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Finleys were featured in first issue of The Fig Tree

Kathy Finley and Mitch Finley.

Kathy and Mitch Finley were featured in an article in the first issue of The Fig Tree, sharing their insights on marriage and family related to their own family.

Kathy is a spiritual director and a counselor who prepares engaged couples for marriage at St. Aloysius. She also taught marriage and family at Gonzaga and is the author of eight books on practical spirituality. Mitch is a retired freelance writer who has written 30 books on spiritual, religious and Catholic topics.

"We had been married 10 years when Mary interviewed us about our family and marriage guidance. She told us that the newspaper would cover faith and churches in the Inland Northwest," said Kathy. "I thought that's a wonderful goal. Maybe she'll be able to do this for five years. There can't be that many stories to make a living."

"The Fig Tree is creatively done. I've stayed with it through the years, and we send a donation once a year. I find reading to be as important as writing," said Mitch.

Every month, Kathy finds encouragement in Fig Tree stories: "It's easy to feel in my ministry with couples and families that I'm in the woods acting alone. It's good to know that many people are doing similar stuff. The Fig Tree gives me a chance, in a sense, to virtually visit lots of other churches and nonprofits to find information about which I would not otherwise have a clue.

"When there's a story about somebody I know, I learn more than I knew before about who that person is, what makes them tick and how they do what they do," she said. "It helps me know that what I am doing in faith makes a difference and is part of a larger picture."

Kathy is amazed that 40 years later, The Fig Tree is still publishing, thriving and continuing to tell important stories about what people are up to. It is heartwarming and encouraging.

"To me, the community of faith in the broadest sense is a puzzle with many pieces. I have found my part of the puzzle and see how others add other pieces to the picture," she said.

In the mid 1990s, the Finleys spent a week in Guatemala and The Fig Tree covered that.

"While it covers what people here are doing, it also links to international outreach," said Kathy.

"That's important because we live in a global community. Often when I talk about spirituality, I hammer home the notion that we live in such an individualistic culture—that's all about me, what I'm feeling and what I need.

"That's so limiting and so unChristian and unfulfilling," she said. "To be able to counter that with not just theory but actual people's experience and stories makes a difference because it's easy to feel isolated and not realize all the connections with the world community that are right in front of us.

"To be more aware of this world situation and what people are doing is powerful," Kathy said. "When I was teaching, I had couples tell stories about marriage, so my students had stories of real people's lives, not just theory.

"This publication opens our eyes about other religions and other ways of worshiping," she added.

In a conversation, Mitch said he wrote a book called What Faith Is Not. After reading some of the recent issues of The Fig Tree, he decided he needed a chapter on "What Faith Is."

"It would be great to talk about a selection of issues of The Fig Tree articles, because that's what faith is," Mitch said.

"The Fig Tree shows diversity in terms of people who don't share my beliefs or act on faith as I do, but there's commonality. In his book, Mitch said faith is not a spiritual aspirin. There's more to faith than just to feel good," said Kathy. "Faith gets me up out of the chair to address issues in the world that need addressing from the perspective of faith.

"The Fig Tree helps enrich readers' sense of faith beyond one dimension—here's what being a faith-filled person looks like. No, that's only one part but there's so much more that faith looks like," she pointed out.

Kathy described Mary as a gatherer of stories and information on the valuable efforts people are making.

"There are times when I open The Fig Tree and I think, 'I don't know if I'm going to have much in common with somebody at a Buddhist retreat center.' Then I start reading and realize I do. That's exciting and unexpected for me and helps me know I'm part of a bigger picture.

"Sometimes I think I should probably be doing more in terms of justice issues and the homeless and then I realize, wait a minute, that person is not doing what I'm doing, and that's OK because we're part of a bigger picture."

Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June 2024