In Your Midst
The Pew Next to You
July 2006

       Meet the "Second Pew Crew" at the Sunday 10 o'clock Mass

Some members of the "Second Pew Crew."  From nearest to furthest:  Jack Southall,
Rose Southall, Breege Elkington, Rosanne Warriner, Lee Bedard, and Scott Webster.
Not pictured are Madeleine Betz, Dianne Mardon, and Margaret Callahan.

    Since 1997 The Pew Next To You has profiled some of your fellow parishioners, a little bit of their backgrounds and some of what they do in and out of the Cathedral. This time, the focus is on the occupants of a single pew at the 10 o’clock Sunday Mass— the second pew on the south side of the west nave (sometimes spilling over to the front pew).

    The seats are not reserved, of course, so the parishioners who regularly sit there come early. Some call it the Second Row Gang, others the Second Row or the Second Pew Crew. The perennials are Rose and Jack Southall, Breege Elkington, Margaret Callahan, Lee Bedard, Rosanne Warriner, Scott Webster, Dianne Mardon and Madeleine Betz. (But rest assured that when visitors come and join them, they are welcomed, instantly included in the interaction before Mass and invited to join the regulars at coffee hour!)

    The occupants have become good friends and extended their time together beyond Sundays. Rosanne describes their conversations as ranging from the mundane to the illuminating but always leaving you wanting to meet again.

    This convergence of kindred spirits developed on its own. Margaret Callahan and Rose and Jack were the first in the bunch and they were soon joined by Breege. Breege, of the lilting Irish accent, was born in Ireland and studied nursing in London. She and her husband Graham came to Seattle for his position as an aeronautical engineer at Boeing. Breege was on the Group Health Hospital nursing staff for many years. Several years ago, she participated in the Welcome Back program for returning Catholics. Later, at a Sunday Mass, she recognized Rose and Jack as fellow members of the same health club and began to sit with them on Sundays.

    Rosanne and Lee also came to St. James through the Welcome Back program. Lee likes to tell the story about her first Sunday at St. James. Lee was then editor of the Federal Way News. She was raised a Catholic but had chosen another path in college. She came to Seattle from the East Coast by way of California and a few other stops along the way. St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral was the first church she attended in Seattle, and she had attended there for several years when she decided to check out the Catholic Church to see if it was different from her college days. The Sunday liturgy was beyond her expectations and Lee accepted Father Ryan’s invitation for visitors to come to the hall for coffee, muffins and to meet others. Ann Jackson, an Emmaus Companion, greeted Lee and asked if she had any questions. Lee said, “I’m new at St. James, I’m a journalist and I need to know what goes on here.” Ann led Lee to the table full of parishioners from the Second Row. For the rest of the story, ask Lee.

    Scott Webster had known Lee when he was a member at St. Mark’s Cathedral. Raised a Methodist, Scott became an Episcopalian and was very active at St. Mark’s. Yet he was still searching and found himself coming to St. James. Wanting to learn more about the Catholic Church, Scott entered the RCIA program. Lee was his sponsor but he really had seven sponsors—the entire second pew! During the time Scott was in RCIA, Lee suggested that she and Scott alternate Sundays between the RCIA seats in the east nave and the second row in the west. When he could join the group at the coffee hours, they would ask about his progress, answer any questions and share some of their own thoughts and feelings about being Catholic. They invited him into their homes. As Scott said, “These wonderful people welcomed me into their lives and to their church. It was quite overwhelming and heartfelt.”

    The friendships deepened during the coffee hours and as a group they began having brunches in their homes and holiday parties. They discovered how many other connections they had in common, besides their faith. Boeing, for example: Rose and Jack are retirees and Breege via Graham is a member of the Boeing family. The three would meet at the company gym. Seattle University: Jack is a regent and active alum; Margaret has been active over the years with special events and development, and it is where Rosanne completed a master’s degree.
They also share a love for music: the cathedral’s own organ and choir concerts, the children’s choirs singing Readings and Carols in Advent and the pre-Lenten Great Music for Great Cathedrals extravaganza.

    They also encounter each other at the Seattle Symphony and at Seattle Opera performances. In fact, the opera provided a special reason to gather and call “bravo!” for one of their own. Scott’s day job at Catholic Community Services as coordinator for operations, development and communications, still leaves him time to be a supernumerary in the opera productions. (In his former life in advertising, Scott also was an actor in films and TV.)

    After an absence of a few years, Dianne has moved back to Seattle and returned to St. James. She enjoys the companionship of the group. As an avid traveler, she especially enjoys comparing notes on recent trips.

    Madeleine Betz is the group’s snowbird. Most snowbirds go south of Seattle during the winter months. Madeleine, however, goes north! She has attended St. James for over 30 years while also attending Sacred Heart Cathedral in Fairbanks for 35 years. She is in Fairbanks at present and will soon be closing her home there and making St. James her full-time parish.

    It’s not too surprising that these parishioners are active in many ministries at St. James. Rose has been a member of the Development Committee for many years and its chair the past four years. Other members are Eucharistic ministers, readers, ushers, and volunteer for the Winter Shelter, Family Kitchen, Welcome Back, RCIA, and hospitality.

    And they also gather to offer advice and support when needed. In September, Rosanne and her husband Pete are going on their own to Prague, Budapest, Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia. Rose and Jack had been there and helped them figure on rail connections between the different stops. They even stopped in at Rick Steves’s Travel in Edmonds, found some maps and had them ready for Rosanne the next Sunday!
More importantly, the group is there for each other in times of need. They came to a Memorial Mass for Rose’s mother. And when Rose was still with Boeing, she was transferred to Chicago when the headquarters were moved. At that time Rose and Jack commuted back and forth for almost a year. So when Rose was away, the rest of the pew would check in weekly to make sure Jack was OK.

    More recently, when Breege was injured in a car accident, she knew she had their prayers and concern. What was most unexpected was the feast they created and brought to her Mercer Island home while she was convalescing. Breege was deeply touched by their concern.

Joan McDonell is a longtime Cathedral parishioner and a daily volunteer in the parish office.

Back to the July 2006 Issue of In Your Midst