Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
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:
by Father Michael Savelesky
(From the May 21, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)
Read that title again – “Oh, Brother!” – and take a moment to identify the first thought that comes to mind in association with the phrase. My guess is that nearly every one of us would relate the phrase with an expression of exasperation such as one would utter, for example, when caught in an unexpected traffic snarl at rush hour.
It is interesting how language can focus and limit our consciousness. Why does the phrase not bring to mind an inquisitive student begging his teacher for direction with a math problem? Or how about an expectant inquiry tossed to the kitchen chef about the evening’s dinner special? Or why not a pleading voice, seeking the attention of the parish finance director who is spotted walking across the street?
In these instances – and many similar ones – the use of “Oh, Brother “is the recognition of a man in the community whose vocation is one given to Religious life, but not as one who is ordained.
A member of a Catholic Religious order or institute, a Religious Brother is a man who has committed himself to following Jesus Christ in a consecrated life which normally is characterized by the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. He lives in accordance with the regulations or ordered way of life of the community he has been called to join by God’s grace and life experience. Brotherhood is a vocation unto itself, and calls for its unique time and manner of discernment and formation.
Certainly, history has demonstrated that a Brother hardly fits the sad, stereotypic mold of one who just couldn’t make the cut for the priesthood. A man of lay status in the Church (that is, not ordained), a Brother usually lives in a Religious community and works in a ministry that takes advantage of his talents and gifts. A Brother might be an electrician, teacher, nurse, doctor, engineer, cook, artist, lawyer, technician, parish minister or scientist. The contribution of such abilities to the community to which he belongs, and to the broader Church itself, is in line with a heritage that dates back to the origin of the first monasteries and Religious orders.
Brothers are members of a variety of Religious communities which may be contemplative, monastic, or apostolic in character. Some Religious institutes are composed only of Brothers; other are mixed communities of Brothers and clerics.
In the Diocese of Spokane nowadays, encounters with a Religious Brother are not that frequent. Possibly, a poll taken among the faithful even may reveal a notion that none reside in the diocese at all. But that is not true. At the present time, a Franciscan Brother resides at the friary at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Spokane. Three other such men Religious can be found in the Jesuit community associated with Gonzaga University.
Historically speaking, Brothers have been a part of the history of our diocese since its beginnings more than 100 years ago. On several of their incursions into the Northwest Territories which now form, in part, the Diocese of Spokane, Brothers often accompanied the first Jesuit missionaries. They helped establish parishes, construct churches, and educate the First Americans, as well as the early settlers, in the Catholic Faith. “Oh, Brother!” undoubtedly was a greeting or a call often heard in those early days.
The Christian Brothers ran LaSalle Institute, one of the first Catholic schools in the territory, located in a bustling frontier town which garnered its name from the native tribe of Walla Wallas who were associated with the area known for its many waters. The Brothers eventually moved on to the west coast when the Diocese of Walla Walla was suppressed in 1853 and the ecclesial headquarters was transferred to the Diocese of Nesqually, the precursor to the Archdiocese of Seattle. Many years later the Marianist Order sent priests and Brothers to Walla Walla to teach in an expanding network of Catholic schools there.
Over the years, Brothers also have been associated with the Franciscans, who have made their lasting contrition to the history of our diocese. And some of us are old enough to remember the group of Brothers of Charity, which Spokane’s Bishop Bernard Topel tried to form in the 1960s from some of the men whom he had encountered at the House of Charity in downtown Spokane. The history of the group was short in duration for a variety of reasons, but the idea was worth pursuing.
In this timeframe which Pope Francis has deemed The Year of Consecrated Life, our thoughts turn readily to the women and men Religious from a variety of Orders who have served the faithful in the diocese so very well for over a century. Many of those orders remain well-known and recognized communities in this part of Washington State. Marking The Year of Consecrated Life, however, would not be complete if our local Church did not make recognition of those who have served us with sacrifice and quiet dedication – our Brothers. Because of their few numbers, their names do not often come into conversation, but their witness to the vows they have taken counts just as much.
“Oh, Brother!” – thank you – and God’s special blessings guide you in your work and ministry! We are grateful for your steady witness to Christian discipleship and your service of others.
(Father Savelesky is the elected administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane.)
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. Though 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.
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