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Routine schedule will introduce the new bishop
to people, parishes and programs in diocese

New to the state and region, Bishop Blase Cupich of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane is following the routine schedule for his office to meet people involved in the life of the church and to learn how they work together.

His early impressions of Spokane’s generosity come from attending the Poor Man’s Meal at the House of Charity.  He was impressed with the turnout and the network of civic leaders, law enforcement and schools working on needs of marginalized people.

Bishop Cupich
Bishop Blaze Cupich at installation

“If I am to encourage an aspect of a ministry, I need to know what is happening, so I don’t reinvent the wheel but build on what is happening,” Bishop Cupich said.

To become acquainted with the people, region, parishes and ministries, he is visiting schools, parishes and confirmations; meeting leaders and groups; attending community events like the Greek Dinner, and relating with life at Gonzaga University.

“I am using the regular flow of the diocese to meet people and learn about institutions,” he said, affirming that he is not coming in with any predetermined approach from his former role as bishop in Rapid City, S.D.

His understanding of the ecumenical community here began when faith leaders of the region greeted him at the cathedral after his installation.

“There is clear spiritual goodwill and a desire to work together,” he commented.

Bishop Cupich is looking for points of contact for sharing relationships and finding where the faith community can work together for the common good.

In Rapid City, he said he had good ecumenical and interfaith relationships, such as involvement with an ecumenical relief effort in Eagle Butte on the Cheyenne River Lakota reservation to ease struggles when electricity went out in winds and an ice storm in January.

He sees ecumenical relations in place here and assumes he will join in the collaboration.  This fall, he has pre-arranged commitments out of town, including a retreat and work as the Catholic Extension chair of the Mission Committee for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The bishop believes that “the church can bring light to discussion of complex issues as it proposes ideas rather than imposing ideas.”

Bishop Cupich cited a document from the Second Vatican Council, “Pastoral Constitution of the Church in Modern Society,” which stated that the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of people today are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.

“In saying this, the church wanted to make clear how important it is to engage the entire human family and be respectful of how God is working in the lives of all people today,” he said

“Our day-to-day experiences touch the pulse of what God calls us to be.  In the life of the church, we can step back and be reflective,” Bishop Cupich said.

“In the hyper-competitive society of winners and losers, the believing community brings a sense that we are all in it together,” he said.

He saw that spirit expressed in the way Native Americans in South Dakota say goodbye, by saying, “We are all relatives!”

Bishop Cupich said that phrase expresses a parting reminder of the bonds that bring people together and is a way to assure that the people will continue in partnership.

“The faith community can help us understand that we are bound together,” he said.  “Often problems in society are approached through the lens of there being winners and losers.  We are polarized in politics and society.  There are different forms of separation.  Society is divided into economic groups or classes, and it is also divided by racism and bigotry.

“We bring to the discussion the light of our own faith tradition,” he said.  “We are more, not less, when we look out for those who are most in need in society.”

The bishop said the ethos and mythology of the highly competitive society are promoted in the prominence of sports, TV game shows and emphasis in international and national politics on winners and losers.

“Society is structured in a way that tends to divide us,” Bishop Cupich said.

He believes churches and faith communities can challenge the win-lose assumptions of society, saying that that is not a complete understanding of the human person and the human family.

Assuming that there are only two options in conversations—the arrogance of annihilating opponents and the fear of being annihilated by an opponent—paralyzes discussion, he said.

In Rapid City, he participated in discussions to move people beyond their extremes in thought and into an openness where conversation could occur.

Ordained a priest in the Omaha Archdiocese where he grew up, he served as a priest, taught high school and worked with the diocese.  He has a doctorate in sacred theology focused on sacramental theology from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.  He also served as president/rector of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, and as a priest in Omaha before being named bishop of the Diocese of Rapid City in 1998.

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Copyright © November 2010 - The Fig Tree