Eastern Washington.

The present rector, Father Darrin Connall, who also serves as Director of Seminarians and Vocations Director, presented each of the other rectors with an artist’s sketch of the residence portion of Bishop White. Msgr. Robert Pearson and Fathers Charles Skok, George Haspedis, Michael Savelesky, and James Kuhns accepted their gifts in person as honored guests at the groundbreaking.

Dr. Tom Driscoll, chairman of the Catholic Foundation, presented Father Connall with a large representation of the initial check funding the new construction.

A reception followed, with refreshments provided by the Spokane Serra Club, which encourages vocations to the priesthood and Religious life.

“The groundbreaking for the new Bishop White Seminary Building is a remarkable milestone in the more than half-century of the seminary’s service to the diocese,” said Bishop William Skylstad. “The generous support of the faithful of the diocese in donating funds for this project is an expression of their support for priestly formation and of their care for the future of the Catholic Church in Eastern Washington. My congratulations and profound appreciation go to all who make this day possible.”

In an interview earlier that week, Father Connall said that power would be cut to the building soon after the students leave at the end of the Gonzaga school year. Demolition of the cinder block portions of the complex would begin soon after. Construction of the residence portion of the new complex would begin once demolition was completed.

The first shovelsful of earth are turned for the new seminary complex. From left are Father Connall (back to the camera), Dr. Tom Driscoll (Catholic Foundation), Dominican Sister Bernadette Ries (Priestly Formation Council), Jesuit Father Robert Spitzer (Gonzaga University), and Bishop William Skylstad. (IR photo)

The brick residence section of the old complex will be moved and utilized by Gonzaga University in early summer.

Target date for moving in to the new seminary is May 1, 2009, said Father Connall.

In the meantime, the seminary will rent two houses from Gonzaga University. The seminary community will gather in the third floor chapel of Gonzaga’s administration building for daily prayer and Mass while the new seminary is under construction.

The general contractor for the new complex is Bouten Construction.

Several prominent features of the present seminary will be moved to the new complex: statutes of St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother, part of the interior of the old seminary chapel, were donated to the seminary by the Dominican Sisters in Colville. Those statues will be incorporated into the new building, as well a crucifix that had been displayed in the Colville convent for around a half-century; the statue of St. John Vianney, which stood at the chapel entrance, also will be incorporated into the new chapel’s design, said Father Connall.

A crucifix and carvings representing the Minor Orders – gifts to the seminary by the Ribble family – were created by Holy Names Sister Paula Turnbull, and decorated the seminary’s dining room. Sister Paula will perform minor restoration on the art, which will then be installed in the new seminary.

The seminary program will be full next year, said Father Connall, with students representing several other dioceses of the region, as well as Spokane.

Participation by other dioceses reflects “an ecclesial reality,” he said. Through the seminary formation program, the Spokane Diocese is “making a contribution to the Church in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a testimony to the formation and education” that students receive at Bishop White and Gonzaga University.

Larger numbers of students produces a better formation experience, he said, and students from other dioceses provide “a great boost to the financial bottom line.”

Though not all were ordained, he estimates that around 1,000 men have taken part in Bishop White’s formation program over the more than 50 years of the seminary’s history. In addition, past deacon formation classes also have been hosted by the seminary.

Architect's drawing of the new seminary facility

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