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Bishop Emeritus William Skylstad followed Fig Tree's early years

Bishop Emeritus William Skylstad

The Fig Tree started before Bishop Emeritus William Skylstad went to the Diocese of Yakima. When he came back to the Diocese of Spokane in 1990, he became well acquainted with The Fig Tree and Mary Stamp.

The second Vatican Council almost 60 years ago brought a dramatic change in relationships among the churches, affecting attitudes in the Catholic Church, he said.

"The Fig Tree does a remarkable job of communication—being a bridge—with inspirational stories. It has been a gift to the religious communities here in the Inland Northwest as it serves the people and fosters a sense of community that builds humanity," he commented.

Knowing what's going on in the broader religious community with Fig Tree stories has been part of growing knowledge about the various religious communities.

Bishop Skylstad is aware that The Fig Tree is self-sustaining by soliciting funds from faith communities to continue the paper's mission.

"Thank God Mary had the vision, skill and spirituality to help make it happen," he said. "Now at the 40-year mark, it's a remarkable story.

"I am not aware of other publications like The Fig Tree in the country. It is unique here for Spokane, which is a cultural, communication and shopping center for the Inland Northwest."

He is also impressed that The Fig Tree shares inspirational stories of people of different religious communities in this part of the world contributing to the well-being of their communities.

"Today when we see an increased amount of polarity and individualism in our society and in our culture, The Fig Tree builds up relationships and community as it shares stories," the bishop commented. "It's a great leaven in the Inland Northwest that touches people's lives in a positive way.

"Despite the cultural realities today, we need to hope for the future. We need to always hold that vision of continuing to build community and respect for one another," he noted.

Rather than focus on controversy as other media, he appreciates that The Fig Tree shares the stories of people and shares positively about their lives.

He finds that helps to build up relationships, which are critically important today.

"The world needs a revolution of relationships. It needs a sense of connectedness," Bishop Skylstad said.

While many news outlets are online, he appreciates having the paper in his hand as he reads it, so he can go back to it and reflect.

Bishop Skylstad grew up in an ecumenical, non-Catholic area in the Methow Valley. His best friend before he went to the seminary was a Methodist, so he was involved nationally for many years as co-chair of the Catholic-Methodist dialogue.

Often ecumenical and interfaith relationships happen on the grassroots level in cities, towns and communities, where people work, live and do projects together, he pointed out.

"The Fig Tree produces fruit. When we look at the work of The Fig Tree over these 40 years, there's a positive legacy. It has touched many people and religious communities. It has also gotten the stories out about various projects and ministries so all of us see and are inspired by them. It's been a remarkable work and legacy."

Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June 2024