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From Conciliaria: Back to the Future (of the Liturgy)

Reposted from Conciliaria

The Future of the Liturgy:
Liturgical Week to open at Seattle World’s Fair tonight

Original publication, 20 August 1962, by Seminarian Michael G. Ryan

From Seattle, a report on the upcoming National Liturgical Week by Michael G. Ryan, a seminarian at St. Thomas Seminary in Kenmore, Wash.

This is an exciting time to be in Seattle. I never imagined that our city would host a World’s Fair, but now the “Space Needle,” as they are calling it, rises at the foot of Queen Anne Hill, and the sprawling modern buildings of Century 21 have taken the place of the quiet neighborhood where my dad once taught me to drive. For Catholics, it is an especially exciting time, since Seattle will also be hosting the National Liturgical Week from August 20 to 23 at the World’s Fair Arena.

The Century 21 exhibits are all about the future—there are displays about Sputnik, space exploration and new inventions (including telephones with push-button pads instead of dials – amazing!). But good as these inventions are, we know that this endless advancement is not the purpose of life. Our Archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic Northwest Progress, reports:

We Christians are not indifferent to these works of human genius. We too are thrilled to find ourselves now at the very threshold of untold new worlds. But in all this we must be reminded again that our eternal hope lies still not in any works of man’s doing, but in the ageless Victory of the Risen Christ: in the triumph of Life over death.

We live always in the “last days,” preparing for no other future than the Coming of Our Lord and the lasting triumph of His Kingdom. These truths, which are the constant theme of the liturgy throughout the year, will be developed in the major talks of this Liturgical Week and will be applied to our practical Christian living. (April 13, 1962)

It is fitting, then, that the theme chosen for Seattle’s Liturgical Week is “Thy Kingdom Come: Christian Hope in the Modern World.”

What is a Liturgical Week?

The first Liturgical Week, sponsored by the National Liturgical Conference, was held in 1940, in a room in the basement of Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. It was attended by just a handful of people, mainly priests. But these days, it is clear that the Liturgical Movement is not just a fad or a trend, nor is it only for priests. Pope Pius XII, and his successor, our beloved Pope John XXIII, have embraced the Liturgical Movement as the work of the Church itself. Last year’s Liturgical Week in Oklahoma City drew about 5,000 people–priests, religious, and laity–who came together to pray together and to learn more about the Church’s worship and to explore displays, listen to lectures, view demonstrations and art exhibits, and even take part in a contest for the best church design. This year’s Liturgical Week in Seattle is expected to be the largest yet, with as many as 6,000 participants. The added attraction of the World’s Fair, and the excitement about the forthcoming Ecumenical Council, both have something to do with the surge of interest in the Liturgical Week.

Feverish Preparations Underway

All of us seminarians are glad the Liturgical Week is happening in August, because it means we are free to join in these exciting events. Most of us are helping out in some capacity or other, as it will take hundreds of volunteers to pull together this three-day event. There are dozens of drivers to bring special guests to and from the events. Others are forming a typing pool during the conference. About a hundred men and women will join in a National Choir. And then dozens of volunteers are needed as ushers and greeters at all the events.

A young Michael Ryan helps at the info booth at the 1962 Liturgical Week

I have been assigned to host some of the guest priests in the mornings, and then to help at the information desk at the Arena in the afternoons. One of my seminarian classmates and I will be responsible for preparing for the priests’ morning Masses at the temporary altars which will be set up in lower level of the Mayflower Hotel downtown. It should be pretty exciting for us to serve the Masses of these liturgical luminaries whose names we have seen on the covers of books, but whom we never dreamed we would meet in person: Father Frederick McManus, the President of the Liturgical Conference, Father Gerard Sloyan of the Catholic University of America, and Father Godfrey Diekmann, OSB, from St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, to name just a few.

Arranging facilities for Masses has occupied much of the energies of the organizers, since about 300 priests will be participating in the Liturgical Week and each of them needs an altar to celebrate his Mass each morning. About 100 of them will be saying their Masses at St. James Cathedral, where in addition to the Cathedral’s altars, temporary altars have been set up in the Cathedral Hall. There are also about 28 prelates in attendance, and Father James Mallahan, the Seattle priest in charge of local arrangements, has had the large task of borrowing 28 prie-dieus from neighboring parishes and chapels, and returning them again when the Liturgical Week is over.

It all begins tonight, with Mass at 5:00 p.m., celebrated by Father Fred McManus. It will be in Latin, of course, but there is a lot of talking and dreaming about a vernacular liturgy among the members of the Conference – even though one of our seminary professors told us recently that such a thing would never happen in our lifetime.

A first for Seattle, and most people present: Mass in the ancient form, facing the altar and the people.

But there will be one very noticeable change at the Conference Masses in the Arena: through a special indult from Rome, all of them will be celebrated facing the people! I wonder what that will be like. I’m especially wondering what it will be like at the concluding Mass when Archbishop Connolly is scheduled to be the celebrant. I’m not sure he is completely favorable to all the latest liturgical developments (which are really not new at all but far more ancient than what we have grown up with), but I suspect he’ll be a good sport and do his best. One thing is for certain: like the Space Needle and the other exhibits of the World’s Fair, the Liturgical Week promises to give us a glimpse of the future. It’s one I can’t wait to see!

Back to the future: The Very Rev. Michael G. Ryan is pastor of St. James Cathedral, Seattle.


Look West, Young Church!

For the last several decades, the US Catholic Church has been demographically shifting from the 19th century bulwarks of New England and the upper Midwest, to the South and the West.

That does not mean that fact is quickly grasped by individuals or institutions. At one national conference I attended annually for nearly a decade, it was clear that the organizers thought of it as a nation-wide event. Yet, in its 45+ year history, only two had been held in the Northwest, both in the ‘80s; fewer than ¼ of the meetings had been held in the western half of the U.S.

Or consider that of nine cardinalatial sees in the U.S., seven are east of the Mississippi. And one of those that is west of the mighty river, Galveston-Houston, is so close as to still be part of the eastern half of the mainland U.S.

This is not as bad as the need to redraw diocesan boundaries in Ireland, which have been unchanged for just over 900 years, yet it is still slow… But, I digress…

Recent moves indicate that Seattle is making its mark felt again on the national, and international, ecclesiastical scene. Not since the days of Archbishop Hunthausen has the Church in Western Washington captured attention much beyond its own boundaries.

Fast-forward a quarter of a century, and for the most part Seattle had dropped off the radar, but not gone silent. Just in the years since Archbishop Murphy took over from Archbishop Hunthausen, the Catholic population has nearly tripled due to immigration – now there are as many Spanish-speaking Catholics in western Washington as there were total Catholics 15 years ago.  Bishop George of Helena, Bishop Joseph of Yakima, and Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio have all been ordained from the local presbyterate, the first such ordinations in nearly half a century.

The reputation of being on the cutting edge of lay involvement and creative pastoral ministry solutions, social justice and ecumenical commitment has slipped in recent decades, both among those who cheer the change and those who lament it. My age-peers in the presbyterate are as likely to be interested in the traditionalist movement and the extraordinary form as their peers anywhere else in the country, and some of the most well known Catholic voices to have come out of the Seattle milieu – author George Weigel and blogger Mark Shea – are not known for their particularly progressive mien.

Consider, though a few highlights of the last few years that suggest that there is attention shifting back towards the Emerald City and her local Church – both Catholic and Ecumenical. Some of these are newsworthy enough to get attention here, across the atlantic, so they certainly say something is happening. Significantly, you cannot pigeonhole all of these into “progressive” or “conservative” success stories, but nevertheless indicate that, perhaps, Seattle is on the radar again.

Very Rev. Michael G. Ryan

By now virtually everyone knows some part of the liturgy wars saga. Most people do not know it all; I certainly make no claim to such comprehensive view of the last fifty years of liturgical reform, renewal, development, reform of the reform and rejection of reform.

To recap the most recent, let us say that the updated translation everyone was waiting on was ready and fully approved by episcopal conferences around the globe in 1999. It then got delayed as a new Prefect of the congregation for divine worship rewrote the guidelines for liturgical translation, and the entire process was started anew with new rules and much controversy – and it was done quickly. After only a decade, the implementation was looming.

Enter the Very Reverend Michael G. Ryan, pastor of the Cathedral parish of St. James, where he has served as quite possibly the city’s most popular Catholic pastor since 1988. In December 2009 he penned an article for America asking the question, “What if we just said, ‘wait’?” , and launched a website gathering signatures and comments. In short order over 23,000 people signed – and a counter movement was launched. “We’ve waited long enough!”  collected just over 5,000 signatures and practically launched the blogging notoriety of “Fr. Z” and his (proudly) rubricist blog, What Does the Prayer Really Say?… and it all started with the quintessential Seattle presbyter, Fr. Michael.

Just the other day I was at the retirement party for the superior general of one of the religious orders, and conversation turned to Fr. Ryan’s stand and his recent article, “What’s Next?” Naturally, the group included supporters and critics alike, but several who were neither from the west coast or the U.S. at all – this is news throughout the Anglophone world.

In the three years since, coterminous with my time in Rome, there have been other indicators. Some smaller – like the meeting of the National Catholic Melkite Convention there in summer 2010 and the scheduling of the upcoming conference of the Society for Pentecostal Studies. Some have a bigger profile, like the June 2011 meeting of the USCCB in Bellevue.

Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon

In terms of ecumenism and lay ministry, there have been some exciting personnel moves:

In Summer 2011, Dr. Michael Reid Trice was hired at Seattle University as the associate dean of the School of Theology and Ministry. Michael and I have known each other for several years, and he is one of the most active young ecumenists in the country, having served since the age of 35 as the associate director of the ELCA’s ecumenical and interreligious office.

Shortly thereafter, it was announced that Dr. Rick McChord was retiring after 25 years in the USCCB office for laity, marriage and family – and picking up a consulting contract with Seattle-based (and Domer-founded) Reid Group, which specializes in leadership development, strategic planning and mediation for religious groups.

The latest came in April while i was in Assisi, with the retirement of Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon as General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, and his own move to a three-year contract at Seattle University, starting this fall.

Finally, the biggest spotlight to hit Seattle in recent years, ecclesially speaking, is the appointment of the relatively new metropolitan, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, to lead the five-year overhaul of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Striking every note of consultation, careful listening, and collaboration a person in his position possibly could during the press conference and interviews later with John Allen  in Rome, it seems like the best has been made of an unpleasant situation.

These are exciting times to be in the church-world in Seattle. Almost a pity I am in Rome!

Most Rev. J. Peter Sartain

The Pig War, or, The War of Canadian Aggression

In the Lay Centre this year, we have students representing 16 countries, and this means representatives of countries or of nations that have had a history of conflict.

Currently, for example, we have students from Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia – the Balkan wars of the late 1990’s marked almost exactly the years of my high school education. All three were children during the time, old enough to remember the experiences of war.

Since 1979, before the birth of our representative residents, Egypt and Israel have had a peace treaty. Before that, however, there were a series of conflicts starting with the founding of the state of Israel, and notably including the Yom Kippur War and the Six Day War.

In the late 1940’s, immediately following World War II, Indonesia fought for independence from the Dutch Empire. We have in the house the grandson of a Dutch military officer and the grandniece of Indonesian freedom fighters that fought in the same battles during the revolution.

What people have not realized, we discovered last week over lunch, is an even older history of conflict between two other countries represented in the house this year: The United States of America, and the only country to have successfully sacked the U.S. Capital since our Independence, Canada.

[Warning, remainder of post includes tongue-in-cheek humour].

That’s right, Canada. Granted, during the War of 1812, some consider it to be a continuation of the Revolution and really that it was still England we were fighting, as our northern neighbors were still a colony. However, in my part of the country, we know who the real threat is was. This is owed, in no small part, to the victory we celebrate today, 25 November.

Today in 1872, in what is now Washington State, the Canadian occupation was ended, its forces cast out, and the U.S. could finally declare victory against the only enemy against which we have ever lost. At anything.*

For, it was on this day 139 years ago that the last contingent of [Canadian] Royal Marines withdrew from San Juan Island, ending the incident known to history as the Pig War.

At least, that is the popular name. I prefer “War of Northern Aggression” for obvious reasons. However, as that name was stolen by Confederate sympathizers for the U.S. Civil War of the same era, we will stick to the popular one.

And, fair enough, I suppose, as it commemorates the lone causality of the war, a Canadian-owned pig shot and killed by an American settler (the Canadians would say, squatter) on 15 June 1859. From that single incident, to the end of August, the military build-up on the island lead to a force of 461 American soldiers with 14 field canons and 8 naval guns facing off against three Canadian naval warships with 62 total naval canons and a complement of Royal Marines experienced in amphibious assault.

If you want the details, go to the National Park Service page on San Juan Island.

The bottom line is, however, that after years of joint military control under tense powder-keg conditions which might have ignited the entire continent in a conflagration that could have set off World War I half a century early, the Canadians were finally forced to withdraw after Kaiser Wilhelm I, serving as an international arbiter, ruled in favor of the U.S. Today is a day to celebrate the end of Canadian colonialism in the Pacific Northwest, and it is appropriate that this year it is celebrated the day after Thanksgiving.

In the spirit of dialogue and the famous hospitality of the Lay Centre, however, I ask my housemates to remember that we do not hold our Canadian community member responsible for the actions of her forebears; I and the other U.S. residents want to take the time today to offer her our forgiveness and graciously extend the hand of friendship.

Go America! Beat Canada!

* Not counting Cuba, North Korea, Viet Nâm, the War against Drugs, the Taliban, Wall Street Capitalism, etc.

Cascade Covenant Church

I had reason when I was home last summer [2011] to visit Cascade Covenant Church, a short walk from my mother’s house, where she, though a lifelong Catholic, helps with the Snoqualmie Valley’s only Sunday school for children with special needs. The pastor’s wife is also a colleague of hers in special education at the public schools, and they worked together to develop the ministry.

Given how little encounter with, and regularly innacurate assumptions about, Protestants and protestant worship that many of my Catholic colleagues have in Rome, especially regarding the small denominations and the nondenominational movements, it was interesting to reflect on a few of the liturgical and pastoral or administrative aspects of this community.

Many Catholic parishes are named for a patron saint. Cascade Covenant has instead a patronal verse:

“I have come to give you life – life in all its fullness.” -John 10:10

The elements, if not the order, of worship should be quite familiar for the liturgically oriented:

  • Worship music
  • Opening prayer by the music leader/associate pastor
  • More music
  • Announcements (with a video clip)
  • Communion
    •  Served from three tables with bread, juice, and water.
  • Preaching in breakout sessions
    • Digging into the Bible
    • Understanding the Facts of Christianity (apologetics)
    • Spiritual Formation 101: Reflections on authentic growth and transformation
    • A Time for Prayer

The music included not only popular Christian worship songs, but also the Sanctus and the Gloria. During Communion, people processed up to the tables, and were invited to use the water to bless themselves in some way, such as a sign of the cross on the forehead, in remembrance of their baptisms.

The community was celebrating baptisms later that day, and was the cause for this additional element at the communion table. While describing Baptism, it was referred to as a sacrament, but not as conversion which is said to be separate. Baptism was a sign of new life in Christ, and would take place at the river that afternoon.

Instead of a single sermon or homily, people were invited into breakout sessions for preaching, and from these concluded separately. I got the impression this was an experimental approach being used over the summer to see how it worked.

Compared to many Catholic churches, both ancient and modern, the facility was better suited to the many needs of a parish community. They had a fireside room/library ideal for a medium group of adults, a multipurpose worship center, classrooms and meeting rooms that were used by Sunday school and others. There were classrooms for all ages from preschool to adult, including space for a dedicated program to children with special needs, and it was clear these could be used for a day school program, but not dominated by it.

A welcome center described on the front of the bulletin invited people to receive a free gift, arrange to meet one on one with one of the pastoral staff. There was also additional ministry information, and several of the staff were circulating regularly through both of their morning services.  It was clear throughout that there was a great emphasis on mission and service to the greater community, both local and international.

On the negative side, though, the sanctuary was really a multipurpose room that could easily have served as a banquet hall or conference room as it could a worship space. The center of focus seemed to be the band, rather than altar or pulpit – just a modernized version of churches dominated by the old pipe organs. Despite being in an ideal location, they had not made use of the spectacular view of the local mountain with large windows, which may have been structurally necessary, but was aesthetically disappointing.

The annual budget for the parish was $800,000. The pastoral staff included a Lead Pastor, an Associate Pastor/Worship Director, a Welcoming Ministry Leader, Children’s Ministry Director, and Ministry Leaders for High School, Middle School, Elementary, and Pre-K. Support staff included a Facilities Director and an Administrative Assistant.

Cascade Covenant is part of a communion called the Evangelical Covenant Church, founded in 1885 by Swedish Lutheran immigrants, and now has 800 congregations in the United States and reports 180,000 Sunday worshipers (but only 125,000 members!). This makes their average parish congregation one with 225 people on Sunday, and just over 150 of which are members. The denominational headquarters are in Chicago, IL.

By comparison, the Catholic Church in the U.S. has about 68 million members in 18,992 parishes, of whom about 31 million attend Sunday liturgies. This makes the average parish congregation one with 1640 worshippers on Sunday, but about 3580 members.

The parish tagline was “No Perfect People Allowed! Come as you are and grow in new ways!” with a motto or theme of “Fully Alive”.

The Evangelical Covenant Church describes itself as

  • Evangelical, but not exclusive
  • Biblical, but not doctrinaire
  • Traditional, but not rigid
  • Congregational, but not independent

Salomè Holly, In Memoriam

It has been 12 years, but sometimes, like today, I feel the loss as if it were yesterday: On 6 March 1999, my friend Salomè Holly was murdered, along with her mother and sister, by her step-father of five months, Dayva Cross. I spent the day on a road trip from Indiana to Florida with three friends for spring break, and had meant to call Salomè the night before – but decided I would send a postcard from Orlando after I arrived. I found out later, too, that she had already bought me a card for my 21st birthday the following week, which was found in her room.

My friends (Brian, Jesús and Miguel) and the university, particularly in the person of my rector Fr. Tom Doyle, were of immense help in getting me home by the end of the week so I could participate in her memorial service, which was held the weekend of my birthday. When I returned to Indiana, Jesus drove 2 ½ hours to pick me up at the Indianapolis airport, and then drove me back two hours to the Notre Dame campus, where a group of nearly 20 friends were waiting in a surprise birthday/consolation ‘party’ – I do not know if any of them realized how much all of that meant to me.

Salomè and I were in the band together, but we really started talking when we found ourselves in line next to each other during Homecoming my senior – her freshman – year. She had come alone, and my date had wandered off to be with friends (in truth, I would have wandered off on me too; I was even more socially awkward back then and probably not a very interesting date!). Later, I meant to ask her to prom, but was prevented by three considerations: our prom was scheduled during the Easter Vigil; I had no money; and, I figured, as a newly accepted seminarian for the archdiocese, my priority should be the Vigil. Over the next three years, I would come home from college and we would talk religion and politics until wee hours, playing Risk or solving the world’s problems with other friends; one summer we helped on the congressional campaign of a neighbor whose campaign manager was one of these friends. Sometimes, we would be up until dawn, her and me, just talking.

Before Salomè, I had lost grandparents and other relatives to old age, I had had friends killed in car accidents, known people to die of cancer, and a boss who died from complications of MS. By the time I was 21, I had known 21 people – friends, relatives, and acquaintances – who had died, and I had been to more funerals than weddings. Each was a loss, and were some more tragic than others: one friend since fourth grade, Rob, was killed in a construction accident five weeks after we graduated high school, expecting a child with his girlfriend. I gave his funeral sermon.

To lose someone to murder is something else entirely; it hits you in a way unlike other losses of life. (At least, in terms of the ‘how’ of the loss. As to someone loosing a child or spouse, i can only imagine these likewise hold their own unique pain). Especially, I think, since there seemed no rationale, no excuse of robbery-gone-awry or to silence someone-who-knew-too-much, just the actions of a depressed drug addict with an unstable personality. A friend at ND, Adrian, let me know I was not crazy in feeling this way, having experienced the same thing himself – all the consolation of friends who meant well was accepted in kind, but none knew how different a thing it was to lose a friend to murder than to another kind of death, except him. I probably never let him know how much I appreciated that.

At no point did I support the death penalty for Dayva Cross. He tried to commit suicide just after his arrest; he wanted to die, but denying him his wish was not my only motivation for objecting to it. My faith would not allow it. I do not mean the rules of my church, though its clear and consistent pro-life teaching does not allow for capital punishment (despite widespread dissent on this issue), but I mean my faith in God and his role as judge over our lives. I also mean that everyone deserves the time they need to truly face what they have done, atone and repent – we can neither deprive them of that more excruciating punishment nor of that opportunity for redemption by taking their life in response. More urgently, though, I think I knew instinctively that if I held on to the anger at him, it would do more damage to me than his execution could heal. He still sits on death row in the Walla Walla State Penitentiary, one of eight awaiting execution by lethal injection or by hanging (we are one of only two states with that option).

I know I can still talk with Salomè, though it is not the same; I know she listens and perhaps intercedes on my behalf from time to time. My belief in the communion of saints also means I will see her again, and indeed, the one request I have of the Lord of Life is that when I meet my death, I can be there to greet her when she meets hers.

Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

For that which is corruptible must clothe itself with incorruptibility, and that which is mortal must clothe itself with immortality. And when this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then the word that is written shall come about:

“Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

1 Corinthians 15.51-55

Archbishop-elect adiaphora

While looking for more information on Seattle’s new Metropolitan Archbishop, I came across a couple of interesting asides.

According to his introductory remarks yesterday, Bishop Sartain only got the call from the nuncio just a week before the announcement here and yesterday’s short-notice welcome liturgy. As I said, as late as Tuesday some key (lay) leadership in the diocese were still unaware of the pending announcement, and at least as late as Monday most priests of the diocese were likewise unaware. Pretty remarkable then that so many were able to gather for the welcome liturgy on Thursday, which our Cathedral staff documented nicely here.

The other interesting aside was the official announcement on Vatican Information Service, which seemed to make the archdiocese much larger than i thought it was. I cross-checked the diocesan statistics, and found a couple of discrepancies.  Below is the blurb from VIS

VATICAN CITY, 16 SEP 2010 (VIS) – The Holy Father appointed Bishop James Peter Sartain of Joliet in Illinois, U.S.A., as metropolitan archbishop of Seattle (area 64,269, population 5,141,000, Catholics 964,000, priests 313, permanent deacons 104, religious 551), U.S.A. The archbishop-elect was born in Memphis, U.S.A. in 1952, he was ordained a priest in 1978 and consecrated a bishop in 2000. He succeeds Archbishop Alexander J. Brunett, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit

VIS has the total population of the archdiocese at 964,000 – nearly double the archdiocesan statistic of 577,400. Instead of 313 priests, our statistics indicate a total of 290. Though when you add up the constituent numbers indicated by the diocese, you get another number entirely, 322. (131 active diocesan; 63 retired, ‘absent’, or active elsewhere; 96 religious; 32 externs). 100 deacons instead of 104, not so far off. Only 486 religious (men and women), though, instead of 551 – and it is not clear if the priest-religious are counted here as well.

One of my long-standing pet peeves is that you will note neither includes a statistic on lay ecclesial ministers, though a few years ago Archbishop Brunett commissioned a study in the archdiocese that indicated over 800, which does not include Catholic school teachers. Five years after the publication of the USCCB’s guideline document Co-Workers in the Vineyard, and more than fifty years after the first modern lay ecclesial ministers began service in the U.S., it is hard to believe that we are so well hidden that we cannot be counted!

New Archbishop for Seattle

Bishop J. Peter Sartain of Joliet

Since coming home for the summer, the rumors have been flying. Meeting over coffee or a local microbrew with pastors, curial staff, and local ecumenical leadership over the last several weeks, the two consistent questions have, “So, what is it like living in Rome?” and, “Who do you think the new archbishop will be? Have you heard any rumors over there?” A month ago, even the current AB was asking me the same questions, and not in that order.

This morning’s announcement came to me by text while I slept, out of town and disconnected from the internet. To be honest, it was also a bit of a surprise. So far, all I know about J. Peter Sartain is what I have read online (now that I have found a connection) and unsurprisingly the writer with the most to say about it is Rocco Palmo at Whispers in the Loggia.

Even as recently as Tuesday, folk here were still in the dark. Archbishop Brunnett had been out of town for his brother’s funeral, and though we have been anticipating the announcement shortly after Bishop Cupich’s Sept 3 installation in Spokane, Sartain’s name never seemed to be on anyone’s list. The favorites have been bishops like George Thomas, Gerald Kicanas, and, until the incident with the hospital administrator, Thomas Olmstead.  Blase Cupich had been among them until tapped for Spokane.

Sartain is a native of Memphis, and has served as bishop of Little Rock, AR, and Joliet, IL. The hope for either a native Washingtonian or at least someone from west of the Rockies is again delayed, but most see the South and the Midwest as a better starting point than the East Coast (which, from here, starts at the Mississippi) considering the vast ecclesial and cultural differences at work.

Though the Hunthausen years started before I was born and ended with the Cold War, the memory of the Visitation and the pain it brought for the most involved Catholics in Seattle at the time is still strong. There are a lot who, not without reason, fear that the perspective remained in Rome that Seattle needs to be “reined in” – from what, though, would be a disputed question. (There is something for a future post!)

We are church in one of the most unchurched regions in the country. The fear of being run through the ringer again is felt even outside the Catholic community. One of the alternative weeklies, The Stranger, ran an article on their Slog yesterday asking, “Will Seattle’s Next Archbishop Be an Anti-Gay Doctrinal Conservative?” That should say something about the challenges our new bishop will face. The question is, as another blogger put it, how to be true to the faith without effectively becoming “Attila the Hun”, real or perceived.

At the same time, between new generations growing up without these memories and significant numbers of immigrants from out of state and out of the country, other concerns weigh as heavily.

For more than a generation, the number of lay ecclesial ministers have outnumbered priests in parishes, and the diaconate is now equal in number to the diocesan presbyterate and growing, while the later relies heavily on help from religious communities and foreign externs.  Many are asking what the archbishop-elect’s experience is with creative ecclesial leadership.

More than thirty languages are used in the celebration of the Eucharist on a weekly basis, and nearly half the population of the archdiocese is Spanish-speaking. So is Bishop Sartain, apparently.

Seattle-area Christians have a long and strong history of ecumenical cooperation, though it has been more focused on social justice advocacy than on intentional ecumenism, ie the goal of Christian unity. Being religious in an overwhelmingly non-religious environment, interreligious dialogue is critical. At the same time, and indeed as an integral partner with dialogue, evangelization both “old” and “new” is a high priority.

Like anywhere in the U.S., we have a polarized church, with some groups of priests unwilling to even talk to others, the parishioners falling prey to the hyper-dichotomized political situation and bringing it into the pews. There have been situations where the pastoral staff of a parish, theologically educated and ecumenically involved, comes under fire from the lay leadership which is more likely formed by EWTN and pop apologists (or vice versa).

I once had a parishioner approach me, grateful for my presence as pastoral associate in the parish because, she said, “all the other parish staff in this deanery are pro-choice, and it is nice to have a pro-life person in charge!” Knowing most of my ministry peers, it was difficult to see how anyone could read them that way, but it is indicative of the tensions and mistrust in too many situations. Another time, a school parent and faith formation commission member told me they had a great pastor, but that the staff undermined his prophetic, orthodox teaching – unaware, apparently, that the pastor had hired each one of the staff to be collaborators with him in ministry to the parish, and fully supported their ministry. A third example came at the first meeting of a JustFaith group, when a parishoner introduced herself as “probably not belonging here, since [she] was a Republican” – as if Catholic Social Teaching depends on one’s political views!

It will be an interesting time for our Archbishop-elect, and I look forward to hearing more from and about him. As I learn more, I will share it! Please keep him, me, and all the People of God in Western Washington in your prayers!

Summer in the Great Northwest


Hiking through Lynn Canyon Park in B.C.

School starts today for most of the schools around here, and the rest already have or are about to. During my last round of higher education, back around the turn of the millennium, the academic year ran from the last week of August to the first week of May. Now, in Rome, classes begin October 11 and final exams end June 30 or so. For the first time then, my summer break falls entirely and almost exclusively through summer (June 21-Sept 23). It is the best time of year to be in the Northwest, and to be out of Rome! Of course, the wind and rain of the last 36 hours has been more indicative of October than of August, but still, it is comfortable!

Mount Ranier, the Salish Sea, and a great Blue Heron, taken with my phone

For those who have been on thesis-watch since ’02, the only news I have to report is that with my move to the Angelicum, the M.A. thesis is no longer needed and some of the material will be transferred to the S.T.L. thesis which I will be writing this year. The general topic will remain on the diaconate and ecumenism, but a little more broadly than the previous iteration. This will lead into my eventual doctoral dissertation that will deal with the realities of ecumenical reception in the formation of pastoral ministers and/or and exploration of the non-sacerdotal ministries (ie, deacons, lay ecclesial ministers, et al.) in the ecumenical dialogues.

A path through the dunes, Ocean Shores, WA

Basically, in keeping with my hopeless advocacy for the ecclesial underdog, I want to know why most seminaries and other formation programs have failed to implement the Vatican’s required ecumenical formation – both intentional and integrative -, and to look into the ministries that everyone else seems to ignore – everything but bishop and presbyter/pastor – for their ecumenical opportunities.

Vancouver, British Columbia, seen from Stanley Park (credit Julie Fritsch)

In addition to the Introduction to Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue I taught for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, I have taught a couple of courses on Eucharistic theology and practice for the Archdiocese of Seattle’s Liturgy Ministries Institute, and am consulting with a couple parishes on catechetical programs and parish consultative leadership. Other than that, most of my time has been spent with family and with friends. My two year-old nephew has been especially dangerous for my sense of time – yesterday I stopped by about lunch time, and left after dinner barely noticing those hours spent playing dinosaur, cars, and “shoot the daddy!”

Nancy, while on a ferry through the San Juan Islands

After The Netherlands and New Orleans, my summer travels have been much closer to home, with a few trips to Vancouver, B.C., a trip to the San Juan Islands, and time spent down in the Olympia area and the beaches. (For those who have never been to a Washington beach, you just need to know three colors: sky-gray, sea-gray, and sand-gray. Any other color on the beach is man-made.)

I return to Rome in three weeks, and the normal updates will commence with a little more on the ecclesial and ecumenical developments of the Eternal City than just the travelogue, but plenty of both, most likely. Have a blessed last few weeks of summer, and for those already back in school, buona study!

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