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 April 16, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)

From the Inland Register – Volume LIII, No.52
Fifty Years Ago: April 25, 1965

Spokane Couple Readied for Service in Guatemala Missions

Mr. and Mrs. Mike Brewer of St. Patrick Parish have borrowed $1,000.

Many a couple borrows money – for a new car, home remodeling, children’s college tuition – but the Brewers borrowed that amount for their special mission as lay apostles.

On April 30 the couple will wave goodbye to six youngsters, aged 1 to 13, and fly to the Guatemala Mission to help the Spokane Padres set up a credit union which could, in time, raise the economic level of the impoverished Quiché Indian parishioners.

The basis of credit union operation is simple: as a depositor, you provide the wherewithal for less affluent borrowers, then reap much-higher-than-bank interest when the union is on its feet. For the borrower, the credit union not only offers the same low rate of interest as a bank, but insures the borrower in the event of death, his loan is cancelled out.

“After the second year of operation,” Marge Brewer said, “a credit union usually can pay competitive interest. After five years, depositors reap as much as five or six percent.” Although six percent is the maximum, profits over and above that amount may be distributed via “interest refunds,” she explained.

The Brewers have had their indoctrination in credit union operation right in their own parish. Mike is the elected treasurer of St. Patrick’s Credit Union; Marge, bonded, serves as his assistant. Although the union was chartered only last July, Mike has a broad knowledge of how a credit union functions, and the benefits to be derived from membership, through his experience as manager of the employees’ credit union of Kaiser Aluminum’s Mead Works.

“The field representative of the State Credit Union League broached the idea of a Catholic credit union several years ago,” Mrs. Brewer said. “And it took that long to get things going.”

She explained that the State Division of Savings and Loans felt “it was better to start in a small area,” and that the national credit union league also felt a small operation would be better.

St. Patrick’s union – which is open to membership from other parishes – now has 55 members, including 14 children.

“Naturally the kids have the most money in savings,” Mrs. Brewer said.

Each member pays a 25 cent filing fee and is required to hold at least one $5 share in the union. “But we’ll loan him the $5 if he’s hard-pressed!” she said.

Loans to members are approved or rejected by chairman Don Ryder’s three-man committee, which can utilize the facilities of the Spokane Retail Credit Bureau.

“Primarily,” Mrs. Brewer said, “acceptance or rejection is based on the character of the borrower.”

Currently, borrowers are limited to $200, with one percent interest each month charged on the unpaid balance – or 12 percent simple interest per year.

She admitted that for the first few years of credit union operations, “depositors are mostly practicing Catholic charity.” But the charity is returned two-fold. If a depositor has $2,000 in shares – the maximum – his death doubles that amount for his heirs.

Scope for expansion at St. Patrick’s is almost unlimited, she explained. With 700 families in the parish, the credit union could serve as a real benefit for independent contractors, laborers, or those who don’t have access to corporation-type credit unions.

Now that the St. Patrick’s operation is off the ground, its officers are helping other groups set up similar unions. Mrs. Brewer and Holy Family Hospital are working out an affiliation of its employees with the St. Patrick union – with money to be painlessly deposited via payroll deductions.

“My husband now is trying to get a representative from each parish,” Mrs. Brewer said, “who would act as an assistant treasurer and handle preliminary business in his own parish, accepting deposits and processing loans, with final approval resting with the St. Patrick’s board.”

The Brewers intend to meet with personnel of the American Embassy and the Guatemalan government at Guatemala City, as well as representatives of AID (Association for International Development). After briefing on Guatemala’s regulations concerning formation of such credit unions, they will spend the rest of their stay in the mission area.

“We’re taking slides prepared by the national credit union association, which show duties of officers and actual operational procedure.”

Asked if a credit union wasn’t beyond the reach of a people as impoverished as the Quiché Indians, Mrs. Brewer cited instances in other underdeveloped regions where credit unions opened the door to economic betterment. With a five-peso deposit, such a member can borrow 25 pesos and buy a chicken. Selling eggs – or raising more chickens – will not only enable him to repay his small debt, but expand his operation.

Both Brewers are looking forward to a visit with their ex-assistant pastor, Father Thomas O’Halloran, who has now completed language school and is actively at work in the mission. The couple is taking along a tape recorder so that simple phrases may be recorded in English, Spanish and Quiché – for the edification of St. Patrick’s enthusiastic mission boosters.

What about repaying that $1,000?

“It’ll be rough,” Marge said, “It will probably take us five years. But it’s just part of our apostolate. . .”


From the Inland Register – Volume 47, No. 15
Twenty-five Years Ago: May 3, 1990

Pope John Paul II names Bishop William Skylstad fifth Bishop of Spokane

Announcements to chancery staff and the secular press ended the Diocese of Spokane’s long-awaited announcement: Bishop William Skylstad – bishop of Yakima, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Spokane, and formerly a priest of this diocese – has been named the fifth Bishop of Spokane by Pope John Paul II.

The news was announced Tuesday, April 17. The appointment was effective April 27.

The announcement follows Pope John Paul’s acceptance of Bishop Lawrence Welsh’s resignation as Bishop of Spokane for reasons of health.

Meeting with chancery staff before the main 10 a.m. press conference April 17, Bishop Skylstad said he came back to the diocese “with a lot of gladness in my heart and gratitude to Pope John Paul II” and with “joyful enthusiasm.”

The last few months of running two dioceses, Bishop Skylstad said, was “a time of grace and growth for me, a peacefulness.”

Now that the decision has been announced, Bishop Skylstad said he “couldn’t think of a better place to be.”

He said he has a “deep love and respect for Bishop Welsh, a deep gratitude and appreciation for Bishop Welsh’s 11 years” as bishop of Spokane. “What we do now is built on his 11 years of work here,” Bishop Skylstad said.

Bishop Skylstad said that there will be no central, official installation ceremony. Instead, there will be 10-12 Masses and celebrations at different parishes of the diocese during the coming months.

An April 17 press release indicated that Bishop Welsh had asked that his resignation be accepted some months ago so that he could continue in the medical program he began in Minneapolis for alcoholism.

Bishop Welsh’s letter cited reasons of health and continuing recovery in asking that Pope John Paul accept the resignation.

During the April 17 press conference, Bishop Skylstad said that it was Bishop Welsh’s decision to resign. Bishop Welsh “feels peaceful about that decision,” Bishop Skyl-stad said.

Questioned about his role as bishop, Bishop Skylstad said he “strongly supported the interfacing of secular and Church communities.”

There is an ongoing need to continue to proclaim respect for human life. Some ways of doing so “are better than others,” Bishop Skylstad said; it should be done without “increasing the rhetoric and polarity.”

Bishop Skylstad said he is a strong believer in the “ministry of presence” – visiting individual parishes of the diocese, making himself known throughout the area.

He described himself as “middle of the road – preserving the important traditions of the past, but moving forward as well.”

In an interview later in the day with the Inland Register, Bishop Skylstad spoke of his great fondness for the people of the Yakima Diocese, where he had served as bishop since 1977. With the announcement of his appointment to the Spokane Diocese, he said, he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

When becoming a bishop in a new area like Yakima 13 years ago, he said, he was filled with “trepidation. It was a great adjustment for me. But I received so much from the faith community there.”

“The people’s faith lives had such an impact on me,” he said. “It’s hard to leave people you love. But it’s very good to be back in Spokane.”

Bishop Skylstad was born in Omak, Wash., and attended public schools in Methow and Pateros before entering the Pontifical College Josephinum, in Worthington, Ohio, for his seminary studies.

Post-ordination studies included mathematics, education and school administration at Washington State University and Gonzaga University. He holds a master’s in education from Gonzaga.

Originally ordained for the Diocese of Spokane on May 21, 1960, Bishop Skylstad had been chancellor of this diocese for less than year when he was ordained and installed as Bishop of Yakima in 1977.

His first assignment after priestly ordination was as assistant pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Pullman.

He was a teacher at Bishop White and Mater Cleri seminaries, and later was rector of Mater Cleri. He holds principal credentials for the State of Washington.

He was a temporary administrator of Sacred Heart Parish, Tekoa, and pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane.

He also served as director of continuing education for priests prior to the appointment to Yakima.

Bishop Skylstad has been a beekeeper in his spare time, but spare time became more and more scarce when he became Bishop of Yakima. Now he relaxes with ham radio and photography.

Two to be ordained priests for the Spokane Diocese May 23

Two seminarians studying for the Diocese of Spokane will be ordained Wednesday, May 23 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes by Bishop William Skylstad.

Deacons Pat Kerst and Richard Root recently completed theological studies at St. Paul Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.

Deacon Kerst, a native of Spokane, attended St. Mary School and Gonzaga Prep before entering Bishop White Seminary and graduating from Gonzaga University. He was ordained a deacon Dec. 2 of last year at St. Paul Seminary.

Deacon Root, a graduate in engineering from the University of Syracuse, N.Y., also was ordained a deacon last December. He attended Sacred Heart School and Central Technical High School in Syracuse. He completed pre-theology course work at Bishop White Seminary before beginning graduate studies at St. Paul.

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


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