In his Letter to the Philippians, St. Paul says: “I hold you in my heart, you who are all partners with me in grace”. This expresses well my own sentiments as a bishop and pastor, and the ongoing mission of the Church to be in close contact with our people.
While much of my life and ministry is an exercise of governance, as a pastor I am continually searching for moments to be with the people, to better know you and accompany you in faith. In a world where the pace of change is so rapid there are inevitable impacts upon our family and parish life, our work and our faith, and it can be very unsettling, and yes, also exciting.
Just this past week, there were many opportunities to be with a variety of people in numerous settings, each presenting moments to understand the present reality as well as creatively think about how to advance the mission of the Church in new and creative ways.
Monday I had another school visit with our new Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Mr. Nicholas Ford. We had an informative tour of St. George Catholic School in South Seattle with Fr. Scott Connolly, Pastor and Ms. Monica Wingard, Principal.
I am always impressed by the level of dedication found in our Catholic School administrators and teachers. Monica and many of the teachers have been working in one Catholic School or another for the vast majority of their education ministry. Particularly unique at this school is the number of alums who are now back in one capacity or another.
The rest of the day Monday I joined a good group of priests, along with both of our auxiliary bishops for a wide-ranging discussion of how we can expand and improve our vocations ministry. All-in-all I believe about 15 priests gathered for this discussion, led by our Vocations Director, Fr. Justin Ryan.
Tuesday was a unique day visiting with several priests. When I first became Archbishop of Seattle, I shared my mobile phone number and personal email with all our priests, assuring them that whenever they needed to visit, they would have no trouble reaching me. Just about any and every document the Church has about the ministry of a bishop speaks about the importance of caring for and ministering to brother priests. Please pray for your priests, because they too are in need of our love and support. As one family of God, we are all in this together.
One of the more interesting visits Tuesday was with Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk, (left) from St. Nicholas Chicago Eparchy of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and Fr. Andrii Oliinyk (right) who is the new pastor of Our Lady of Zarvanycia Ukranian Greek Catholic Church in Seattle.
They shared with me the latest news from their faith community and family in the Ukraine who are living through the horror of war. One of them told me that “every day is like 9/11 in the Ukraine.” We also spoke about newly arriving refugee families and how we can help them with their many needs. Beyond material assistance, I assured them of our prayers.
For me, there is always more to learn about this very large and diverse Catholic family. Fr. Andrii is working on an opportunity for me to make a pastoral visit to his parish. And for those of you who are curious, yes, the Ukrainian Catholics are in communion with Rome.
Thursday we held the first of three gatherings for priests to come together for some fraternity, prayer, and a meal. Fr. Dave Mulholland gave an excellent talk about the importance for priests to stay centered in prayer and growing regularly in our own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We need time to be intentional in strengthening our priestly relationships with one another, and to do so in the context of prayer. After lunch and the talk, we spent an hour in Eucharistic Adoration, then some time for small group discussions before everyone heading back home. It was also nice that several chancery staff members were able to be present for the meal that we can help forge good relationships on that level also.
I was scheduled to end the day by joining another group of priests for an evening gathering and meal, but Interstate 5 congestion derailed that plan!
To close out the week, last night I installed Fr. Michael Dion as Pastor of St. Michael in Snohomish. These are such great moments of celebration, not only for the new pastor, but for all the parishioners. After Mass a great number of parishioners stuck around for a nice reception. These are also important moments to build relationships and strengthen the bonds of faith that knit us into a cohesive family of God.
Fr. Michael invited me to stay for dinner, which I did. Meals provide comfortable settings for meaningful conversation, and this was something Jesus knew well! That is why our life as Church flows from the Eucharistic banquet!
See you at church!
Speaking of which, I’m off to the retreat center to celebrate Mass for about 70 people. One more opportunity to gather with individuals who are so supportive of our seminarians. So good to be able to renew these important relationships!0