In Your Midst

FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN ENRICH ST. JAMES

Spring 2002

If I were to single out the most dramatic change that has occurred during the years I have been at St. James, it would be a toss-up between the Cathedral renovation and the unprecedented growth in the number of families with children who have made the Cathedral their home. Both are having a marked influence on the life of our parish.

Father Michael G. Ryan

I have a number of opportunities to speak to parishioners about the renovation — most notably, whenever I give a tour of the Cathedral, so in the space allotted here I thought I would speak to you about the return of families with children to St. James.

In the Cathedral’s earlier days, First Hill abounded with large families, and the Cathedral School, built in 1912, was teeming with children from the surrounding neighborhood. By the early 1970’s, however, the demographics of the area had changed significantly. Family homes were torn down one after another to accommodate multi-residential apartment buildings and condominiums, resulting in only a handful of families with children remaining in the parish. A small handful, at that!

In This Issue:

When I arrived here in the late 1980’s, the enrollment in our religious education program (held on Tuesday afternoons, not Sunday mornings) hovered around 11 children — on a good day. When Marianne Coté took over the program and moved it to Sunday mornings, things began to change for the better rather quickly. Children began to come out of nowhere, or so it seemed. The completion of the Cathedral renovation in 1994 put the change into high gear. It wasn’t long before the classrooms were overflowing with children in numbers reminiscent of the glory days of the old Cathedral School. The difference, of course, was that the children were no longer coming from the First Hill neighborhood, but from over 75 postal zip codes in the Puget Sound area.

This year the enrollment in our Sunday morning Religious Education Program has risen to 166. I think you will agree that’s quite a jump in a few short years!

Responding to that rapid increase has been a challenge. To help in the response, Paula Evitts joined our religious education team this past fall. With the assistance of Marianne Coté, Paula has increased the number of Sunday school teachers and worked hard to provide training and support for them as they go about their highly important work. Classroom space continues to present a challenge, which we as a parish will have to address in the coming months and years. Meanwhile, I find myself rejoicing and giving thanks to God for bringing all this new life into our parish.

In support of these new efforts, and in response to the Parish Vision Statement of 2000, a task force on youth and family issues meets regularly in order to lay plans for our future. Thanks to their work and the participation of a number of interested and involved families, we are on the verge of beginning some exciting new programs that will reach out to involve the young families of the parish.

And there is yet another notable development in this area: the dramatic increase of Cathedral children who are now attending Catholic schools. In another article in this issue, one of the Rainbow Schools, St. George’s, is profiled. St. George is one of five Catholic schools in the city which St. James Cathedral parish helps to support financially. This past year, thanks to the generosity of our parishioners, some $180,000 in subsidy was provided to the Rainbow Schools, helping them to stay afloat financially, and making it possible for many of our Cathedral children to receive a Catholic education. Believe it or not, this year there are 60 Cathedral parish children attending one of the Rainbow Schools, many of them receiving financial aid from our recently established scholarship endowment fund. Those 60 children are in addition to the 166 children in our Sunday school program.

That’s quite a leap from the 11 children I first met when I arrived here. For me, personally, it is a great sign of hope. For us as a parish it represents a serious challenge, which we must continue to find ways to meet. If our past is any indication — and I believe it is — the future can only be promising.

Father Michael G. Ryan
Cathedral Pastor


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