Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302


Executive Director named for The Ministry Institute at Mater Dei

Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the Feb. 26, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

Nate Greene is the new Executive Director of The Ministry Institute at Mater Dei. (IR photo)

Nate Greene, former president and owner of Empire Ford in Spokane, began 2009 as the new Executive Director of The Ministry Institute at Mater Dei.

Located a few blocks from, and affiliated with, Gonzaga University, The Ministry Institute offers ministry formation and spiritual renewal programs for participants from the United States and around the world.

Born in Charleston, S.C., Greene attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through high school, graduating from Immaculate Conception High School in 1961.He earned a B.A. in Economics from Talladega College, in Alabama, “before there was a famous race track there,” he adds with a laugh. After four years in the U.S. Air Force – two of those stationed in Turkey – he attended graduate school at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, where he earned an M.A., also in Economics. His parents weren’t Catholic, but they sent Nate to a Catholic elementary school, and he became Catholic when he was “seven or eight,” he said, along with his older sister.

After college graduation, Greene taught for one year at San Antonio College, then worked in various aspects of the automotive field, including a time with the Ford Motor Company in Buffalo, N.Y. After his purchase of Empire Ford in Spokane, in 1996, Black Enterprises magazine recognized his company as one of the top 100 minority-owned auto dealerships in the United States.

Greene has been married to his wife, Roberta, since October, 1965. The Greenes have one son and one grandchild, a girl. They are members of Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral Parish.

Greene said that after Empire Ford closed in 2007, he hadn’t been doing much. “I had enough of the car business,” he said, “and enough of business in general, so when this position opened up I came over and talked with the folks here, and I liked what I saw. I wanted a new direction for my life, and this looked good. So I applied and got the job.”

In a nutshell, he said, his job description is “to be responsible for the operation of the Ministry Institute. This includes seven buildings, where we house the program’s participants. With Shonna Bartlett, who is Program Director, I help coordinate the programs that we offer to the public. I maintain relations with Gonzaga University, mainly the Religious Studies Department, but also through the International Studies Department, because we have students from other countries who come through our program. I also more or less manage the assets … the business end of the Ministry Institute.”

“The mission of the Institute has changed over the years,” said Greene. Jesuit Father Armand Nigro started the Institute in 1981, and is still involved with the program. “His focus has always been on trying to find adult men who are discerning for the priesthood and giving them the steps to reach that goal,” said Greene. “So we do that, also.

Although the Ministry Institute once had a strong emphasis on lay ministry, “in the sense that graduate students in the Religious Studies Department had certain prerequisites that they had to take through the Ministry Institute,” he said, “that has since gone away because of changes” in the depart-ment’s curriculum. “So now we actually look for students and participants on our own. We still coordinate things through the Religious Studies Department, but we find our participants on our own.”

Program offerings already are diverse – “we do sabbaticals, we do religious retreats” – but work continues to expand the Institute’s offerings. “We’re trying to come up with programs for the lay people, things like continuing education on spirituality, Scripture, and so forth, so they can operate effectively in dioceses and parishes,” he said.

“The church is in need of leaders, whether lay, ordained, or vowed,” said Greene. “We’re trying to provide people with the kinds of training and education they need to meet the church’s needs in that regard.”


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