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

From the Diocesan Administrator:
The Year of Consecrated Life

by Father Michael Savelesky

(From the April 16, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Michael Savelesky A few weeks ago on a quiet Saturday morning, the Spokane Serra Club hosted a special Mass and lunch at St. Charles Parish for the women Religious of the Diocese. More than 60 Sisters were in attendance.

I was honored to be invited, not just because I wear the temporary hat of Diocesan Administrator, but because women Religious played such an important role in the formation of my priestly vocation. The annual two-week stints of summer CCD classes which the Sisters provided in my rural hometown were not without their impact. I am sure I am not alone in the experience of being taught by such dedicated women of faith, who collaborated so frequently – and often so thanklessly – with the priests and laity to nurture the young in our Catholic tradition.

The Mass and luncheon at St. Charles were an annual event to honor “the Sisters,” but this year it carried a special focus: The event was part of a series of happenings which have been or will be celebrated in the Diocese of Spokane in recognition of the presence and ministry of a variety of Religious orders.

Last Nov. 30, the first Sunday of Advent, marked the beginning of a “Year of Consecrated Life,” announced by Pope Francis as part of his effort to call attention to the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. One of the Council’s 16 documents is titled Lumen Gentium – “Light of the Nations.” The document includes a significant chapter on the value of Religious life in the Catholic community. The Year for Consecrated Life will conclude on Feb. 2, 2016.

Pope Francis himself, of course, is a Religious. When he assumed the papacy in 2013 he was one of only 34 members of Religious orders to have done so in the history of the Church. He is the first Jesuit.

One of the major objectives of the Year of Consecrated Life is to make a grateful remembrance of the recent past. “Recent,” of course, is a relative term. As part of its centennial celebration last year, the diocese published Children of the Sun, a richly illustrated volume detailing our shared history in the Inland Northwest. (Editor’s note: See page 17 for ordering information.) The book made us all vividly aware of the role women and men Religious have played in the first century of Catholic presence in the eastern part of Washington State. The omnipresent “Blackrobes” – the Society of Jesus – numbered among the first missionaries to set foot into what would become the geographical territory of the Diocese of Spokane. Several members of the Order of St. Francis were to collaborate with them. Even after we became a diocese in 1913, the foothold these two Orders had established would endure. Its vestige is very much present to this day in the parishes and institutions (small and large) which remain a part of our local Church. Try to imagine the thousands of the faithful these early pioneers in the faith have formed and served.

Children of the Sun also has provided rich testimony of the role that hundreds of women Religious have played in the formation of scores of generations of Catholics in our area. Quite often, after a parish was created or a community formed, a parish school staffed by women Religious was constructed – often, a school was built years before a worship space was constructed. Old correspondence files are witness to many a plea from bishops and pastors for women Religious to come to staff these institutions of education and to teach frontier children their faith. Not all that much time has passed since those days, and many a Catholic still speaks fondly of their favorite memories of this or that Sister.

Two years ago, when the most recent edition of the Diocesan Directory was published, it listed the presence in the Diocese of Spokane of 152 women Religious, 72 Religious priests, and 7 Religious Brothers. Fifteen different Religious orders, congregations, and pious associations were identified. Not all of the listed members are active in ministry any longer, but their names and faces are warm reminders of a very living faith.

The Church has designated 2015 as the Year of Consecrated Life and prays for its renewal in our local communities of faith. While celebrating the witness given over time by the members of religious Orders who have served us, the invitation is extended to our young people to be open to God’s call to the consecrated life.

The weeks and months of this specially identified year are slipping by – and we cannot let that happen without notice. The Orders of men and women who have served so many of us so well over the years remain among us. For several of them, their outward vesture may not make them as readily visible as in times gone by. Anyone who takes the time to share stories of faith with them will sense the same zeal for the faith born of a heart which has captured the pearl of great price which the Gospel holds out to all the faithful. Our gratitude moves us to find a way to express our gratitude and appreciation to each and every one of them for their sacrifice and their years of service.

Prayer for the Year of Consecrated Life

O God, throughout the ages you have called women and men to pursue lives of perfect charity through the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. During this Year of Consecrated Life, we give you thanks for these courageous witnesses of faith and models of inspiration. Their pursuit of holy lives teaches us to make a more perfect offering of ourselves to you. Continue to enrich your Church by calling forth sons and daughters who, having found the pearl of great price, treasure the kingdom of heaven above all things. Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(Father Savelesky is the elected administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane.)

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