In Your Midst

Meeting Christ in Ministry

November 2011

During November, we reflect on what our parish means to us.
Here, parishioners offer reflections on the gifts and challenges of ministry
 

November is a good month to stop and reflect. The Church wants us to reflect on what it means to be part of the Communion of Saints—to experience a oneness with that great and countless throng of believers down through the ages whose faith inspires,  and whose prayers encourage us along our way.

And then there are today’s “saints”—to use St. Paul’s expression—our brothers and sisters in the faith who, like us, have been baptized into the Lord Jesus, called to holiness, destined for glory.

We belong to the Church, we are members of this parish community of St. James, because we know we cannot walk the journey of faith alone. We also know that God works great wonders of grace in and through this community of believers. We experience this each Sunday as we gather in the Cathedral to celebrate the Eucharist, and we also experience it in unique and powerful ways on the days between Sundays as we strive to live out our faith. 
In the pages that follow, a few of your fellow parishioners offer reflections on the joys, the challenges, and the blessings of being part of the ministry of St. James Cathedral parish.  They reflect on the many ways they encounter Christ in this holy place.

Later in this issue, on pages 14-15, you will also see our new Vision Statement for the parish.  I hope you will take time to ponder it and to reflect on the questions that are provided.  This new Vision Statement is the fruit of a lot of prayer and discussion on the part of a wonderful, committed group of your fellow parishioners.  As you will see, it is not so much a planning statement as it is a dream for our parish—an expression of gratitude for what we are and a statement of hope for what we can yet become.  Together!  Both as individuals and as a community, our goal is simple: to meet Christ, to know Christ better, and to serve Christ in our brothers and sisters.

That’s something we have been doing for well over one hundred years now at St. James Cathedral.  With God’s grace it’s what we’ll be doing for a long time to come.

Father Michael G. Ryan

MINISTRIES OF OUTREACH
 
On a cold morning in 2006, I had an encounter with a homeless man that changed my life. I was stressed about work, running late and dealing with a faulty parking lot pay machine. I ended up taking my frustration out on the man who approached me to ask for change. He was clearly suffering; dirty, wet and cold. His stunned and hurt expression at my unnecessarily rude response woke me up. I know that it was Christ’s face I saw that day. As I watched him walk away, my heart broke and I was humbled and ashamed at the person I had become.

I was still thinking and praying about what had happened when I attended Mass the next Sunday. As I read the bulletin after Mass, the request for volunteers to help with Operation Nightwatch jumped out at me. I knew my next step.

Volunteering at Nightwatch has opened my eyes to the blessings in my own life and keeps me humbly aware that such blessings are a temporary gift. I have met individuals tossed around long and hard by life, their histories written all over their weary faces and broken bodies, who still maintain their sense of humor. I have observed well-groomed men and women standing in line for a meal, overwhelmed and bewildered, wondering how they got to the point where they need this kind of help. I have seen women dressed head to toe in traditional Islamic garments, speaking a language I did not recognize and quite clearly very far from their homeland, courageously put their trust and safety in the hands of total strangers in order to find shelter. And I have been moved by the compassion of two men, knowing they would not get a place to sleep for the night because they were too far down the waiting list, who gently but firmly convinced their female friend to take shelter anyway because they didn’t want her on the street where they knew she would be at risk. I am amazed at the strength and perseverance demonstrated night after night in the face of such daunting circumstances.

All of these experiences at Nightwatch have made me realize there is no “us” and “them.” There is only “we,” and we all want the same things: a good meal; a safe, comfortable place to rest; the love of family; the companionship of friends; and the dignity that comes from belonging, whether that comes through work, volunteering, or supporting and caring for our families or others in our community. We all struggle with the same weaknesses and temptations. And almost all of us, if we live long enough, will suffer tragedy and loss. Most of us are blessed to have support and are able to get through these difficult times, but for some, such times lead to a downward spiral that takes them all the way to the streets.
Each night, 365 nights a year, Nightwatch is there for hundreds of men and women, offering them a hot meal, dispatch to shelters throughout the city, socks, toiletries, blankets, bus tickets and more. Nightwatch counts on a volunteer group to provide the hot meal every single night of the year. St. James currently provides this meal three times each month.

There are many ways to participate as a St. James volunteer – donating sandwich meat, cheese, cookies or other supplies; helping to make sandwiches; cooking the main meal; serving and cleaning up; donating socks or toiletries; organizing a supply closet; or making a monetary donation. Each of these roles may seem insignificant by themselves, but together we are part of a much larger effort that ensures that every individual who comes through Operation Nightwatch’s doors is treated with dignity, respect and compassion. Through our actions and presence we offer hope that someone does care, and a reminder that each one of them is a beloved child of God.

Mary C. Brown

Every afternoon, Monday through Friday, 150 or so of our neighbors (our guests) find a warm welcome at the St. James Cathedral Kitchen and are served a carefully prepared dinner. Our rotating staff of cooks and food preparers take items gleaned from various local grocery stores and create nourishing meals that include an entrée, green salad, fruit salad, warm buttered bread and dessert. Some folks coming to the kitchen don’t have the time or don’t want to come in and sit down, so 40 sack lunches are prepared for them to “grab and go.” The atmosphere is cheerful with each of 18 large tables covered by a blue and white checkered tablecloth. Often one of our guests will play the piano in the back of the Hall.

There are many memorable people who cross our paths as we serve dinner. One man who looked to be living on the street from his tired, unkempt appearance was mute and wrote his special requests on a piece of paper. He had beautiful handwriting and always handed back a note saying “thank you.” Another older gentleman was a Jewish Holocaust survivor and told us a harrowing tale of escaping from a Nazi concentration camp when he was 14. He was a very sweet man who had trouble walking so one of us would bring him his coffee with his usual three spoonfuls of sugar. One family came with four children, all very well behaved. After eating, the parents insisted the older kids help us with the dishes. And, there are the down and out we see in our serving line who seem to brighten up a bit when we smile and say hello. Sometimes, it seems as if we are the first people to greet them all day. For some this is their first and only real meal of the day and they tell us how grateful they are.

At the kitchen we not only feed hungry bodies but we try to bring warmth and cheer to souls as well.  Thanks to the tremendous efforts of Jim and Jill McAuliffe who manage the day to day affairs of the kitchen, the support of the Cathedral parish, and the generous donations we receive day in and day out, we are able provide this valuable service.  I feel blessed and privileged to have been part of the team of volunteers at our Cathedral Kitchen for nine years. This ministry is hugely rewarding personally and the whole St. James community should take deep pride in it.

Rosanne Warriner

Lord, when did we see you a stranger and welcome you?

We conclude reading a novel in class that delicately portrays the plight of the Mexican immigrant, and two Hispanic men pen a letter to our members of Congress asking support for immigration reform—and receive an affirming reply! 

Refugees from Bhutan, Burma, and Somalia flee their homes and country in terror, yet they are joy-filled to be safe now with their families in a colorful South Seattle neighborhood.  Life on the run left no time for schooling, yet their determination to learn English is palpable.  As I see them eagerly reading their lessons, sounding out words until recognition dawns and they light up with pride, I know that God’s hand is in this.

Bringing young mothers and their children to the Woodland Park Zoo, an adventure they’ve never experienced, I join in their laughter as a baby gorilla wrestles with its mother, two Siamang apes nitpick and groom one another, and a shy Orangutan crawls underneath a burlap sack for an afternoon nap.  We watch the penguins eat, swim and walk, and our imitation of the tuxedoed penguin’s waddle is nearly as amusing as the original.  Viewing the hippos submerged in a murky pond, the giraffes stretching their long necks, and the elephants’ dexterity in using their wrinkled gray trunks, I am inspired by God’s handiwork to help the students write a story about our escapades.

As students move on to higher education or jobs that conflict with class schedules, their departure is bittersweet.  I realize I’ve played some small role in their learning the skills needed for such a venture, yet I have grown very fond of them and will miss their energy and enthusiasm.  I silently pray for God to keep them in His care.

As a St. James ESL teacher, I am invited daily to share in the lives, families and culture of these cheerful and courageous people, and I realize that I am, in fact, the stranger welcomed into their midst.

Elaine Moran

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see someone on the street, near the freeway exits, or up here on First Hill with a sign that says something like: “Hungry and Homeless… anything helps” or “Out of a job—no food.  Please help.”  I often wonder what it would be like to be really hungry, so hungry that you couldn’t think of anything else… and what if there wasn’t anything to eat? What would it be like to go to bed hungry?

I started making sandwiches for St. Martin de Porres Shelter about 10 years ago.  It has been one of the most rewarding ministries that I have been involved in at St. James Cathedral.  I make sandwiches once a month.  During the winter months, I try to make sandwiches that are heartier such as meat loaf or roast beef.  In the summertime, I make lighter sandwiches and hard boiled eggs.   As I make the sandwiches, I think of those who will receive them and hope that they know behind this gesture is deep love and compassion. 

It is true, as the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi says, that “it is in giving that we receive.” Being part of this ministry has been a great privilege.  It has made me feel much closer to the poor and homeless in our midst, more grateful for all that I have, and more sensitive to those in need.  And I understand more deeply the words of Jesus:

“As often as you did it for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it for me.”

Patty Heffernan

We’re not sure why God in His grace called us to Juvenile Detention Ministry.  We can only say it’s been a blessing and the boys and girls minister to us as much as we minister to them.

We’ll never forget our first Mass at the Echo Glen Juvenile Detention Center.  An assortment of kids, staff and volunteers filled the “Chapel.”  When the time came for the intercessions, Father Joey Stocking, SJ asked, as he always does, “Who would like to present some special prayer or intention to God as we celebrate the Eucharist?”

One boy offered, “Please pray for my mother who is in recovery.”

Another, “Please pray for my little brother so he won’t wind up in jail like me.”  A young girl, “Please pray for my brother who is being released from prison.”  “Please pray for my friend who was killed last month.” “Please pray for me so I won’t get in trouble again when I’m released next month.”  “Please pray that my baby gets good care while I’m here.”

Their humble prayers went on and on.  Truly, God was present with us that evening and every Mass since.  Through their prayers that evening, God taught us something about prayer and compassion.

The kids in our cottage (they become “our kids” very quickly) come from varying backgrounds and are serving various sentences for any number of offences. The average age is about 15.  Most have come from difficult family situations.  Generally they are several years behind in school because of truancies, lack of motivation, or time in detention.

The day comes when a child is released.  Generally there is some anxiety as the day approaches.  Many of the kids haven’t known much stability.  Detention, although they’d rather be elsewhere, has at least provided new friends, security, counseling, education, regular meals and a reassurance that God is with them. On the outside many of these things may disappear. Frequently there are tears.  We worry about them, although we are happy they’re being discharged.  We’ll never see them again unless they are returned for a parole violation.  We trust God will continue to make Himself known to them, guide them and protect them from the many things that can go wrong in life.

We ask that you keep children in detention in your prayers. Obviously they’re there for a reason, but who they are goes far beyond their offences.  The kids in detention are our neighbor’s children and more importantly, God’s children.

Doug and Teri Head

MINISTRIES OF FAITH FORMATION
 
It started out innocently enough.  Tapped on the shoulder, I was asked to “help out” for a while with the Kindergarten and First Grade “Sunday school.”  At the time, there were about 12 children total.  “Sure, why not,” I replied.  I had newly returned to the church and recommitted to my faith, my daughter was enrolled in Sunday school and I needed something to do with that extra hour before Mass. It is hard to believe, but this marks my eleventh year teaching in the Children’s Faith Formation program at St. James.

As the program has grown (and boy, has it grown!) that once combined Kindergarten/First grade class became so large that it was split into two classes.  When I started, twelve children was considered a large class; now it is the minimum number of kids in the classroom on any given Sunday.

Every year when the new class begins, I am excited and curious. What will this class look like?  Will there be more girls or more boys?  Will I have the sibling of a former student this year?  The first few weeks, the children are usually tentative—the prayers around our class rosary (with which we always start our time together) are mumbled with downcast eyes.  But, as usual, God’s miracle occurs and those previously meek Our Father’s, Hail Mary’s and Glory Be’s are loud and proud; hands are eagerly raised and answers are volunteered with gusto.  It never fails that the children’s enthusiasm, and the commitment of the parents to bring them Sunday after Sunday, strengthens my faith and fills me with God’s love and the Holy Spirit.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the dedicated assistants I have had over the years, my fellow CFF catechists and the amazingly supportive CFF staff headed by Lita McBride.  Their enthusiasm and faith inspire me and keep me coming back for “just one more year.”

We have a wonderful treasure in our children at St. James.  When I go to Mass and see “my kids” from years past as altar servers, youth readers, ushers and probably very soon youth Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, I know the future of our church is in good hands.   I am filled with gratitude for the gift God bestowed on me eleven years ago with that tap on the shoulder.

Kris Wilmart

Of the many things that I am involved in around the parish, one of the most fulfilling is RCIA. The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) is the process for people who are examining Christianity to see if it’s something that makes sense to them and that leads them to a closer relationship to Christ and God. Specifically, it’s designed to help people experience our Catholic approach to Christianity and see if it speaks to them.

Back “in the day,” we used to have “convert classes” where folks would learn our Catholic teachings and then be plunked into the pew. It’s easy to think that RCIA is just a new name for that. And, of course, there is a lot of teaching and learning that goes on in RCIA. This appeals to the teacher in me, but this is not what I find fulfilling about it.

What I find so powerful about RCIA is the opportunity to walk with people, to see how God’s love is active in the lives of the people in RCIA, to witness the transforming power of God’s grace.

There are many times that a person will start coming to RCIA for some external reason, like to make future in-laws happy. And that’s fine. What is wonderful (in all the senses of that word) is when that person finds something good and true and valuable, and starts coming because of a hunger to find out more, a personal desire to become a part of what they find here.
The RCIA process has time built-in as one of the critical components. Time to come to recognize God’s presence, time to learn to respond to Christ’s call, time to be strengthened in one’s faith, time to build a personal witness to the grace of God that leads us into new life. Time to grow, both as individuals and as a community.

This growth and change and development happens not only in our inquirers, catechumens, and candidates, that is, the people who are coming to RCIA to find out more about Catholicism. The process also affects our sponsors and our catechists. One of the most effective teaching tools is to see, first-hand, the transforming power of God’s grace.
So, in a very real sense, at RCIA, we gather together to learn from each other, to be strengthened by the presence of God in each other, to grow in the image and likeness of His Son, and together to be formed into the family of God, the church.

RCIA, it’s an amazing thing. Come and see. It may change your life.

Dan Jinguji

This school year marks my sixth as a catechist in the Children’s Faith Formation program at St. James.  Not a particularly long tenure, certainly not when compared to many of the other catechists in the program, but enough time to have seen up close and really understand the importance of this ministry and the expert and caring manner in which it is carried out by the CFF staff at St. James.  To be able to be a part of this ministry is a gift to me beyond value, but also one that was not at all anticipated.

I had no experience as an educator on any level and even though I was involved in sports and athletics in earlier years, there had never been any subsequent inclination on my part toward coaching or mentoring.  Were I to have made a well-considered decision to offer my time as a volunteer it honestly would not have been as a teacher, but in some other area in which I might have felt better suited to readily contribute.

But then I got a “tap on the shoulder.”  Actually not a tap, but a hallway encounter with long-time St. James catechist, Chi Nguyen, who had taught my own daughter two years earlier, asking if I could help out since his class that year was short one staff person.  Six years later I now realize there was nothing to feel intimidated or inadequate about.  When you get a “tap” from God, you know you’ll also get whatever you need to carry out the request. 

Why do I say the tap is from God?  Something else I now realize is that as a volunteer ministering to others you are truly allowing Christ to minister not only through you but also to you, yourself.  With each lesson that we guide the children through, we as catechists are presented with the priceless opportunity to come face to face with the status of our own faith and re-connect with the Catechism that guides all of us and that we have known for so long but may tend to allow to get dusty on the shelf.  It is probably more accurate to say that, while we are the “volunteers,” it is through those to whom we provide ministry that Christ is able to minister directly to us.  And who better than children to bring you squarely into the presence of Jesus?  We know—they do it reliably in their enthusiasm, their beautiful sincerity, and their wonder, including the occasional stump-the-catechist question, every week.

My personal experience in the Children’s Faith Formation program continually reminds me that God truly knows each of us far beyond our own comprehension and, through the gift of Faith, will always guide us and provide that perfectly-timed “tap” that we need to stay close, and get even closer, right where He want us to be.

Tom Griffin

MINISTRIES OF HOSPITALITY
 
Nowadays, many people track their feelings and activities online or with a text or a tweet.  At St. James, Emmaus Companions provide the option to continue the social networking in real time, with real people!

I met my first Emmaus Companion at a Ministries Fair several years ago—Judy Walker immediately impressed me with her unaffected, gracious presence.  Her explanation of this sociable service was just as attractive as her manner.  As a full-time piano teacher and performer, I am a professional listener already, so a ministry of “hospitality through listening” seemed like a good fit.  Little did I know how much my service as an Emmaus Companion would teach me about really listening to people.

For me, being an Emmaus Companion is a way of offering the sign of peace at any time during Mass.  We are simply available to share our time and company with anyone that needs it.  Worries, anxiety, distress can escalate when the same thoughts chase themselves unheard around a person’s head.  I’ve learned that a little acknowledgement goes a long way towards peace of mind—much more refreshing than the best-intentioned advice or encouragement.  Sometimes it happens that a little quiet time together is enough to let us to hear and feel the companionship of Jesus again, and that’s a most wonderful thing.

Putting on my badge before Mass reminds me to keep my heart and mind open, and it continues to be a wonderful education.  Being a Companion gives me more freedom, somehow, to offer a smile, handshake, Kleenex or cup of coffee to another friend in Christ.  It’s a blessing to be able to travel for a few steps together each week, as we go about the journey of our lives.

Selina Chu

God is very patient with us.  He waits for us to be ready.  The hunger of the heart that knows no respite until we turn to him eventually led to my return to the Church.

I was quite satisfied as a Sunday Catholic, enjoying the music and the Divine Mystery.  One day, I was looking at the oculus and read again the phrase—“one who serves.”  It hit me that I had not given back all I had received.  Was it coincidence that the bulletin mentioned the need for volunteers at coffee hour?

Ah, yes, Coffee Hour.  I liked going there, meeting strangers and making friends.  That’s the place for me.  I stopped by after Mass and asked to be allowed to help.  They set me up at the sink with the dirty cups.

I soon became a regular.  I moved to orange juice dispenser.  This was a great assignment.  I got to greet people who had just been to Mass and were happy.  Who could not smile in this situation?

If you think about it, the feast of the Word from the Ambo, and then from the Altar with the Eucharist, continues at coffee hour.  We feed with companionship, conversation, and yes, coffee.  And we see Jesus in the poor and hungry.  Often, I would see them take four muffins with their coffee and huddle off in a far corner, near the library.  Now, they are greeted as friends and made welcome with a smile.

Coffee hour doesn’t happen without people. It is a ministry to foster unity in community.  We are a group of teams.  Four weekly teams arrive early to bake the muffins.  Then follow the service teams to keep the flow of drink and food constant.  Everyone who serves is a treasure.  It is amazing how well everything proceeds!  My heroes are the supervisors, who help us serve, and also fill in and make do.  There is real dedication to the job.  But there is also a tremendous joy.

Jim Goempel

MINISTRIES OF PASTORAL CARE
 
In 2007, after being a Catholic for two years, I found myself compelled to serve the community in a pastoral way. Several friends suggested I check out Cabrini Ministry Training, named after Cathedral parishioner St. Frances Cabrini, which is offered yearly at St. James.

I was struck by their mission statement: “Cabrini Ministry Training forms Christians in the Catholic Tradition for compassionate pastoral service in our community to bring Christ’s healing presence to God’s people.”

I was drawn to enroll in their classes (once a week and several Saturdays for 5 months).  At the first class, I found I was journeying with a wonderfully diverse group of fifteen. All we knew was that we had each experienced a similar call, and that one day, if it was God’s will, we would venture into the community as lay pastoral care ministers.

The excellent seminars helped me to develop compassionate listening skills, to become an effective communicator, and to express empathy towards others in many pastoral situations. To hone skills, we often paired up in class to alternate roles as caregiver and care receiver.

One of the most valuable things I learned in Cabrini Training was our role as “Sacramental Presence.” Through class exercises, I learned to bring support, compassion and consolation to others.  I found the skills I was learning helped me to live out my own baptismal call.

My classmates found their calls in ministries to seniors, to the homeless, to women in transitional housing, to the mentally ill, to those facing terminal illnesses, and to the incarcerated. Toward the end of the training, I found my call in hospital ministry.

Since becoming a Cabrini minister, I take communion to patients at Swedish and Harborview.  Walking with others who face devastating illness, remarkable recovery, and everything in between, has affected me profoundly.  I find that God is very present in these interactions.

Some patients are in the hospital for a while, and you get to know them well. Some are elated you’re there, others struggle with their faith; still others want to return to their faith, and are reaching out. And for many, the action of extending the Host to them and saying, “This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,” brings patients to tears with its hope and its promise. I give thanks to God every week for being a Cabrini Minister.

Scott Webster

Recently I met a woman, who at one time served as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, but had given up the ministry.  She questioned me as to why I was still an EM.

There are times when I ask myself that same question, but I always go back to baptism. Isn’t ministry part of the baptismal commitment? Aren’t we all called to say, “Yes”?

In 2002,  with my husband Jess, after prayerful reflection on our abilities, experiences, and the “whys and wherefores” of serving, not forgetting the “what if I mess up” and the  “I’m not worthy” thing, we felt compelled to respond to God’s call as Eucharistic Ministers with humble dependence on him.

Over the years, serving as EM’s,  St. James Cathedral has taught us there is a difference between being a volunteer and being a servant. St. James is not a club for volunteers, such as the “Loyal Order of Water Buffalo” Fred Flintstone belonged to.  St. James is by its very nature a servant church.

Jesus did not recruit volunteers.  He is not asking us to give up a few hours of our spare time, but to give up everything and follow him.  In serving, one soon learns that the difference between a volunteer and a willing servant is the spirit in which one approaches the need. As Eucharistic ministers, we do not stand as perfect people, but sharing the Eucharist empowers us to become the Body of Christ, and when giving the Body and Blood to others, we are challenged to be the visible expression of God to one another. I am reminded of the words in the oculus, “I am in your midst as one who serves.”

Over the years Jess and I have become committed to Pastoral Care, involving communion visits to hospital patients and presiding at communion services in two senior residences.  I always have a feeling of not wanting to let go of the moment as our communion service comes to an end.  With the final prayer, there is a peaceful hush in the room, a stillness we are reluctant to break. Truly Jesus is present among us. As we leave with lots of hugs and farewells, Jess and I know, for some, we have brought them Viaticum, their last Holy Communion.

Elizabeth Hernandez

MINISTRIES OF LITURGY AND MUSIC
 
I don’t consider myself a particularly holy person. I try to follow the rules, Commandments, Beatitudes, etc. My experience in church has not all been great, e.g. my purse was stolen when the lights were turned out during a Communal Penance Service. The microphone started picking up police calls while I sang a funeral mass. I was asked to sing “Love Me Tender” at the sign of peace the week Elvis Presley died. It was approved by the pastor. But I digress.

When I became a member of St. James Choir I was singing in four other groups both religious and secular. I soon realized that Cathedral Choir was all I needed.

I vividly remember my first time in the east apse as a choir member. As I sat in awe, the beauty of the church, the heavenly sounds surrounding me, I thanked God for giving me the courage to audition and the director the courage to take a chance.

This began thirteen years ago. I remain grateful to be a part of the Music Ministry of St. James. God has given each of us a talent. It is a blessing to be able to share this gift with others. And I receive much more than I give. My spirituality, love and knowledge of music has increased. I am able to experience the joy of being part of a great choir, and hopefully help others to live the sacred beauty of the Mass.

As long as I have the ability to drive a car, and sing in a way that adds to the beauty of the prayer, I’ll be here.

Martha MacKenzie

What do you ask of me Lord?
You asked me to be an usher.
 
If You, Lord, were standing at the door…
What would I want to see?
Your warm gentle greeting, Your genuine smile
Beckoning come in and stay for awhile.
 
Maybe I wasn’t expecting it…
Maybe I was surprised…
Maybe my day was hard…
And somehow You realized.
 
Maybe I was unsure of this place
Unfamiliar, so huge and so large
But that genuine smile and the greeting You gave
Put all at ease for awhile.
 
Many the faces familiar
Many the faces new
A welcome was given to all of them—
Nothing fancy, just simple and true.
 
So help me, dear Lord, to stand at that door
For I never can be You.
Give me the grace to understand
You ask me to be there, nothing more.
 
For You will be in my smile
The greeting will be coming from You.
It will not be something that is noticed
Just something that’s simple and true.
 
And when all have departed
To places familiar and not
I hope as I kneel for my own little prayer
You remember it was You whom I sought.

An Usher

We know that Our Lord Jesus is in the Blessed Sacrament.  Jesus is also present in everyone at St. James, everyone in the universe.  I experience Him in the great silence of meditation, in our glorious liturgy, in the faces of you whom I serve as an Eucharistic Minister.

We are all a most important community greater than the sum of our parts. As an EM I serve Our Lord, and I serve you.  It is a profound experience to meet Jesus in you, to meet you in Christ Jesus, to share your special time while receiving His Body and Blood.  It is also a special grace to be a participant in taking Holy Communion to the homebound.
I learn so much from all of you. From this foundation of sharing Christ’s Body and Blood we all go forth to spread His peace and Gospel to all, “the Peace of God that surpasses all understanding…” (Phil 4:7).

I long to see Jesus face to face, “up close and personal”!  I do see Jesus, hear Jesus, feel Jesus, all of us, at the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the Great Thanksgiving. This is our living, active miracle we share.

This is the most extraordinary thing I do, we do.

Jerry Cronkhite

When I was invited to write about my ministry as a member of The Cathedral Choir of St James, I realized that it is an integral part of the evolution of my journey with St. James Cathedral, which began in 2002.

I had been away from the Church for some twenty-five years, and in 2002 my wife and I were at the lowest point of a series of adverse occurrences and circumstances across several fronts of our lives.  One midweek afternoon I came into St. James to pray to Jesus and the Father for help and guidance. God answered my prayers quickly and in a decisive way, so clearly that we began attending Mass at St. James regularly, and joined the parish in early 2003.

Singing in the congregation was an early joy in our St. James experience, and in late June, 2003, I called the Music Office and asked if I might audition for the choir. I had music education and choral experiences earlier in my life but they also were long behind me, another unfortunate twenty-five year hiatus. Nevertheless, I auditioned with Dr. Savage, and was surprised to be selected for a Tenor 2 position.

I have just begun my eighth year with the Choir. Friends and family wonder how I balance the weekly choir rehearsals and performances with my work and travel schedule. My personal schedule is not unique among members of the Choir and all must make many personal sacrifices. My ministry is to me a gift, ongoing and growing in the blessings it brings me.  I find rehearsals to be energizing at the end of a long day, as are singing at Mass on Sundays and other occasions. My ministry returns more to me than I give, in large measure. My greatest reward, however, is knowing that, as an ensemble, the ministry of the Choir touches thousands of people each year—fellow parishioners, guests of St. James, and audiences for its special concerts.  Our ministry becomes a part of their own experiences with St. James Cathedral which I find to be the most rewarding of all.

Jim Shanklin

It is a privilege to serve as a reader at St. James. To participate in and contribute, even in a small way, to the dignified and prayerful manner in which Mass is celebrated at St. James is a great blessing in my life.

I love the liturgy of the Church—I treasure every prayer, hymn, response and gesture, and I am so grateful for the dedication of Father Ryan and the parish staff, the liturgical ministers, our wonderful musicians and all those who serve and participate at St. James in ensuring that the Mass is always celebrated with beauty and dignity.

My time serving as a lector has greatly focused my attentiveness to and reverence for the Liturgy of the Word; it has helped me feel very personally the real power and presence of God. The Word of the Lord is so rich with his love, compassion and power to transform our lives, and in the Scriptures we find and remember the story of our faith.  So it is only with deep humility (and completely appropriate nervousness!) that I hope to proclaim His Word in such a way that it can touch the whole community of St. James. 

Preparing to read in the Cathedral has deeply enriched my wonder and appreciation for the Bible's vast range of forms: narrative and poetry; tragedy, hero story, parable, lyric, lament, oratory, prophecy, revelation, drama, epistle, aphorism—just to scratch the surface. As great music does, the Scriptures touch our hearts and minds through this richness of forms and voices.

Much of the Bible existed orally in its original form, and the readings are full of living voices… king, shepherd, priest, prophet, apostle, petitioner, homemaker, teacher. God reaches out to us through the spirits, personalities and great humanity of the Bible's myriad authors and speakers. From Paul—by turns admonishing, instructive, weary, passionate, complex—to Isaiah (who always sounds to me like, well, like the choir singing Handel); from Moses—shy and hesitant, or brave and firm, pleading with God for or angry with his people, to cranky Jeremiah… I feel that their voices carry God’s own aspirations for his people to each of us.

When I was a little girl, I attended Vacation Bible School at the little Baptist Church across the street.  I still remember the words we recited each day at VBS:

I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God's Holy Word.
I will make it a light unto my path
And a lamp unto my feet
And I will hide its words in my heart,
That I might not sin against God.  Amen.

The challenges and gifts of the ministry of reading at St. James is richness beyond words.

Patti Banks

Serving at the altar at St. James has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my adult life. It is a constant joy and the best way I have found to have the most full and conscious participation in the Mass. And although some of the trappings and procedures have changed since I began, the core task to assist the presider lead the community in prayer has stayed constant.

When I started serving at St James in 1988, I had only been Catholic for about a year. I still didn’t have all the prayers and responses of the Mass firmly in my head. Nor did I have many Catholic friends. Serving was a way I could immerse myself in the liturgy that had initially drawn me into the Catholic faith, as well as an opportunity to meet and become friends with other Catholics. By having to actually think about “what am I supposed to be doing next?” I became much more comfortable with the bigger question of the liturgy: “why am I doing any of this?” Serving helped to ground me in both the mechanics and the mystery of the Mass.

Over the years as I grew much more knowledgeable about liturgy in general, and how we do things in particular here at the cathedral, I have also tried out other ministries. Often, after a year, or several years, I would cease to find joy in what I was doing. But with serving, I’ve always been able to answer the question I get asked when I get home every Sunday evening of “how was Mass?” with, “It was good.” For me, being an altar server helps me be a better Catholic.  Moving around in the liturgy is not a distraction from the Mass, but rather the way in which I pray best.

Some of my most prayerful experiences as a server have been when I was a thurifer. At Vespers each Sunday, and on many a feast day, I’ve been blessed to be able to something that few other lay people do: I incense the Body of Christ present both in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, and in the community of those gathered in prayer. For a long time, I never realized that this was affecting others as much as it was helping my own understanding of Christ’s presence among us.  Then in September 2009, I read in In Your Midst something that made me realize how powerful the role servers play can be. Perry Lorenzo wrote how the incensation of the people by a server was a powerful, grace-filled moment for a non-Catholic friend of his. I was humbled to realize that I probably was that server. And I have never underestimated our role since then.

Wendell Dyck

I joined the Music Program as a member of the Cathedral Choir of St. James a few months before the choir made a pilgrimage to Rome, Italy in 2006.  Since then I have been supported and nurtured in ways I never expected.

I had always been a singer.  From voice lessons, to school choirs, to competitions, singing had been one of my main hobbies and artistic outlets growing up.  When I went off to college the opportunity to sing didn’t present itself as often and consequently my voice grew increasingly silent.  I also had started to question what being Catholic meant to me.  Gradually, I stopped attending church as well.  Several years passed like this with little to no music in my life as I struggled to find my identity as an adult and as a faith-filled person.  It wasn’t until I began attending St. James Cathedral, and in particular, elected to audition for the choir, that a slow but powerful change occurred.

I would go to Mass sporadically in the beginning; at first only on a Sunday evening when the Schola would sing, but eventually I could be found making plans to attend feast days at the Cathedral as well, when the entire choir was in its full regalia.  More than once I was moved to tears as I sat in the back of the church.  I experienced long buried feelings of connection to the divine surrounded by the traditions of my childhood.  I marveled at the splendor of the Cathedral and the heavenly music created by Dr. Savage, the talented musicians and choirs, and found sustenance in the wisdom of Father Ryan’s homilies.   However, I still felt more like an observer, not a participant.  Then one day I saw the notice in the bulletin for a pilgrimage to Rome along with a second notice for choir auditions and I knew this was the moment; I was going to try out for the choir!

Several days later I found myself robed and getting ready to process in for 10:00am Mass the first time. 

I was so nervous; I thought for sure I’d trip or drop my music and embarrass myself, but I didn’t.   I struggled through a couple of the pieces as I tried to keep my emotions in check; the experience of making music in such an environment was almost overwhelming. 

I mentioned at the beginning that the choir has supported and nurtured me in ways I did not expect.  I have realized I am the one who has been given the most valuable gift of all:  the gift of community, belonging, artistic expression, prayer.  Above all, I feel I am home again.

Colette Glenn

 


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