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 February 18, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)

From the Inland Register – Volume LIV, No. 39
Fifty Years Ago: January 23, 1966

Your Bishop and You: Buying A Chancery
by Bishop Bernard Topel

Last week’s Inland Register carried very good news. We have a new Chancery Building. When the freeway wipes out the present building, we will not be on the street!

It will be good if I go through the details of the acquisition of this building. You may not be aware of how a bishop is involved in various operations involving buildings. A few years ago, I discovered that I am personally responsible for about two million dollars’ worth of building a year. Obviously, much of this is delegated, but it still is my responsibility and I must oversee it. There are few others who are so much involved in renovating old buildings and building new ones.

It was almost exactly a year ago that realtors began calling our office about a new chancery building. The Supreme Court had just made the decision on the Deaconess Hospital suit. Perhaps six different realtors, knowing that the freeway would doom our present building, called our attention to the availability of the Great Northwest Life Building. It is beside and across the street from the Cathedral. A considerable number of laymen and priests also spoke to us about this building. At that time, we had no interest in this property. We had already looked at another building and felt that it would serve our purposes. It was more modest; I liked that.

Some months later we found that the “other” building would not suit our chancery needs. About this time (June) a realtor contacted us again about the insurance building. I still was not interested in it. I wanted something more modest. Yet I sent Father de Jong to look at it. Perhaps a month later, I myself saw it.

The Great Northwest Life Building is about 50 years old. Except for the architecture, it does not look this old on the outside; even less does it look its age inside. I have rarely seen a building in such good condition. Almost all of the inside has been recently redone. Some of it very recently. In most of the building there is air conditioning, new electrical work, new floors and ceilings, and so on. The heating facilities are very good.

We began to study the possibilities of this building. First of all, we had access to several independent appraisals of its value. You may know that I was given much training in mathematics. In fact, I am not aware of a single Catholic in our whole diocese who has had more. In many ways, this training does not help me much as a bishop; in some ways, it definitely does. Right off, then, we studied the cost of the maintenance of the insurance building: heat, electricity, janitorial service, and so on, as compared to our present building.

It is easy to see that the available space in it would care for the needs of our diocese for a long time to come. Its location is admirable. It is by no means necessary to have the Chancery beside the Cathedral, but it is certainly desirable. Also very useful is its proximity to the post office, only one block from the new Federal Building. Bus lines downtown all pass within short walking distance from it. It is in the urban renewal district. The amount of vault space in it (which we need much) is astonishing.

There is a problem of private parking. We studied how we could possibly increase the parking facilities. However, there are public parking facilities available in the immediate neighborhood.

It may be noted that at this time the CCD Sisters “planted” a medal of St. Pius X on the property. The Sisters know ways of getting their way!

In early August we made a bid. I told the realtor that it seemed useless to present it because it was so much below what I judged to be the market value of the building. He wanted to make it. He did. It was refused. Immediately we suggested that through tax reductions we might come to an agreement. It turned out this was impossible. Another offer, a little larger, was made. It was still well below the market value. It also was refused.

We did nothing for months. Then on Nov. 9, we had a diocesan priest consultors meeting. One of the consultors brought up the question of the chancery building. I asked their thoughts about the Great Northwest Life Building. All except one felt it would be a serious mistake if we did not raise our offer.

Our priest consultors are very experienced men. They are chosen primarily for their ability to advise the bishop on spiritual and pastoral matters. This group is also very knowledgeable in building operations. Few committees of men have had more experience renovating old buildings and building new ones than these men have had. I have great confidence in their judgement. They were certain that to build would cost more and we would have less. A professional builder told us the same.

Not long afterward I left for the (Second Vatican) Council and the Holy Land, arriving home shortly before Christmas. Right after Christmas I asked the consultors living in Spokane to look at the building. They were more insistent than before upon my raising the bid. Now they were unanimous. I re-checked and made some further investigations. In a building 50 years old, one has a right to be afraid of major repair jobs. I was assured by most competent authority that there seemed to be no possibility of having one. On Jan. 3, we made our bid. On Jan. 4, the sale was finally sealed with the required signatures.

From the Inland Register – Volume 48, No. 11
Twenty-five Years Ago: February 7, 1991

Sister Peter Claver was honored and esteemed by church and civic communities

When Providence Sister Peter Claver died Jan. 14, the entire community of Eastern Washington mourned.

Born Lucille Thomas in Terry, Mont., she later said the first time she saw a Sister of Providence was “the day I walked into Columbus Hospital” in Great Falls, Mont., for training as a nurse after high school.

“I think one of the things that impressed me the most, when in the chapel in the evening, was seeing the Sisters make their evening visit,” she said. “There was a feeling of energy within them when I thought of them being able to tell our Lord that all they had done through the day was done for him.”

She was an operating room nurse for a year after finishing training, and in 1939 entered the novitiate in Seattle. After her studies there she worked at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane; Providence Hospital in Spokane; Providence Hospital in Wallace, Idaho; back to Columbus Hospital in Great Falls, Mont.; and then returned to Sacred Heart.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Gonzaga in 1958, and a master’s degree in hospital administration in 1960.

It was in 1964 that she became administrator of what was then called Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, a position she held until the end of 1987, when she became senior executive.

“I think there’s a real ministry in management if it’s carried out the right way,” she said. “Good management should be managing your resources, your physical facility, and everything else so that people can perform to their level of competence and realize fulfillment that makes their work more than a job.”

Civic and religious organizations honored her throughout her lifetime for her work in the health care field.

She was a board member of numerous hospitals and medical facilities in Spokane and throughout the Inland Northwest, as well as the Spokane Chamber of Commerce and the Washington State Hospital Insurance Board.

Awards included Gonzaga University’s prestigious DeSmet Medal, St. Louis University’s Distinguished Alumni Award; the Bishop Topel Medal from Catholic Charities; and an honorary doctorate from Whitworth College.

In 1988, Pope John Paul II bestowed on her the “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” award (“For the Church and the Pope”) in recognition of her career of service.

In presenting the award to Sister Peter Claver at a private Mass, Bishop Lawrence Welsh said, “On occasion the Holy Father realizes that some people or group of people do outstanding work and are very distinguished for their ministry in the life of the Church.… This honor is a very singular, distinct honor. It is not given readily in the life of the Church. So I must assure you the Holy Father believes that this award is very deserving of the person who is going to receive it.”

Jesuit Father Bernard Coughlin, president of Gonzaga University, was among those quoted praising Sister Peter Claver in a Jan. 15 front-page article in the Spokesman Review, Spokane’s daily newspaper.

“Once in a while,” he said, “in the course of a person’s life, you encounter someone who is a giant in stature, I suppose because of their close association with God. She impressed me that way.”

(Father Caswell is archivist for and frequent contributor to the Inland Register.)


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