Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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 October 15, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)
Fifty Years Ago: August 22, 1965
Holy Names Sisters acquire site for new provincial center; proposed $3 million construction to begin 1966
Purchase of an estimated 75 acres of the original Fort George Wright property as the site for a provincial administration center has been announced by the Washington Province of the Holy Names Sisters.
Mother Kathleen Clare, provincial, said the property will be used as the provincial center for the Order and that it will include a novitiate, a juniorate, the residence for postulants, and also a retirement center for members of the province.
The property was purchased from the Spokane Forest Estates Company and is bounded on three sides by the Spokane River. It is located northeast of Natatorium Park and is west of the Downriver Bridge and the Fort Wright road.
The new provincial center, tentatively called River Forest Convent, will be separated from the new Spokane Community College by 10 acres of land still retained by Spokane Forest Estates and is about one mile from the music building at Fort Wright College, operated by the Holy Names Sisters.
Construction of the first units of the proposed $3 million complex will start in the spring of 1966 and will be occupied in the fall of 1967. The firm of Walker and McGough are doing the preliminary architectural sketches. In addition to the provincial administration center, the first units will include a chapel, kitchen, and dining room.
Need for the new center was stressed by Mother Kathleen Clare, who said at present the Washington Province must train postulants and novice sisters at the Oregon Province headquarters at Marylhurst, Ore. Originally one province, the separate Oregon and Washington jurisdictions were established Aug. 6, 1962.
At present, the Washington Province has a juniorate at the provincial house at N. 1114 Superior in Spokane. Sections of the present provincial administration building are also used by Holy Names Academy for classrooms.
The present province headquarters will be taken over by the Academy in 1967, Mother Kathleen Clare said.
Twenty-five Years Ago: October 4, 1990
Byzantine Catholic Church ‘one big family’
by Carla Schoen, for the Inland Register
Chances are, you might miss SS Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Church if you happen to be cruising the speed limit down the 4300 block of N. Evergreen in the Spokane Valley.
Many of Spokane’s Roman Catholic churches are fairly large in size and are hard to miss when passing by. But this small Byzantine church is sandwiched between houses in a residential neighborhood, somewhat camouflaging itself from unwary passersby who don’t know its true identity.
Compared to the plain exterior of the church, its inside beauty and splendor come as a surprise. In front of the body of the church, the altar itself is partially hidden by what is called the icon screen.
There is a door on each side to the right and the left. Icons are hanging all over this wall, each bearing a symbol of some kind. Behind the wooden icon screen is the altar, to which no one but the priest or bishop are allowed to approach. In front of the altar, which is built to face east, is a beautiful and colorful portrait of the Holy Mother. This sacred area is referred to as the sanctuary.
Immediately upon entering the church, even a stranger is made to feel welcome by the parish priest, Father William E. O’Brien. The Irish priest, a native of New Jersey, is very enthusiastic about his church and his parishioners, and with good humor talks about his life while in the seminary learning to become a priest of the Byzantine rite.
“I was born and raised in New Jersey,” Father O’Brien said. “I was baptized and raised Roman Catholic. I finished college in New Jersey and worked as a computer programmer before I became a priest.
“I worked back east and then decided to see some of the country, so I moved out to California, to the Bay area, and lived there for a couple of years. There was a little Byzantine church there and that’s where I became familiar with the Byzantine Rite.
“After going to church there for a couple of years, I applied for my commission of the church, which is called Transfer of Rites,” Father O’Brien said. “That means a Catholic from one rite or one part of the church can transfer to another, which is what I did.
“I applied at the same time to the Byzantine Rite bishop for commission into the seminary and I was granted that, too. It was then I journeyed back east again to Pittsburgh, Pa., to SS Cyril and Methodius Seminary. I was a seminarian there for four years and I’ve been ordained now for over two years. Spokane is my first assignment and I’m enjoying it.”
The Byzantine Rite, Father O’Brien said, developed originally in Constantinople. It made its way up through Eastern Europe through St. Cyril and his brother, St. Methodius, who were commissioned by the Byzantine emperor to travel throughout the Slavic countries – what are today Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Russia, Father O’Brien said. The rite came to the United States with the immigration of Slavic peoples around 1870.
There are four separate Byzantine Rite dioceses in the United States.
“We are Catholic and are under the Pope of Rome just as the Roman Catholics are,” Father O’Brien said, “although we are a separate jurisdiction. We have our own bishops and our own archbishops.
“Most people who grow up Roman Catholic tend to think of the whole church as being Roman Catholic, but it isn’t. The Catholic Church under the Pope of Rome is actually a union of different churches, or what we like to call particular churches,” Father O’Brien said.
“Groups of people who are united through the same truths, the same documents and doctrine, yet each particular church, each group of people has its own liturgy, its own way of celebrating the sacraments, its own liturgical language, and its own customs, which are usually along ethnic lines.
“The Byzantine Rite is not a Religious order,” Father O’Brien said. “I’m as much a diocesan priest as any of the diocesan priests in Spokane. I do not profess the vows of poverty and obedience, as many Religious would.
“When I was ordained, I professed the vow of obedience to our bishop, and celibacy – which is not our tradition in our Eastern churches, by the way. In Eastern Europe, all our priests are married, and always have been. That was the way it used to work in the United States. There was never any problem about ordaining a married man into the priesthood. But once a priest, that person can never marry.”
The Byzantine Rite liturgies are celebrated in English, Father O’Brien said. “We also maintain our own liturgical language, which is called Church Slavonic, an early form of the Slavic language. It was never a living language, whereas Latin at one time was a living language of the Roman Empire.
“The words we use in the church to name different items we use in Mass or within the Church itself are either Slavonic or Greek. The last Sunday of every month I celebrate parts of the liturgy in Slavonic so that the people can get an idea of what it sounds like.”
Father O’Brien explained some of the differences between the Roman Catholic and Byzantine Masses.
“Our liturgy is all sung,” he said. “We don’t recite. We sing everything. Prayers, Scripture readings, everything is sung, and it’s a little more formal than the Roman rite.
“Everything is symbolized for a total sensory experience, so that you can experience the entire liturgy with all your senses,” he said. “We have a lot of incense and processions. We start with a litany. The whole idea of our liturgy is that it’s supposed to be a dialogue between the priest and the people. The priest intones something, the people answer it.”
The liturgies themselves are divided into parts for the priest, the deacon, and the congregation.
“In our liturgy, the deacon does a whole lot more than the deacon does in the Roman Rite; but outside the liturgy, our deacons can do almost nothing,” Father O’Brien said.
“In other words, our deacons can’t administer any of the sacraments, except to baptize in case of an emergency. They aren’t allowed to officiate at weddings, or anything like that.”
Another difference in the Byzantine liturgy is evident during Communion.
“We do not use the round hosts that many Roman churches use,” Father O’Brien said. “It is our tradition to use bread. It’s a very simple bread that I make myself.”
Unlike the bread used in Roman churches, the Byzantine Communion bread contains yeast, symbolizing the new covenant which replaced that of Mount Sinai, he said.
Father O’Brien cuts the bread into cubes, called particles, which are placed on the discos, or paten, then placed in the chalice containing the wine. “When I give Communion, I mix everything to make sure that each particle is soaked in the Precious Blood,” he explained. “It’s our tradition to always give Communion under both species.” He uses a small gold spoon to give each person a particle of bread with a few drops of wine.
He hears confessions before each liturgy, always face-to-face, rather than using a confessional booth. “When it’s time for absolution, I take the stole I’m wearing and put the end of it over the person’s head, close my hands and say the formula for absolution.”
Like Roman parishes, SS Cyril and Methodius has religious education classes. The new season began Sept. 30. Classes are at 9 a.m., with liturgy following at 10 a.m.
“The majority of people I have here are in fact former Roman Catholics who found us and decided they were a little more traditional,” Father O’Brien said.
“We have quite a mix of people. In Spokane, we’re still in a missionary situation. We want to attract everybody. We feel that if you denote a parish as being an ethnic parish, anybody coming in who is not of an ethnic group will feel like a second-class citizen. We don’t want that.”
The small size of the parish helps create the feeling of intimacy, of being a big family, he said.
“I know all my parishioners well,” he said. “I’ve blessed their houses,” something he does annually. “We’re small enough that I can do that.”
SS Cyril and Methodius Church celebrates its 10th anniversary Nov. 4.
“Believe me, I’m not trying to steal anyone from the Roman Rite,” he laughed.
“But we are here, and we’ve been here for 10 years. We’re simply delighted to welcome anybody who would care to come experience another part of the church, where we do things a little bit differently.”
(Father Caswell is archivist for the Inland Register, and a frequent contributor to this publication.)
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