In Your Midst

The Pew Next to You

August 2008

Meet Laura McLaughlin and Ray Phillips & family

Laura McLaughlin

When you meet Laura McLaughlin, in the Cathedral or in one of her volunteer roles, her reassuring presence and smile let you know that help is on the way.  Laura’s schedule changes frequently so she doesn’t attend the same Mass on Sundays or have one pew she favors. According to Laura, “All the liturgies are life-giving and each pew or chair works!”
Over the years Laura has volunteered as a Cabrini minister and Emmaus Companion and worked with Sister Anne Herkenrath on forming the St. James Grief Ministry. She has spent many Sunday mornings assisting at the coffee hours after Masses.

Laura and her husband Tom first came to St. James Cathedral in the late 1970s when their eldest sons were attending O’Dea High School. The family had come to Seattle in 1969 from Annapolis, Maryland. Tom was the deputy regional director of HEW and was sent here to establish that office in Seattle.  Tom also served on the Issaquah School Board for 11 years. Laura and Tom had met in college in Michigan and were married at the National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, Michigan. Their children are Tom Jr., Laurie Evans, Michael, John Paul and Kathleen. Tom and Laurie live in Vancouver, Washington, Michael in New York City, John Paul here in Seattle and Kathleen in Portland.
Laura’s husband Tom died in 1995 and Father Ryan presided at his funeral Mass on June 24 of that year. Laura recalls how important Father Ryan and St. James were to her and her family during the months of her husband’s illness and the final farewells, spirit lifting and life giving.

Over the years, Laura has gone beyond volunteering. When friends needed more assistance Laura would stay with them in their homes.  For quite awhile, she has spent the weekends with a friend who should not be alone.

This month, Laura left the family home in Renton where she has lived for 37 years, to move in with longtime friend Mary Healy on East Hill in Kent. The two met through Cabrini Ministry Training, a program for lay ministers.  Laura had completed the program in 1993 and Mary began in 1995. They were paired together and became more than team partners; soon they were fast friends.

Laura cites her sister-in-law for prompting her to dedicate herself to caring for others. When her own mother was dying back in Michigan, Laura could not go and take care of her. She was so grateful that her sister-in-law could.  Laura wanted to follow her example.

Laura said she has prayed for several years as to where she would move: should she go to Vancouver, where her daughter Laurie and son Tom live, or stay here?  Her parish community played a role in Laura’s answer to that question.  “St. James is the reason. There is so much here. I feel so blessed to be here, I could not leave.”


According to Ray Phillips, the ushers at the Sunday Noon Mass are almost one extended family. “They are my church family,” is how Ray describes them. According to Ray, his wife, Floramie’s father, Ramone LaMadrid, is the head of the clan. Ramone came to Seattle from the Philippines in 1971.  The story he tells his family is that the first time he came to St. James, the sacristan said “Hi.”  Ramone was so delighted at this greeting in his new country that he responded by saying, “Do you need some help?”  Ramone began his first Sunday as an usher and has rarely missed since.

A year later, Ramone’s wife Florentina and their young daughters, Roselyn, Floramie and Marife joined him. Their youngest, Marvin, was born in Seattle on December 26, 1977 and baptized at St. James. Soon, Florentina joined Ramone as an usher and they continue to usher together today.

Several of the other Cathedral ushers were from the Philippines and they became a close-knit group, helping each other and their families in their new country. Floramie says that she and her siblings considered the others as aunts and uncles, with the Sunday Noon Mass a focal point for their family. Their friendships continue beyond Sundays with lots of advice, loving care and concern. As the families grew, the wives and children would help as ushers including Floramie and her sisters.

Ramone and Florentina’s daughter Floramie met Ray Phillips when both were students at Rainier Beach High School. They were married not long after graduation, on June 3, 1989 by Father Ryan. By then Ray was already helping his father-in-law at the Sunday noon Mass. As Ray and Floramie’s family grew, their sons, Ryan, 18, Justin, 14, and Marcus, 11, also got involved in ushering. Ryan is most always there on Sunday and Justin is scheduled for every First Sunday Youth Celebration.  Marcus and Floramie now serve as “back-ups.” Ray, who was raised in the Lutheran tradition, completed the RCIA process and was formally received into the Catholic Church in 2004.

To be an usher at St. James appears to be a simple task, but appearances are deceiving. More than 75 parishioners volunteer as ushers at the five weekend liturgies, with 24 ushers at the 10 am Mass and 23 at Noon. With Patrick Martin and Anna Horton, Ray is one of three head ushers who not only help coordinate the usher ministry on a weekly basis, but also recruit and train new ushers.  (If you’re interested in joining this ministry of welcome, talk to Patrick, Anna, or Ray!)  Through this important ministry, the LaMadrids, the Phillips, and many other ushers do more than hand out bulletins and take up the collection.  Week after week, they welcome visitors and regulars alike in the name of Christ, extending to all who come to the Cathedral the warm welcome Ramone received when he first arrived at St. James so many years ago.

—Joan McDonell is a Marriage Tribunal Advocate and a regular volunteer at the Parish Office.

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