REVEREND CHARLES D. SKOK, S.T.D.
June 1, 1927 – July 3, 2020
June 1, 1927 – July 3, 2020
God, our heavenly Father, embraced another good and faithful priest-servant with eternal life the evening of Friday, July 3. Father Charles Daniel Skok died at Cornerstone Court after a massive stroke he suffered a few days earlier. Family members, brother priests, teaching colleagues, and members of the faithful sincerely mourn his loss.
The son of Joseph Skok, an immigrant farmer from Menges, Yugoslavia, and Annie Salokar, from The Dalles (Oregon), Charles Skok was born in Valley, Washington, on June 1, 1927. He was 12th in a family of 15 children. He mistakenly was baptized “Charles Andrew.” The family insisted on a correction: He was named after the second bishop of Spokane, Charles Daniel White. To firm up the name, the young lad selected “Daniel” as his confirmation name. The family all grew up on a large farm in the Jump Off Joe area in Stevens County. Charles knew the blessings of family life and hard work.
After receiving his early education at Jump Off Grade School, Charles followed a calling to the priesthood and entered into seminary at St. Edward’s Seminary at Kenmore, Washington, north of Seattle. He spent the next 12 years of his life there, receiving a master’s degree in divinity in 1952. He was editor of The Harvester, the seminary’s magazine. His summers were spent either working on the farm, engaged in carpentry work, participating in sports, or assisting with summer vacation religious schools and with parish work in Cheney and Ephrata.
His namesake, Bishop White, ordained him to the priesthood at Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral on April 30, 1952. His first assignment was as associate pastor and teacher in the parish school, St. Patrick (Walla Walla). He quickly progressed from teacher to the school’s principal, having earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Gonzaga University in 1956. Before a transfer to Spokane in June 1957—when Bishop Bernard Topel appointed him chancellor of the Diocese—he helped draft plans for the construction of DeSales High School. In Spokane, he also taught at Marycliff High School for girls. In July 1958, he was made rector and teacher at Bishop White Seminary (high school).
Recognizing the intellectual talent and pastoral heart of his priest, in 1960, Bishop Topel released Father Skok for further studies at the University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome. Before returning to the Diocese of Spokane in the summer of 1962 to take on responsibilities as superintendent of Catholic schools and diocesan director of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD), he had earned a doctorate in sacred theology. Upon his return, he also was appointed pastor of Holy Rosary (Rosalia), where he supervised the completion of the construction of a new church.
Father Skok’s studies in Rome took place in the months just prior to the Second Vatican Council. Following the council's developments closely, he was able to keep the priests of the diocese updated and educated in the pastoral and liturgical vision of the council before, during and after its sessions.
In September 1964, he was made pastor of St. Joseph (Trentwood) and assigned to teach theology to the college seminarians at the newly constructed Mater Cleri Seminary (Colbert). The following year, in June 1965, he was given the task of transforming the former high school program at Bishop White Seminary on the campus of Gonzaga University into a college-level house of studies. At the time, it was but one of 10 such settings in the United States. In 1980, he began a long academic career at Gonzaga University, first as adjunct professor, and ending as a tenured professor emeritus of religious studies. In 1983, he became chairman of its Religious Studies Department. He became a sought-after lecturer, ethical consultant, and retreat master. His publications were few, but succinct, usually in the field of pastoral life and social justice. In August 1983, he made a presentation at the Third World Congress of Social Economics. An attentive reader of The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia (1994 edition) will find 11 contributions written by Father Charles D. Skok.
In July 1968, Father Skok was appointed pastor of Sacred Heart (Pullman), where he worked with faculty and students from Washington State University. In June 1972, he returned to Spokane as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish. From August 1976 until July 1980, he served as pastor of St. Patrick (Pasco). From July 1980 to 1983, he served once again as rector of Bishop White Seminary—and became a full-time professor at Gonzaga University. From 1984 until his retirement in July 1997, he continued to teach and fulfill a variety of pastoral assignments. He directed the diocese’s Deacon Formation Program (1982-1985); directed Mater Dei Institute (1994-1996); served as pastoral moderator at Spokane’s St. Joseph Parish (1986-1987); and was parochial vicar at St. John Vianney Parish (1992-1997). After retiring in 1997, he continued to assist at St. John Vianney until his health prevented him.
Father Skok always championed Catholic education. He himself spent hundreds of hours in the classroom, not only at Gonzaga University, but also at Fort Wright College, Marylhurst College (Portland), and on the lecture circuit in parishes and institutions throughout the northwestern United States, southwestern Canada, and even Australia. At different points in time, he also was a contributing member of the diocese’s original Priests’ Senate, Priests’ Personnel Committee, Diocesan Pastoral Council, Board of Directors at Catholic Charities, Washington State Catholic Conference, and dozens of committees, councils and boards at Gonzaga University, in the diocese and around the state.
At its commencement exercises on May 13, 2000, in recognition to his enduring contribution to education and pastoral life in the Northwest, Gonzaga University bestowed an honorary degree of doctor of laws on Father Skok. Bishop William Skylstad honored him in 2001 with the prestigious Bishop’s Medal in gratitude for his work with Catholic Charities.
Father Skok is predeceased by 11 siblings: Louis Francis, Mamie Joan (Johnson), Agnes Pauline (Hurbi), Joseph Matthias, John Andrew, Jasper Melchior Balthasar, Peter Timothy, Frank P., Philip Paul, Sister Anne Marie SNJM, Nicholas S., and Willa Josephine. He is survived by two sisters: Helen Frances (Kreutz) of Spokane, and Betty Jean (White) of San Diego.
A vigil service for Father Skok was held at St. John Vianney Catholic Church on Sunday, July 12. Bishop Thomas Daly presided at a Mass of Christian Burial; burial was at Holy Cross Cemetery.
Memorials may be sent to Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington or to Gonzaga University’s Scholarship Fund for Majors and Graduate Students.