There is much going on in our local Archdiocese today, and hopefully this is also true in all of our parishes. But, in the face of all this activity we must always ask: “How is this serving the mission of the Church”? because the Church exists for mission.
To answer that question, one must first know what the mission is! To preach Jesus Christ.
One of the greatest blessings of my life is the Lord has sent me to preach his Gospel, and in places well beyond what was familiar to me. New places and faces have found their way into my heart, and have become my ‘home’ in service of Christ and his Church.
Saturday and Sunday provided opportunity to participate in several different activities and travel to numerous communities of faith.
Saturday I participated in the morning session of a Care For Creation conference at Seattle University which had around 100 participants. It was encouraging to see so many taking seriously the call of Pope Francis in his Encyclical Laudato Si to do a better job of caring for our Common Home and each other. Above is a photo of some young women who were a part of a group discussion of ways we can make a difference and sharing what motivates them in their lives. I must admit, their ‘language’ tells me I’m getting old! But, I’m still engaged!
From Seattle I made my way to Monroe to celebrate the 5:00 Vigil Mass with Fr. Phil Bloom at St. Mary of the Valley. I generally try to arrive well in advance of start times in order to relax a bit from the drive and have an opportunity to visit a little and make sure everyone is comfortable with their respective duties.
There was a nice crowd gathered for our celebration and as always it was enjoyable to visit with parishioners after Mass. Following those numerous conversations, Fr Phil treated me to a nice Italian dinner at a local restaurant which gave us an opportunity to get to know each other better. Fr. Phil celebrated 50 years as a priest last year!
These are the moments I feel most like a pastor. It is so good to resume the tour of this Archdiocese which I am still getting to know after being here nearly three years.
After dinner I continued the journey further north to Arlington where I spent the night with Fr. Tyler Johnson at Immaculate Conception church. Fr. Tyler is recently ordained, now in his third year of priesthood. We also had a nice visit before calling it a day.
Sunday morning we arose, spent some time in prayer, visited some more and enjoyed a nice breakfast (Fr. Tyler is a pretty good cook!) and then he gave me a brief tour of the parish property. I really enjoy hearing some of the history of our many parishes.
Parishioners began arriving for 9:00 Mass, and we had a full house for the celebration. One thing I find, is no matter the size of a parish and the number of parishioners, God provides all that is necessary to carry on the mission. We just need to do all we can to recognize the gifts of our people and call them forth to serve others.
I’m happy to report that since Ash Wednesday, pastors are reporting that many people have begun returning to Mass. One pastor told me recently that their parish is now close to pre-COVID mass attendance, which is a great development!
As we looked over the church, I noticed the stations of the cross and asked if they came from the original church? I was amazed to learn they are brand new! And, more impressive, were created by an artist in the Ukraine, and were shipped to the parish just before the war broke out. The stations were hung on Ash Wednesday. They are quite lovely! Of course, these beautiful works of art remind me also of the many treasures of culture and of human life being destroyed by another senseless war. Keep those prayers coming!
After Mass, I had time to make a 20 minute drive to visit our most senior priest, Fr. Bill Treacy who will celebrate his 103rd birthday the end of May! I always enjoy these visits with our senior priests, listening to their stories and sharing some of my own. After offering a prayer, I had another unplanned moment to visit another neighboring ‘senior priest’, Fr. James Dalton, who happened to be visiting Fr. Treacy when I stopped. Fr. Dalton showed me his home and offered some hospitality before I needed to get on the road to the next engagement of the weekend tour.
Next and final stop was Immaculate Conception parish in Mt. Vernon for a Listening Session with a group of parishioners participating in the Universal Synodal Process. In this particular grouping we had representatives from the Hispanic and Native communities, as well as parishioners from five local parishes.
I am truly impressed and inspired by the willingness of people to share from their own faith journey. There is also a great humility and vulnerability demonstrated when they share also of the hurts they or their communities still carry from things that happened generations ago. In all of the sharing there is also an expression of a deep love for the Church, and of great hopes for our future.
These listening sessions are a clear demonstration that the Church exists for mission, and a resolve in many of those who make up the Body of Christ, the Church, that this mission continue through us, in our time, as we seek to bring the presence of Christ closer to more and more people of our day.
Keep the faith everyone!