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America StaffNovember 10, 2023
Bishop Thomas A. Daly Diocese of Spokane, Wash., is pictured after concelebrating Mass Feb. 6, 2020, at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In America’s interview with Pope Francis in November 2022, the Holy Father said that “the grace of Jesus Christ is in the relationship between the bishop and his people, his diocese.” We asked U.S. bishops to answer five of our nine questions. In these brief interviews, we hope to highlight and foster this relationship, and to offer some unique personal perspectives and spiritual insights of the shepherds leading our church.

Q&A with Bishop Thomas Daly
Diocese of Spokane, Wash.

Describe a time that God spoke to you in a surprising way.
I went to Rome for the first time during the Easter week of 2001. A priest friend from our seminary days in California flew from Boston. He could only stay a week. I tried to change my ticket to fly back to San Francisco at the same time, but there were restrictions and I had three more days in Rome. On the second day, I decided to visit the Blessed Sacrament chapel inside St. Peter’s Basilica. I sat down and remained still. After some period of silence, I felt God speak to me in a way I had never experienced before. It was as if time was suspended, and for the first time, I felt I had a conversation with God. I remember vividly the words: “Give me your doubts, your weakness and your arrogance.” It was clear and direct but in a loving, fatherly way. I will never forget the feeling and the experience. Those words are now a prayer I say every day.

What’s a part about being a bishop that you wish you knew ahead of time? 
The amount of time, energy and prayer needed to deal with priests’ issues. A bishop must try to be a father and a brother to his priests, always with the heart of a shepherd. But at times there is sometimes a need to discipline and correct. A bishop must also be a watchman and often the situation requires tremendous patience and charity. 

If you had not become a priest, what other job/vocation/career could you see yourself in? 
Before entering the seminary, I was accepted to law school at both the University of San Francisco and Gonzaga. My first choice was Gonzaga Law School in Spokane, where I now serve as bishop. I thought I would have liked to work in the Department of Justice, but I also have always liked cars, specifically the U.S. auto industry. So, my answer would be that I could see myself running the Buick division of General Motors. 

What’s a lesson you’ve learned from the life of your favorite saint that is most applicable to your life today?
My mom, aunt, cousins and all six of my siblings were taught by the Daughters of Charity. I grew up hearing a lot about St. Vincent de Paul. During my priesthood retreat at the former Jesuit retreat house, Manresa, in Southern California, I had a book on the life and spirituality of St Vincent. I read it. Most remember him for his charitable work, but I read about the conversion within his priesthood and the success he had in helping the diocesan clergy grow in holiness, especially through what was called “the Tuesday conferences.” He also could be friends with the wealthy but never personally benefited from it. Rather, he helped them to see their responsibility to be generous to those in need. He worked closely with Louise de Marillac, a working relationship that was tested at times. But they set into motion organizations and activities that benefit people today. The one quote from St. Vincent de Paul that I often turn to, especially when things get difficult is this: “God’s grace is necessary to begin and even more necessary to persevere until the end.”

Who’s someone in your diocese, not necessarily someone in an official church role, whom you admire and have learned from?
Bishop emeritus William Sklystad. He is a humble, prayerful and generous man who is almost 90 years old but still serves as a spiritual director, confessor and mentor. He is a great priest and bishop.


Read more from our Bishop Q&A series: 

Bishop Robert Barron, Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minn.

Bishop Michael Burbidge, Diocese of Arlington, Va. 

Bishop Andrew Cozzens, Diocese of Crookston, Minn.

Archbishop George Lucas, Diocese of Omaha, Neb.

Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski, Diocese of St. Louis, Miss.

More: Bishops

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