In Your Midst
The Cathedral Ministry Conference
March 2006

In January 2006, St. James Cathedral was privileged to host
a national conference of cathedral pastors and staff
from around the country

    From January 16 to 19, 2006, St. James Cathedral was privileged to host the fifth biennial Cathedral Ministry Conference. For ten years this unique organization has brought together pastors and staff from Roman Catholic Cathedrals all over the country to connect with each other, be renewed in ministry, and explore the unique role and responsibility of a cathedral church. Those who minister in our nation’s cathedrals, whether small or large, depressed or flourishing, all agree that there’s something special about a cathedral. While much of the work we do happens in every parish, cathedrals have a special call to be centers and models not only for the diocesan or archdiocesan church, but for the wider community.

Above, Participants in the Cathedral Ministry Conference enjoy a tour of the spectacular Seattle Public Library.
Below, Bishop Donald Trautman fields questions following his keynote address.

    The four previous conferences had all been held in wonderfully warm, sunny climates—Orlando, San Antonio, New Orleans, Los Angeles. The conference planners took a big risk in choosing Seattle for the 2006 conference. They knew that though Seattle couldn’t offer its visitors sunshine or warm breezes, what we could offer was an example of a vibrantly alive Cathedral whose liturgy, outreach, arts, and educational programs have acquired a national reputation.

    The planning for the conference began in May 2004. A group of twelve cathedral pastors and lay ministers from cathedrals across the country (Father Ryan among them) gathered in Seattle for a series of intense brainstorming sessions. The group proposed potential keynote speakers, workshop topics and presenters, and a conference schedule. They also selected the Renaissance Seattle Hotel as the site of the conference, very conveniently located just four blocks from St. James.

    One unique aspect of the Seattle conference was the intense involvement of our Cathedral staff. The conference planners knew that the conference attendees wanted to experience the vibrant life of this one-of-a-kind Cathedral parish. They asked that one entire block of workshops be presented by St. James’ pastoral staff, something that had never happened at previous conferences. So our Cathedral staff worked hard planning and drafting their presentations on topics ranging from developing partnerships in ministry, to welcoming returning Catholics, celebrating the Sacred Triduum, developing a youth music program, and more.

    Registration for the conference went beyond expectations, with nearly 200 cathedral pastors and staff (some from as far away as Trinidad and Tobago!) representing more than 80 cathedral churches. The conference began Monday, January 16, with tours of St. James Cathedral throughout the day. The first formal event was evening prayer with music from Taizé, followed by an opening reception at the Renaissance Seattle Hotel.

    On Tuesday work got underway in earnest. The day began with Morning Prayer at St. James, sung by the children of the Schola Cantorum. This was followed by a workshop presentation from Father Ryan on St. James Cathedral as a place of worship, with a special focus on the renovation of 1994. Back at the hotel, we heard the first of three keynote addresses, from New York Times religion editor Peter Steinfels, author of the bestselling A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America. Steinfels’ address, entitled, “The Cathedral in the Post-Modern World: Forty Years after Gaudium et Spes,” evaluated this great document of the Second Vatican Council, which, he said, “did not win its reputation as culmination and key to Vatican II because of theological argument about texts but by popular acclamation—the way that saints were once proclaimed. It was not acclaimed because of its detailed prescriptions… but because of the images of a church of solidarity, service, and dialogue… a church recognizing a world in which astounding good could be intimately interwoven with appalling evil.”

    On Tuesday afternoon came two series of workshops, the first presented by members of St. James’ pastoral staff, the second on a variety of subjects, including RCIA, development, renovations, and marriage policies. In the evening, Archbishop Brunett presided at Mass with the conference participants and several hundred Cathedral parishioners.

    On Wednesday the keynote address was from Eric Stoltz, a permanent deacon from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles—who is also a professional web designer! He has written for national publications on the subject of the Church and modern technology. He spoke about the possibilities for evangelization and ministry offered by the internet: “Taking a variation on a modern catchphrase, when offered this technology, What would Paul do? Or what would Ignatius of Antioch do, or what would Matteo Ricci do? Teresa of Avila, Dominic, Francis, Dorothy Day?” He concluded: “Let’s reclaim our Christian heritage of innovation. Today can be our day. We can set out into the deep in every diocese, finding creative ways to tell the world the Good News of him who says, See, I make all things new.”

    After a third and final series of workshops, conference participants had an afternoon off to explore the city. Some visited the Museum of Flight. Others chose an Architectural Tour of the city, which took them from the Seattle Public Library, to the luminous Ignatius Chapel at Seattle University, to the Experience Music Project and Space Needle at the Seattle Center. Another group volunteered at the Catholic Worker Family Kitchen at Cathedral Hall. In the evening, St. James Cathedral resident ensembles Opus 7 and Seattle Pro Musica presented a sacred music concert in the Cathedral.

    The conference concluded on Thursday morning with a wonderful address from Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pennsylvania, chair of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy. Bishop Trautman spoke on the role of the assembly in the Cathedral church. “Revitalize the cathedral assembly, energize them, empower them and they will respond,” Bishop Trautman said. “St. John Chrysostom said: Great indeed is the power of the church in her liturgical assemblies. That power will spill out beyond the cathedral doors and evangelize and produce works of charity. When you have a dynamic faith community, people from outside the cathedral boundaries will want to be part of the excitement, part of the life-giving community. Look at the pastoral success of St. James Cathedral Parish, here in Seattle, which has brought new life to the inner city.” It’s little wonder that Bishop Trautman received a standing ovation.

    The reviews conference participants wrote at the end of the week were overwhelmingly positive. “It was a very fruitful experience for me. I really appreciated the networking in a positive atmosphere.”

    “What an incredible space and staff St. James Cathedral has! I feel this must be a unique situation—all the work is appreciated here. Thanks for the huge effort! Right after Christmas!”

    “I thoroughly enjoyed this conference. The staff and assisting parishioners of St. James Cathedral were models of courtesy and hospitality--many thanks to them!”

    “I really enjoyed the whole conference and felt that I learned something and made some friends.”

    “What a wonderful, hospitable environment created by the St James staff. Your organizing efforts went a long way toward making us feel welcome, and that all was in readiness. Thank you!”

    “It has been a hope of mine to visit Seattle's St. James Cathedral after hearing about it, the renovation, and the liturgies at other conferences. Am so glad to have been able to come. Thank you for the hard work, prayer, and all.”

    “I'm glad you decided to stay with the Seattle experience. Yes, it was rainy, cloudy, etc., but the people and exchange of ideas took it over the top. Thank you for another valuable conference.”

    In 2008, it’s back to a warm climate and sunny skies—the Cathedral of St. Augustine in St. Augustine, Florida.

Maria Laughlin is the Office Manager at St. James Cathedral.
Explore conference workshops, keynotes, and more at the Cathedral Ministry website.

Back to the March 2006 Issue of In Your Midst