In Your Midst


Summer 2001

In This Issue:
For many years, two St. James Cathedral families have given their time as altar servers at the Sunday morning Mass at 8:00 a.m. Five of the six children of Robert and Ada Rassilyer are the early bird and steadfast servers along with Philip J. Sheridan, Jr.

At 19, Renee is the eldest of the Rassilyer clan and attends Seattle University. Then comes Angela, 16, a junior at Seattle Prep; her brother, Bryce, 15, a freshman at Seattle Prep; and Brigitte, 13, and Brianna, 12, who both attend Villa Academy. The youngest is Blake, 8, a second grader at the Villa. Since he made his First Holy Communion this spring, he is now old enough to join the others as an altar server. Renee began serving when she was 9 years old and as the next siblings became of age, they each would join her.

Besides serving together, the Rassilyers are great swimmers. They are on school swim teams and participate in an all-city summer league. And if you can imagine things ever being dull in their Beacon Hill home, picture them jamming with Renee and Brigitte on flute, Angela and Brianne on clarinet, and Bryce on saxophone. They say they don’t really torture each other like that, but it could happen. Blake hasn’t decided what musical instrument he would like to play yet, but he is a whiz at chess.

Renee said the family doesn’t go on summer vacations together. “We’re a big family and my folks are focused on all the school and college tuitions, but we have gone to the CYO camps. Camp Hamilton is the favorite this summer and we’ve been to Camp Don Bosco and Camp Gallagher. We all like going to camp.”

St. James has long played an important role in their parents’ lives. Bob and Ada first came to Mass here as young adults and this is where they met. Bob used to sit behind then Ada Wai Ling Fung. Soon they were talking to each other after Mass and began dating. A most romantic celebration was their wedding in the Cathedral on May 23rd, 1981. The children have celebrated the sacraments of Baptism, First Reconciliation, and First Communion in the Cathedral. Renee and Angela have celebrated the sacrament of Confirmation.

Phil Sheridan says the Rassilyer family, from Renee to Brianne, are “the best.” Phil qualifies as an expert since he began serving at St. James 34 years ago when he was in the second grade. Phil said his early career began with the instructions, “to watch for a year” before he actually served at Mass. Phil’s parents, Phil and Lucille Sheridan, are still St. James parishioners. Phil Jr. attended the Cathedral Grade School until he was in the fifth grade, at which time the school closed. Now Phil Jr. and his wife, Brenda (who were married here on May 24, 1986) bring their son, Phil III to the Cathedral. The youngest Sheridan is in the second grade at St. George’s School. His father says it is up to him as to whether or not he will join his Dad on the altar.

Phil said that it “just sort of happened” that he kept on being an altar server as a young adult. “They were so short-handed after the Cathedral School closed and only boys could serve then. So I just stayed on. It is just a part of what I do every Sunday.”

Two of the “St. James Regulars” have ties to the Cathedral that date back to groundbreaking ceremonies in 1905. These two sisters, Frances and Mary Beth Kelly, are familiar faces at daily Mass, Sunday and at many of the concerts. When asked if they would be interviewed for “In Your Midst” they at first said no, but with some encouragement from the Pastor, Frances wrote the following:

“You may have noticed Frances and Mary Beth Kelly in your midst at the 10:00 AM Mass on Sunday mornings. They feel very close to the Cathedral. Their great-grandmother, Mary Booth, worshiped there in the very early 1900s (she died in 1914). There is a window in her memory above the Terry Avenue entrance. It has the letters A and M for Ave Maria. Their grandmother, Bertha Booth Fairbairn, also attended Mass at the Cathedral in the early days and their mother, Elizabeth Fairbairn Kelly, played the Cathedral organ on occasion for the children’s choir. She died in 1986 at the age of 96, and was buried from St. James Cathedral. Their aunt, Alice Fairbairn, who played the violin in the St. Rose Academy children’s orchestra at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Cathedral in 1905, died in 1992 at the age of 100 and was also buried from the Cathedral.

“Frances played the organ at Immaculate Conception Church for more than 30 years and later at St. Patrick’s Church. In recent years she has entertained residents of nursing homes with her piano music. Mary Beth loves music but her main interest is art, having worked in watercolor and oil.

“Both Frances and Mary Beth are Cathedral seniors. They belong to the Nightwatch Ministry and make sandwiches for the homeless once a month. They are happy to be a part of St. James, their favorite church in the entire world. They are especially grateful to Father Ryan and all the staff, the holy liturgy and the incredibly beautiful music and all who make it possible. Deo Gratias!

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

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