St. Francis Xavier Church, Toledo, Washington. Oldest parish in the Archdiocese of Seattle – established 1838

After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconic and to Antioch. They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” They appointed presbyters for them in each Church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith. Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalid. From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now accomplished.  (Acts 14:19-28)

Deacon Richard Wallace, Fr. Vinner Raj, HGN, +PDE at St. Mary, Seaview (photo courtesy of Lloyd Thomure)

The above reading from the Acts of the Apostles gives a glimpse of the life of the early church, and especially of the manner in which the first apostles carried out the commission given them by Jesus to go into the world to proclaim the gospel. Today, this mission continues in and through those who are now successors to the apostles and in the life of those who make up the Body of Christ, the Church. 

In the Archdiocese of Seattle, the places have new names, and in the last twelve days or so, I have travelled well over a 1,000 miles to “strengthen the spirits of the disciples” of this local church, and to confer the Holy Spirit on a new generation of disciples through the sacrament of Confirmation; from Lynden, to Vancouver, Bellingham to Seaview, Bremerton to Burlington, Ridgefield to Toledo, Vashon Island to Seattle and many places in between. This is pretty much the life of every bishop through the Easter season, as the Risen Christ continues to breath new life into every believer through the sacraments of the Church.

I am so grateful to those who continue to keep the faith alive, and it is such a joy to celebrate the sacraments with you!

May Crowning, St. Mary, Seaview. (photo courtesy of Lloyd Thomure)

An additional grace in this Easter Season is the opportunity to renew our devotion to the Blessed Mother, Mary during the month of May. I was fortunate this weekend to be present in two parishes where they held the traditional May crowning of Mary, and many of the women and children of the parishes placed roses near the statue of Mary. I encourage all of us to take time each day to pray a rosary this month.

Mary who alone is sinless, continually leads closer to her Son, Jesus all those who call upon her. Through her intercession we ‘open space’ for the Lord to continue his saving work in the world and the lives of those who are most in need of his grace and mercy. Let us seek this beneficial assistance of our Mother this month, and always!

For those who are familiar with the Archdiocese of Seattle, you know the amount of travel involved in this itinerary of the past several days. I told someone recently that I have a sense of what life is like for the soccer moms who have their ‘day job’ and then chase the kids all evening long! I must say, I am always touched by the many people who approach me after these celebrations to share briefly something personal, and ask for a prayer and or a blessing. Life is not easy, and is particularly difficult for some, and it is good to see you know where to go with your burden – to the Lord – in faith, trust and hope.

Confirmation at St. Mary of Guadalupe, Ridgefield. (photo courtesy of Bernedette Engerran)

I have a few common thoughts I share at every Confirmation. First, I tell the candidates that I am proud of them for receiving this sacrament. I also encourage them and challenge them that the church needs them – to be generous in sharing the gifts given by the Holy Spirit – which as St. Paul tells us are given for some benefit. (1 Corinthians 12:7) Every Christian is to model the life of Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve, by making a generous gift of our life in service to others. 

We are to be credible witnesses to Christ in the world, and we do this by putting the Gospel into concrete action. Our goal is to carry Christ into the world by finding and serving Christ in others, and leading them to Christ. 

Of course, for all of that to be possible, the first necessary step for each of us is a strong relationship with Christ. There is no more privileged means of encountering Christ than through the Church – not so much as an institution – but being an active member of a life-giving community of faith, which we call the People of God. Christ dwells among us and takes up his dwelling within us through the Eucharist and every Sacrament. Every encounter we have with God’s Word is also a moment in which Christ’s living Word dwells richly within us. 

One of the favorite Gospel passages chosen for many of our Confirmation celebrations is from John’s Gospel: “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) We are quick to say we love Jesus, and we need to be equally prepared to live by his Word, and we do this by putting that Word into action each and every day. 

One thing each bishop of this Archdiocese will tell you is that as we travel around the Archdiocese celebrating Confirmations, it is impressive to see the vast majority of those receiving the Sacrament are from our Hispanic community. We are blessed by the faith of the Latinos and their presence in so many of our parishes. At the same time, many of our pastors are reporting that the number of those returning to Mass since COVID is growing. While we are still not at pre-pandemic numbers, we are seeing a nice bump. While there is much to be grateful for, we still have a great task ahead to encourage the many Catholics who have fallen away from an active practice of their faith, to invite them to return and be renewed in the life of the Risen Christ.

All-priest meeting at St. Thomas Catholic Church, on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 in Tukwila,Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear)

One final note has to do with our Partners in the Gospel initiative. Wednesday last week, all our priests and parish life coordinators gathered to receive information about our present state of planning and to give their input. It was a very productive day of prayer and sharing information. I ask that you continue to please keep this initiative in your prayers, and stay tuned for ongoing updates. You can find the latest information in the link at the top of this paragraph.