In Your Midst

The Pew Next to You

Lent 2010

Five Cathedral Love Stories

Angela Arralde and Rob Millar: Rob grew up Catholic, but after high school was never “a real, practicing Catholic.”  He’d come to the Cathedral off and on, and one day, for no particular reason, he picked up a Welcome Back card out of the pew.  “I went through Welcome Back with Rosanne Michaels.  It was a really great group of people.  At the end, she asked us, ‘So what are you going to do?’  I decided to try the Winter Shelter.  There I met Jijo Jose, who it turned out was president of the St. Vincent de Paul Conference and got me involved there.”

Angela, meanwhile, had been volunteering for St. Vincent de Paul for several years.  But joining the Cathedral Choir and working in the Winter Shelter meant she’d been inactive for a while.  One summer a couple of years ago, she decided it was time to get involved again, and she was paired with Rob to make visits.

It was a good match from the start. They each remember one particular visit.  They had got to know each other pretty well, but had not yet started dating.  And they went together to visit a woman who had called St. Vincent de Paul for help with a new mattress.  “We went to her apartment,” Rob remembers.  “She was very friendly, but a little bit out there.”

Angela says:  “She told us she’d been watching us—on the closed-circuit TV!  She stopped and looked at me, and said, ‘You a fine-looking woman.’  Then she looked at Rob.  ‘You two together?’ she asked.  We both tried to steer the conversation back to St. Vincent de Paul business, but it did get us thinking.

“She got her mattress, and my sister told that story at our wedding reception!”

Angela and Rob were married on January 16, 2010, and the wedding is still a bit of a blur.  For Angela, the music was a highlight.  “Before the ceremony, we were all gathered in the west vestibule.  The church was filled with people.  And the Women’s Schola gathered around the font and sang a prelude.  I’d always been singing with them before, never stood there and listened, and it was amazing.  Father Ryan said, ‘Angela, that’s what the Schola sounds like!’”

For Rob, one moment that stands out is the nuptial blessing that takes place at the end of the Mass:  “May you always bear witness to the love of God in this world, so that the afflicted and the needy will find in you generous friends, and welcome you into the joys of heaven.”

The parish community is important to both Angela and Rob.  “The support we’ve felt from the parish since we started dating has been overwhelming, and very positive,” Angela says.  Rob adds, “When you tell people you’re getting married, they’re always happy for you.  But within the parish community, they truly understand the importance of what’s happening.  They know it’s not just two people throwing a party!”

Angela says:  “We’re lucky.  We’ve both been single for a long time:  we know how special it is, how powerful it is to find someone who is a natural fit.”

Ted and Teresa Ipsen: When Teresa moved here from Arizona in 1988, she despaired of meeting a Catholic in the notoriously unchurched Northwest.  She was working as a dispatcher in the police department, and she would send both voice and text messages to the officers.  One of them, Ted Ipsen, liked her voice so much that he came to the office to meet her!  After one date, Teresa invited him to join her for Mass at St. James Cathedral.

It was a bold move, because, as Teresa says, she really didn’t know much about Ted at that time—other than that she liked him!  After Mass, they ran into a friend (“Abundia is my honorary godmother,” Teresa says) who proceeded to ask Ted all kinds of questions that Teresa didn’t dare to ask.  What was his background?  (Vietnamese.) Was he Catholic?  (Yes.)  Had he received all the sacraments?  (No.)  And so on!

Later on, Teresa invited Ted to come with her to the Easter Vigil.  A big commitment in itself!  Teresa was afraid Ted would hate it.  But Ted, who had grown up playing violin in the Seattle Youth Symphony, loved it:  the music, the liturgy, everything about it.  “It was the Easter Vigil that sealed the deal!” Teresa says.

It wasn’t long after that that Ted was confirmed, just in time for the wedding.  And his sponsor, head usher Patrick Martin, wasted no time in getting Ted involved as an usher!

Teresa and Ted—joined a few years later by Andrew, Isaac, and Jack!—drive from Auburn each week to worship and serve at the 10:00am Mass.  Teresa says: “People ask me, how can you drive so far for Mass? But I can’t imagine the Cathedral not being part of our lives.  It doesn’t feel far to us.”
Anna Horton and David Unger met through the Winter Shelter.  Anna schedules Shelter volunteers, and David is an overnight host once a month.  Every month they would exchange e-mails and voice mails when it came time to prepare the schedule, but it was not until an end-of-the-year party for the shelter volunteers that they officially met.  David had just returned from Spain, and Anna commented that she would like to see the photos.  He e-mailed her a link, and an e-mail conversation began.  It wasn’t long before David invited Anna out for the classic dinner and a movie.  And not just any movie: Shrek 3.  “I remember thinking, ‘he laughs so loudly,’” Anna says.  And David adds:  “Shrek 3 was a big disappointment for Shrek fans.”

David first spoke about marriage not to Anna, but to Anna’s mom, Sally, who was dying of cancer.  When he told her he wanted to marry Anna, Sally immediately slipped the wedding ring from her own finger and said, “she can have this ring,” and added, “have you set a date yet?”  “I haven’t actually asked her yet,” David replied.  But that night—at the end of “a really hard, really rotten day,” Anna says—he proposed, and she accepted.  Anna’s mom died just a few weeks later.
The wedding took place in the Cathedral in July of 2009.  Everyone was there:  family, friends, Cathedral ushers, shelter volunteers, young adults, and many more. “It was the perfect wedding day,” Anna and David agree.  “The community here, even the building, is at the heart of our lives.  It’s how we operate as a couple.”

Tyrone and Rachael Heade met in 1993:  Rachael had just begun the RCIA program; Tyrone (a cradle Catholic) was a regular reader and a volunteer in the Winter Shelter, then in its very first year.  Rachael remembers seeing Tyrone at Coffee Hour—“I thought he was really cute,” she says.  Their mutual friend Gretchen Diekmann took them out for lunch one Sunday after Mass.  Gretchen left after about an hour and a half—and Rachael and Tyrone kept talking for the rest of the afternoon.  It was a sunny day, so Tyrone loaned Rachael his sunglasses, then “forgot” to ask for them back as they were leaving.  He figured she’d have to call when she realized she still had them.  And she did.

The first official date was to see Antigone at the Intiman Theatre.  Rachael was surprised when Tyrone picked her up in a 1963 Mercury Monterey, with a cracked flywheel that caused it to thump loudly every time he braked.  Having majored in drama in college, Rachael wondered about the play, but this time Greek tragedy proved an auspicious beginning.
The date of the wedding was set for January 29, 1994.  Rachael and Tyrone were almost the last couple married in the Cathedral before its renovation.  But though the Cathedral would not close until after Easter, the work had already begun.  It seemed like every week something else was missing:  first the carpet, then the stained glass.  “Do you think there will be anything left when we get married?” Rachael remembers asking.

Sixteen years later, Rachael and Tyrone are still at home at St. James Cathedral.  Their faith is at the heart of their lives, and at the heart of their marriage.  “How do couples do it if they don’t go to church?” Tyrone wonders.  “I can’t really imagine it.”  “Being able to pray together, and having a network of people that you can ask to pray for you, is so important in a relationship,” Rachael adds.  “Every Sunday I see the priest who married us, and so many people who were with me on the day of my wedding.  It’s a constant reminder that the Church has a stake in the success of our marriage, not just me.  We, and our marriage, are part of something bigger.”  Tyrone adds:  “We’ve never felt alone in our marriage.  Our community is here.”

Jeanie Widden and Ward Johnson first became aware of each other at Vespers on Sunday afternoon.  And both remember distinctly the first time they spoke.  It was during Great Music for Great Cathedrals.  Ward was singing in the choir and Jeanie was volunteering to help with costumes.  “During a costume change,” Ward remembers, “the men of the Cathedral choir were furiously throwing off their robes and putting new ones on.  I was struggling mightily, and there was Jeanie.  I remember her saying, ‘I’m a dresser, I can help!’”

Jeanie remembers that one of the first things that bonded them was sharing the experience of the death of Pope John Paul II, and watching the funeral together on TV. And an early date was to see the film The Passion of the Christ.  Ward noted that another powerful bond between them was running together.  “Some of our best conversations are when we’re running.”

Ward and Jeanie were married November 3, 2007.  Both remember it as a perfect day.  Jeanie says:  “For me personally, one of the great things was that my mom and dad were both still alive.  Walking down the aisle with the two of them was one of the best things for me.  After the Mass, I gave my dad a hug and asked him what he thought.  He was speechless:  he didn’t say a word, just leaned his forehead against mine.  He died only two months later.”

For Ward, it’s hard to pick out a single moment.  “I remember the story of Goldilocks.  The whole wedding reminded me of that bowl of porridge that’s ‘just right.’  Jeanie and I both have small families, but we were surrounded by St. James people, our Cathedral family.  And I remember the choir cheered as we stepped down from the altar.”

The Cathedral remains central to their lives.  Jeanie says:  “One of my unattainable childhood dreams—to be an altar boy—drove me away from the Church for a while.  Becoming an EM at St. James was one of my crowning achievements, the fulfillment of many dreams.  I could never have imagined a parish would become so central in my life.”

Ward says:  “From my first days at St. James, it’s been clear to me that a lot of people truly make this parish their home.  There’s a line in an old Gospel song—Order my steps in the world.  That speaks to me.  We take steps in this community, the great moments of our lives are integrated into the life of the community.  We all journey together.”


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