In Your Midst


Summer 2000

In This Issue:
St. James Cathedral has always been a part of Patricia Baillargeon’s life. Not only was she baptized here, but in addition, her grandfathers were members of the founding committee that built the Cathedral under Bishop Edward J. O’Dea. But for many years Pat’s studies and her career in international affairs took her to far distant parts of the world.

One period of her career stands out as a most memorable experience. From 1953 to 1960, Pat was the assistant to Eleanor Roosevelt when Mrs. Roosevelt was chairman of the board of governors at the American Association for the United Nations. Pat had been a member of the Seattle chapter of the AAUN and attended the annual conference in Washington, D. C. In her ensuing contact with that office, Pat was offered a six-week position in the New York office. The six weeks developed into seven years.

Mrs. Roosevelt had been appointed by President Harry Truman to be a delegate to the first United Nations sessions in 1946. The UN’s Declaration of Human Rights is largely her work and she chaired the first-ever Presidential Commission for the Status of Women in 1961. Mrs. Roosevelt left the UN delegation in 1952 before becoming a full-time volunteer for the AAUN.

The New York office space shared by Mrs. Roosevelt and Pat was quite small, with two desks pushed together. Mrs. Roosevelt softened the harshness of the room by adding two large English prints and a couch from Hyde Park.

At first the staff felt shy, but Mrs. Roosevelt’s down-to-earth quality and her “let’s get on with our work” attitude created a cohesive and friendly atmosphere. Pat met and listened to many of the world’s leaders in that office and when she accompanied Mrs. Roosevelt in travels around the world and at Val-Kill, her residence in Hyde Park. The names read like history: Presidents Truman, Kennedy and Nixon, Adlai Stevenson, Rosa Parks, Nehru and Dag Hammarskjold — to mention a very few.

Pat marveled at Mrs. Roosevelt’s endurance, composure and compassion. This woman, in her early seventies, maintained a full schedule of appointments, lectures and interviews, and a commitment to visit each state and numerous college campuses for the AAUN.

When traveling, Pat would handle the travel arrangements. Mrs. Roosevelt carried a huge purse and a bag full of books and manuscripts to review. All the time Pat was with Mrs. Roosevelt, she wrote her My Day column. She started the column in 1935 and continued writing until shortly before her death in 1962. When Pat returned to Seattle in 1960, she continued her interest in international trade. She was the director of the World Trade Center department at the Port of Seattle and co-organized the first trade mission from Washington State to China after President Nixon opened trade there. Pat continues as a consultant on international trade and art, specializing in Northwest art. She is a founding board member of Pilchuck Glass School, and is on the board of the Burke Museum of History and Industry. At St. James, Pat was on the Arts & Furnishing Committee for the 1994 Renovation of the Cathedral. She has also been an overnight volunteer for the Winter Shelter and provides sandwiches for St. Martin de Porres Shelter. In addition, Pat volunteers at the desk for the Westlake, a permanent housing facility for men, and has written grants for The Wintonia, a Catholic Community Service permanent housing facility.

Don’t they shine!” is the definitive statement Marie Therese Collette makes as she describes the chairs and pews that she and Susan Church, clean, dust and polish each week in St. James Cathedral. The two are quite a team, also replacing the hymn books that wander and restocking and straightening the weekly envelopes and informational cards in the pew racks.

Marie Therese and Susan have decided the 1100 seats in the Cathedral are their personal responsibility. Marie Therese is here every Wednesday and Friday and Susan is here on Fridays. Theirs has been a self-appointed ministry for years. They almost have an engineer’s approach to their task as they have sectioned off the Cathedral in areas to clean at a certain time on a certain day so all parts of the Cathedral are ready for the 5:30 PM Vigil Mass on Saturdays.

Marie Therese has always found her family in the Catholic Church. Born at Providence Hospital, Marie Therese was orphaned at an early age. Family friends took care of her and many of her teachers and mentors were sisters of the Holy Names and Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart (Cabrini Sisters). She worked for many years in the Food Services at Columbus/Cabrini Hospital until it closed. Even there she dedicated her free time to cleaning and polishing the pews in the small hospital chapel.

Susan came to Seattle from New York. “I always want to be near my sister and that’s why I am here,” she said. “We first went to Butte, Montana and then moved here.”

Susan lives in West Seattle and helps out at Holy Family Church on Saturdays and Sundays. Part of the week Susan spends with a friend confined to a health care facility on Queen Anne. She loves to paint and when Susan can work it in, she takes lessons in watercolors.

“Don’t they shine,” Marie Therese reminded me.

Joan McDonell is a St. James Cathedral parishioner, a member of the Development Committee and a retired Seattle Times editor.

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