by Bishop William S. Skylstad
(From the Oct. 22, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)
Just a week ago as I write this, the DPC (Diocesan Pastoral Council) met at Immaculate Heart Retreat Center. The group consists of representatives from around the diocese and gathers three times a year to talk about significant issues facing the Church in Eastern Washington. I find their advice and wisdom very helpful. As part of consultation in the diocese, there are several other groups that perform this invaluable service. For example, the Diocesan Finance Council meets once a month to discuss financial matters in the diocese. Their work and wisdom were invaluable during the Chapter 11 process.
The Presbyteral (priests) Council also meets on a monthly basis in service to the priests of the diocese and to assist the bishop in the governance of the diocese. In our diocese, the priests on the Presbyteral Council also function as the diocesan consultors, a canonical term that refers to their position when certain situations that arise need their consultation or even their consent. For example, if a diocese is vacant because of the death of its bishop, they can and must select a temporary administrator of the diocese unless other arrangements have been made. The consent of the consultors is needed to alienate (sell) diocesan property.
Other boards include those of Catholic Charities, Immaculate Heart Retreat Center, Bishop White Seminary, the Diocesan School Advisory Committee (DSAC), and the Deacon Council.
The last meeting of the DPC was significant. We discussed the transition to a new diocesan bishop and what would be helpful for him. It has now been over seven months since I offered my letter of resignation as diocesan bishop. I am frequently asked the question when I will retire, and my standard response has been that I will probably know about two weeks before the rest of you do. Usually a press conference is held on the day of announcement, and the installation (possibly including ordination as bishop, if needed) occurs within a few weeks, but must be completed within three months.
The DPC discussed how we as a diocese could be helpful to the new ordinary in assisting him to become more familiar with the diocese and its 80 parishes. The DPC decided that we would request every parish and Catholic institution in the diocese to create a self-description, limited to one side of one page, in response to three questions:
• What is going well in the parish (or institution)?
• What is not going well?
• What is the vision for the future?
As an addendum, a final question asks: What would you want to say to the new bishop?
The DPC insisted that all of these comments would be on one page, with the back side of the sheet giving statistics about the parish: number of families, programs in the parish, organizations, percentage of the parish attending Mass on Sundays, and so on.
These comments and descriptions could be most helpful to the new bishop, giving him some specifics with regard to parish life. The background could prove invaluable as he visits the various parishes and meets with other entities, giving him an overview of church life from their own viewpoint. We hope to collect all of the responses by about Dec. 1.
Even though we find ourselves in something of an interim time, I continue to schedule events well into the future, such as celebrations of Confirmation/First Eucharist, and other important gatherings. That means there will be continuity with the transition, but when the appointment comes, the new bishop will have to approve the schedule my secretary has arranged. Of course, I can’t guarantee the scheduling, but I suspect it will remain substantially the same. In addition, I may be asked to do a few things, but I want to assure you that when the new bishop arrives, he will be in charge. I must step back and not interfere in any way. The new directives on retired bishops from the Congregation for Bishops at the Vatican make that eminently clear.
For the past two years I have been living in the rectory of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in downtown Spokane. It has been a great place to live. In the next few weeks, I will be moving to Rockwood Lane, next to Sacred Heart Parish in Spokane, to make space in the cathedral rectory for the new bishop. Perhaps I can pick up again on my beekeeping…. Deacon George Lukach from Our Lady of Lake Parish in Suncrest has been taking care of my hive. The bees have not received any of my attention these last few years.
In the meantime, we pray for the selection of our new bishop. Our life as a diocese should continue normally while we wait.
Blessings and peace to all.