Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302


Compiled by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the December 18, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)

From the Inland Register – Volume LIII, No.32
Fifty Years Ago: December 6, 1964

Bishop Topel returns from Vatican Council

(Just returned from the third session of the Vatican Council – physically exhausted from the 6,000 mile trip home, the action-packed last days of the Council and the nights of “homework” necessary for each day’s votes. Bishop Topel said it was his belief that the Council would not reconvene before next fall, possibly even later.)

“Everyone wants the sessions to start as soon as possible, but not before the groundwork has been laid.” The next session probably will be the final one for Vatican II – instigated by Pope John and continued by Pope Paul.

Asked about the prospects of an official Catholic answer on “the pill” in today’s era of exploding populations and mass hunger, Bishop Topel said the Holy Father “realizes the importance of getting an answer as quickly as possible.” After clergy, laymen and doctors now tackling the problem turn in their reports, the final answer will come from the pope himself, not from the Council.

“The Council cannot go into details,” Bishop Topel said. “It can, however, give general directives, or general principles, to its decrees. With the new emphasis on collegiality (the sharing of papal authority by the world’s bishops), the Council schemas will set forth certain general guidelines, leaving the implementation to the bishops of each country.”

Asked if he felt that too many of the Council’s deliberations were key to Protestant reaction and ecumenism rather than to the Church’s “renewal from within,” Bishop Topel said he felt this was true “to some degree.” He added that members of the hierarchy, being human, are limited by their own experience, temperament, training and sphere of Church activity. He added that he considered this division of opinion “healthy.”

Bishop Topel noted the difficulties of the Council in semantics. As an example, he cited the “overstated” phrase that Protestants “find” Christ in the Scriptures, and the final “understanding” phrase in which they “seek” Christ in the Scriptures.

Despite the fact that mass communications media have interpreted Pope Paul’s actions in the last days of the Council session as “contradictory” to collegiality, Bishop Topel said, Pope Paul was merely, by action and word, “making collegiality clear,” that even in collegiality the Church still has one dominant head, its pope.

“The very principal of unity,” the bishop said, “is one dominant head. Too many people are living in a ‘dream world of ecumenism’ – they just don’t realize the facts of life.”

He added that even the role of a bishop in his own diocese will be stressed. Although a bishop normally has groups of priests and laymen helping him administer a diocese, “the final authority is his alone.”


From the Inland Register – Volume 47, No. 9
Twenty-five Years Ago: December 21, 1989

Vision 2000 team clarifies process and expectations

by D.C. DuFaux, for the Inland Register

Even while anticipating a structured review in 1990 of the evangelization needs of children in the Diocese of Spokane this week, planners spent three days whisking about the diocese in the mode of evangelizers themselves.

Announcing the “good news” to come from a process scheduled to start in the early part of the new year, the group did little door-knocking, but did spent much time in discussion with priests and parish leaders, with flip charts and hand-outs.

Representing a special planning committee established to study the future catechetical needs of children, Duane Schafer, Bishop’s Secretary for Catholic Schools, and Father Michael Savelesky, Bishop’s Secretary for Evangelization, accompanied Joy Barton of Seattle’s Northwest Decision Resources in visits to groups of pastors convened in Pasco, Pomeroy, Grand Coulee, Chewelah, and Spokane.

The trio outlined a diocese-wide process to be implemented in 1990 to study the religious instruction needs of children in other Catholic schools or religious education programs.

The theme of the project is “Our Children’s Faith: Vision 2000” (see also IR 12/7/89).

According to Barton, the special regional gatherings of pastors served the purpose of explaining the dialogue process, clarifying the pastors’ role, and answering questions regarding the history, scope and purpose of the project.

“Regional meetings such as these are critical for the success of this project,” she said. “Priests and other parish leaders will play a key role in calling parishioners together to address this important area of Church ministry. Their leadership is primary in a process such as this.

“The concerns and insights identified at these preparation sessions indicate an appreciation of the scope of the issue we are addressing,” she said. “The interest and support of those in leadership regarding this project will assure a productive process as well as a strategic plan which will benefit the people of God in this diocese.”

A variety of ideas and concerns were voiced at the gatherings:

• Foremost among them was a concern that the study would not avoid examination of the real but sometimes challenging issues regarding Catholic schools.
• Of equal concern was the hope that religious education programs, especially in rural areas, would be considered in their unique settings.
• Also frequently expressed was the hope that the study process be a positive experience of Church for all participants.

The meetings helped clarify how the study of evangelization needs might include those of Hispanic Catholics, whose cultural richness and history present unique program needs and opportunities. The planning committee met Dec. 19 to review the material gleaned from the regional gatherings.

After the first of the year the committee will announce a final schedule for the diocese-wide study, which will engage Catholics in every parish to gather for three forums between January and May.

The parish meetings will focus on the experience of passing on Catholicism to children. The forums will be led by trained facilitators, and each of the sessions is designed to build upon the other.

The planning committee eventually will formulate recommendations regarding Catholic schools and religious education programs in the diocese as instruments of evangelization.

The Diocesan School Board and representatives from the Association of Parish Ministers will collaborate with the planning committee members in formulating the final recommendations. Once they have been approved by the bishop, diocesan administrators, parish priests, directors of religious education and other parish ministers will assure implementation of the recommendations.

“Continual discussion of issues without formulating strategies for change guarantees a drain of energy and raised frustration levels,” Barton said to the pastors. “Likewise, when decisions are made and there is no accountability for implementation, people feel betrayed and reticent to participate in studies and decision-making processes in the future.”

“The study process designed by the planning committee avoids these dangers in principle, but eventual success in providing a better tomorrow for the catechesis of our children depends upon our own willingness to implement the commitments we make to one another in this process,” she said.

Bishop Lawrence Welsh called for the study of the evangelization of children in 1988. Since then, some limited preliminary steps have been taken to address the question. Among them:

• Religious educators have conducted a preliminary study of the strengths and weaknesses of parish religion programs.
• The Office of Education (Catholic Schools) has conducted some demographic and attitude-assessment research with the assistance of professionals from Eastern Washington University.
• The planning committee has engaged a variety of groups in dialogue about the nature and scope of an effective process.
• Last month, at the recommendation of the Presbyteral Council, the context of the evangelization of any and all Catholic children was established as the appropriate context for these discussions.

“Our Children’s Faith: Vision 2000” will address the catechesis of children, whether in parish religious education or Catholic school programs. The planning committee has designed a process which will engage parishioners in examining one of the Church’s major responsibilities to its children, as a foundation for assessing the pros and cons of particular structures of governance, policy statements, and strategies for the religious education of children.

“Before we can examine the usefulness of any particular strategy or model for evangelizing children, it is important that we understand and are committed to the very purpose (for which) our schools and religious education programs exist,” Barton said. “The ministry of Church and the formation of its children in the Catholic faith is rooted in the dynamics of how we hand on our faith, our Catholic identity. Essentially, that is evangelization.”

(Father Caswell is archivist for the Inland Register, and a frequent contributor to this publication.)


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