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

Three Spokane Diocese priests celebrate 50 years

by Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register

(From the May 19, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)

Three priests of the Spokane Diocese celebrate the 50th anniversary of their ordination to priesthood this month.

Fathers Tom Caswell, Charles Eis, and Joseph Weitensteiner were all ordained priests of the diocese in May 1966: Father Weitensteiner on May 14, and though in different churches, Fathers Caswell and Eis on May 28.

Father Caswell was ordained at St. Patrick Church, Dickinson, N.D., after studies at St. Thomas Seminary, Kenmore, Wash., which he entered immediately after graduating from St. Patrick High School, Walla Walla.

He first served as secretary to Spokane’s bishop, Bishop Bernard Topel, and as a teacher at the diocese’s high school seminary, Mater Cleri.

He then fulfilled assignments as an associate pastor, at St. Thomas More and St. Patrick parishes, Spokane, and St. Patrick Parish in Pasco, before returning to St. Patrick, Spokane, as pastor in 1977.

Father Caswell moved back to Pasco, as pastor, in 1982, followed by appointments as pastor of St. Mary of the Rosary, Chewelah; Sacred Heart, Pullman; and St. Rose of Lima, Cheney.

In 1985 he began service as the diocese’s Ecumenical Relations Officer.

Although he retired from parish ministry in 2005, he continues to serve as a substitute in parishes in Eastern Washington and New York City. He assists with the diocesan archives, and has been media columnist for the Inland Register for nearly 20 years. He began contributing “From the Archives” in 2008.

He will celebrate his anniversary at the 10:30 a.m. Mass at Assumption Parish, 3624 W. Indian Trail Rd., Spokane, on Sunday, May 22.

Father Eis was ordained in Our Lady of Pity Church, Boston, Mass.

He was born in Dedham, Mass., and initially studied for the Columbian Fathers before leaving to begin studies at St. Thomas Seminary, Kenmore, Wash., for the Spokane Diocese.

Besides seminary formation, Father Eis earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Chapman University, Orange, Calif., in 1980.

After ordination, Father Eis was first assigned to St. Patrick Parish, Pasco, as assistant pastor. He also served as assistant pastor at St. Joseph and St. Francis Xavier parishes in Spokane. From 1967-70 he ministered full-time as chaplain at Walla Walla State Penitentiary while also assigned as assistant pastor of St. Patrick Parish there.

In 1972 he was named administrator of Sacred Heart Parish, Brewster, and the mission parishes in Monse and Twisp.

Father Eis joined the U.S. Navy as a chaplain in November 1974. His duty stations included Guam, where in 1975 he helped with the arrival of 114,000 Vietnamese refugees fleeing the fall of that country. By his estimation more than 60 percent of the refugees were Catholic; he celebrated Mass for more than 10,000 people each day.

He also served in Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Kenya, Iwo Jima, San Diego, and Jacksonville, Fla.

He retired with the rank of captain in 1997.

Father Eis will celebrate his jubilee anniversary Mass at St. Mary of the Assumption Church, Dedham, on Sunday, June 12.

Father Weitensteiner is a Spokane native, ordained in Spokane at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes by Bishop Bernard Topel.

He graduated from Gonzaga Prep, Spokane. He then spent three years on active duty and nine years in the Navy reserves.

In his years before seminary studies, he was a noted Scoutmaster in the Spokane Area. He received the Boy Scouts’ St. George Award in 1957. The award is given by the Scouts to individuals “who have made significant and outstanding contributions to the spiritual development of Catholic youth in Scouting,” according to the Boy Scouts’ web site.

His first seminary studies were at St. Philip Neri School for Delayed Vocations, Boston. That was followed by philosophy studies at Carroll College in Helena, Mont. He completed priestly formation at St. Thomas Seminary, Kenmore.

Father Weitensteiner was long involved with Morning Star Boys Ranch (MSBR), serving there as its first counselor in 1957. After ordination to priesthood he was an assistant pastor at his home parish, Sacred Heart in Spokane, for a brief time before he was assigned as assistant director at MSBR. Two months later he became executive director, a post he held until his retirement in 2006.

He also served as pastor of St. Patrick Parish, Spokane, from 1982-1997, when he retired from parish ministry.

In a 2006 Inland Register interview, Father Weitensteiner said that “the Mass is the center of a priest’s life, so the most enjoyable things were weddings, Sunday liturgies, even funerals – there is something joyful about going on to new beginnings…. Celebrations with people, celebrating births and baptisms, celebrating the sacred liturgy on weekdays and weekends – that’s the center.”

(IR file photos)

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