As the clock winds down before departing for Rome, there are a number of activities I wish to share with you. 

Welcome Circles Reception at Chancery, on Tuesday, September 19, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear)

Perhaps one of the most exciting ministries presently underway is something we call Welcome Circles. After the war broke out in Ukraine, there was a tremendous need to receive refugees who were fleeing their homeland. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) quickly set up a program known as Welcome Circles, and asked Arch/Dioceses around the country to participate. Our Immigrant and Refugee Ministry works with parishes to form Welcome Circles to live out our call to welcome the stranger by sponsoring refugees and immigrants. 

Each Welcome Circle commits to supporting their sponsored family or individual with help finding housing, jobs, enrolling kids in school and adults in English classes, signing up for federal and state benefits, enrolling in healthcare, connecting with local cultural and faith communities, orientation to life in the U.S., and more. Most importantly, we offer a warm welcome, friendship and safety to those who come.

In the Archdiocese, we have over 22 welcome circles, 12 of which have received families.  Holy Family in Kirkland was the first Welcome Circle formed in the country, and they welcomed their family last September. In addition to welcoming refugees from Ukraine, the program includes those from Nicaragua, Haiti, Russia and Venezuela. 

I was so inspired visiting with the parishioners who are providing this beautiful ministry, which Includes about 150 people actively volunteering and offering support. They are a witness to living the Gospel! It was also an absolute joy to visit with some of the families we have received.

Youth and Young Adult prayer gathering at St. James Cathedral, on Friday, September 22, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear)

Friday evening, I joined a group of 50 to 60 young adults for a Taize Prayer Service in the Cathedral. We modeled the service similarly to the ecumenical prayer service which will be held in St. Peter’s Square in Rome next Saturday to  initiate the Synod.

After prayer, we moved to the parish hall for a meal and concluded our evening with an opportunity to break into small groups and prayerfully reflect upon their hopes for the future of our Church. We followed the process of reflecting on a Scripture passage, followed by silence, and reflection upon a question. We then listened as each person in the small group shared what they had to offer. After a bit more silence, we each offered what we heard, and concluded by sharing where we felt the Holy Spirit was speaking. I was impressed with their faith and honest sharing of their experience of and hopes for the Church.

Saturday morning I drove to our Retreat Center in Federal Way to spend a brief moment with those who are beginning the next round of formation for ecclesial lay ministry, which we call Christifidelis. I believe we have 15 people who have begun this theological and pastoral formation. I wanted to personally thank and encourage them, and express my strong support for them. We need more of the lay faithful to consider a life of service in the Church as ministers in our parishes and schools. Please pray for these men and women, and pray whether God is calling you to a life of service in the Church as a lay ecclesial minister!

Saturday evening I had the great pleasure of celebrating Mass for the Synod at the Cathedral. I knew when I was appointed a delegate to the Synod, that one of the things I wanted to do before departing for Rome was celebrate a Mass in the cathedral. These past weeks have been an experience of intensified prayer, to deepen my sense of unity with the Lord, as well as to be as open and free as possible to allow the Holy Spirit to speak and work within my heart. As desired, the Mass Saturday was evening was a beautiful and powerful experience of ‘the Church at prayer’ in the Eucharist. You will find the video for the Mass below. You will find the homily beginning at 29:25 in video.

Please keep all of our synod delegates in prayer through the month of October!

This morning I joined the parishioners at Sacred Heart Parish in Lacey to celebrate their 100th anniversary! The church was packed, and we had a beautiful celebration of Eucharist, followed by lots of visiting and good food. Congratulations to Fr. Tim Ilgen and all the parishioners of Sacred Heart!

Finally, this weekend we begin the public portion of Partners in the Gospel. As we take this next stage of public input regarding our archdiocesan-wide parish reorganization, I wish to assure all our parishioners and pastoral leaders of my prayers. I know this is not easy, but it is necessary. We will continue to move forward as a people of faith, with hope and confidence in the Lord who abides with us. May he fill each of you with his grace and peace as we embrace this next stage of our pilgrimage of faith together. I am deeply grateful for all our pastoral leaders who are walking with their parish families in this process. 

Many thanks to Stephen Brashear for all the photos!