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


Bishop Thomas A. Daly, seventh bishop of Spokane: ‘The true path to conversion’ is ‘love, not punishment’

by Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register

(From the May 21, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)

Bishop Thomas Daly celebrates his farewell Mass in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph in San Jose on May 3. (IR photo by Clarisse Balistreri, courtesy of The Valley Catholic, Diocese of San Jose)

Bishop Thomas Daly has been serving as the first auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of San Jose since his episcopal ordination May 24, 2011. As this issue of the Inland Register went to press on Monday, May 18, he was scheduled to be installed as Bishop of Spokane at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes on Wednesday, May 20.

Much of his ministry has been in education – as president of and teacher in a Catholic high school, as a board member and interim rector of St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park, Calif. – as well as many years as Vocations Director and Director of Seminarians for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, where he initially served after his ordination to priesthood in 1987.

Catholic News Service quotes San Jose’s Bishop Patrick McGrath, who described his auxiliary as a true collaborator and co-worker.

In a phone interview from San Jose earlier this month, Bishop Daly talked about how he sees the concept of collaboration.

“Collaboration takes a lot of people working together for a mission,” he said, drawing a distinction between collaboration and consultation. “Consultation is the discussion that takes place. And then you have to make the decision.”

Collaboration in ministry means “you respect people’s gifts,” he said. Yet sometimes a decision must be made “that isn’t always popular. We all want to be liked, but ultimately you have to take responsibility. Sometimes you have to say you’ve made a mistake, and you have to say, ‘I’m sorry,’ and move forward.”

He entered priestly formation with a bachelor’s degree from the University of San Francisco, where he majored in pre-law, with a minor in American history. After one year of teaching at Marin Catholic High School, he returned to school in the summers to earn a master’s degree in education administration from Boston College – “training to run a school, or a school system,” he said.

He already has some familiarity with the Spokane Diocese. He visited Bishop White Seminary several times during his nine years as Vocations Director and Director of Seminarians for the San Francisco Archdiocese.

Whether in ministry as a priest or a bishop, one of the gifts of ordained ministry is the life of the parish “and all that that parish means – the sacramental life of the people, the natural elements of birth to death, of education.”

At its foundation, priestly ministry has the core, intrinsic aspect of availability.

“I tried to stress that to the guys when I was a rector,” he said: “good parish priests are there for the people. That’s what we are. It doesn’t always seem as adventurous as with the Religious orders – we’re general practitioners,” helping people with their spiritual needs, coping with the needs and stresses of raising a family, and the importance of faith in day-to-day life.

He talked about living out that faith within the context of the daily lives of believers.

Returning as a pastor of St. Nicholas and St. William parishes in Los Altos, and hearing Confessions Saturday afternoons, “I think reconciliation is very powerful for people,” especially once they realize that “God’s love is the motive for conversion – God’s love, and mercy, and grace.” Jesus’ words – “‘Come to me, all who are burdened’ – he’s there to offer his mercy and healing. That’s the true path to conversion. It’s love, not punishment.”

Even his approach to vocations work was “less about programs, more about prayer in the parishes,” he said. In San Francisco, with many urban parishes without many younger families, there was often a sense of, “What can we do?”

As Vocations Director, he would stress the importance of prayer for vocations in families, including grandparents.

A pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, became a regular occurrence during his years in vocations ministry. Young men – seniors in high school, college age – accompanied by him and brother priests would spend several days at the shrine in Lourdes. There they worked with the sick, prayed together, had meals together.

Like the basis for other expressions of a life of faith, “it begins with prayer, but it’s a simple, personal approach.” It’s the spirituality of St. Vincent de Paul, to whom Bishop Daly has a special devotion: “Basically faith in action. Mass every day, Morning Prayer, Adoration in the evening that would gradually build up to a full hour, with service to the poor.”

He said he was not looking for young men who were “religious fanatics,” but those who have a sense of joy and energy, trying to live their faith. And while there was prayer, and service, and action, there were also times for simple fun built into the experience. And they strove for balance during the pilgrimages: “We didn’t want an over-the-top service experience, or an over-the-top religious experience. Just what we hoped would be helpful.”

He likened his role as an auxiliary bishop to being a parish’s parochial vicar or assistant pastor. When he came to San Jose as its first auxiliary bishop, “it surprised me,” that the role was not as defined as it had been in his home archdiocese of San Francisco. “I was blazing a new trail, so to speak.”

In addition to his role in celebrating Confirmations – he recently ordained a man as a Carmelite priest – much of his ministry was in the area of education: reorganization of a parish high school, heading a drive to build a new high school, in addition to a regular round of visits to parishes and schools.

Before his ordination as bishop, he spent several years as a part-time chaplain with the San Francisco Police Department, where he described his role as “mainly to assist the main chaplain.” The ministry was to the police officers themselves and their families “in stress situations,” informally. One of his brothers is a sheriff’s deputy for San Francisco County.

He also served as chaplain for St. Vincent School for Boys, which served boys who were wards of the court, many of whom had suffered abuse – physically, sexually, psychologically, ages 7-17 – who were hurting. “Some came to Mass, some didn’t,” he said, but he found the work “very fulfilling.”

On the national scene, he serves on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

He is the middle child of seven. Both of his parents are deceased: his father in 1991, his mother last fall.

He remains close to his brothers and sisters, celebrating sacramental moments with them and with his 14 nieces and nephews. He likes to spend his free time with family, and admits that it will take some adjusting – instead of being 40 minutes from family, being “four hours and a couple of plane rides away.” He stays close with former students, too, celebrating important sacramental moments with them – marriages, the baptism of children.

He also likes to relax with swimming and bicycling, and the very occasional golf game.

The quiet time early in the morning is his time for prayer each day, he said: meditating on Scripture, especially in preparation for that day’s homily at Mass; the Liturgy of the Hours; Mass; a daily rosary.

At least initially, he will be living at Bishop White Seminary, adjacent to the Gonzaga University campus in Spokane. He relishes the idea of living in an area with trees and lawns. “I need some of that natural beauty,” he said. “There’s lots of natural beauty in the Spokane Diocese I hope to take advantage of.”

As he begins his ministry in Eastern Washington, as head of a diocese for the first time, what does he see, looking forward?

At the beginning he’ll offer focus to the Know, Love and Serve pastoral initiative. “We have the pastoral plan” offered in Archbishop Cupich’s pastoral letter, “Joy Made Complete.” He’ll look to see how that plan is being implemented, the pace of it, and watch to see what other things might emerge from that.

“I’m coming to Spokane, a new state, a diocese with a significant rural aspect – some things are standard in any diocese, but what is unique to Spokane? What can I learn? How, in the role of bishop, will I teach, govern, sanctify? How will that ministry play out in Spokane?”

He’s looking forward to getting to know the people – the priests, the Religious, the laity.

As a priest, he was responsible with aligning two parishes in Los Altos, Calif., at one point. “I listed my priorities. You get to know me, and I you.” Top among those priorities will be faith formation, and passing on the faith. “The call to holiness that is given to us by virtue of baptism, and sacramental prayer life of our people.”

He admits there’s an irony that he now ministers “in the Silicon Valley,” and he finds that “there’s too much distraction with technology.” People seem to have forgotten how to be quiet.

Another part of life involves the boundaries people set as they set their priorities, particularly in terms of the boundary between work and family time. He admits “our priests and bishops are often struggling with that. At best it’s a distraction, at worst it’s an addiction. People need quiet.

“That’s why I think retreats are so important for people,” he said. “And to be honest, the only people who should have their cell phone on in church would be the Director of Homeland Security or maybe a heart surgeon who’s waiting to hear if a heart is ready for transplant at Stanford.”

But perhaps most of all, he wants the Church in Eastern Washington to hear a clear message:

“I’m here for you. That’s it. I think people want to get to know you.” It takes time for them to “get to know you, and for you to get to know them.

“Obviously, you have demands outside the diocese. Sometimes you have to be away. But I’m here for you. A lot of people, priests and laity, are pulled in different directions. There’s a lot of stress and pressure on people. As a bishop, through grace and ability, I hope to lead them. I would hope that that’s what I can provide.”


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