In Your Midst

The Pew Next to You

November 2012

Farewell to Marianne Coté
Meet the Ryan family

Of all our wonderful staff members here at St. James, the one who has served here the longest is Marianne Coté.  Marianne was hired in January, 1979, as the cook for some half dozen priests who lived in the Cathedral rectory, and a wonderful job she did not only as cook but as trusted confidant to a house full of priests.  She was serving in that capacity when I arrived here in 1988.  A couple of years later, when there were only two priests still living in the rectory, it was no longer realistic to have a full-time cook and that’s when, to my way of thinking, Marianne discovered her true calling! After a little friendly persuasion on my part (and a lot of hesitation on hers!), she agreed to take responsibility for our children’s faith formation program. 

The rest is history, as the saying goes.  And what a great history it is!  When Marianne took over, we had no more than a large handful of kids involved in Sunday school.  Thanks to her untiring efforts and her marvelous ability to reach out to children and their families, the program began to grow by leaps and bounds.  Then, after the Cathedral renovation was completed in 1994 and the parish began to attract families from all over the region, Marianne more than had her hands full.  But she carried on wonderfully – recruiting more and more volunteer catechists and attracting more and more children.  But she did more than grow the numbers:  she brought to the program a heart and a soul.  She endeared herself to a whole generation of kids and their families with her warm-hearted, no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is approach. More importantly, she helped to inspire in them a deep love for the Lord as well as a genuine love for the poor and the needy.  In a word, she made the Catholic faith come alive for them.
Now, after nearly thirty-four years, Marianne has decided it’s time to retire.  Well, not completely. Happily, she intends to continue to involve herself in the children’s faith formation program as a volunteer, and for that we can all be grateful.

Marianne, in the name of this parish community that you have served so long, so faithfully, so lovingly, and so effectively, a huge THANK YOU and an assurance of prayers now and in the days to come.

Father Michael G. Ryan


If you’re looking for Alice and Peter Ryan, it’s a safe bet you’ll find them on Sundays at the noontime Mass sitting in the south transept. Sometimes they may slip in a few minutes late after finishing up their volunteer duties with the Children’s Faith Formation Program.

Pete and Alice met in high school. They started dating at the University of Michigan and got married soon after they graduated. Alice went on to earn her MSW at Western Michigan University while Pete worked in advertising at Kellogg’s in Battle Creek. They moved to Seattle in the late 1990’s when Pete was recruited to work for Microsoft. Noah was born in July, 1999; Isabelle followed less than a year later.

Alice is a clinical social worker, who provides counseling and outreach to grieving families Children Hospital and also serves on the field faculty of the UW School of Social Work. Her professional focus on children and families in hospital settings developed largely as a result of the family’s experience when Isabelle was born prematurely.

In June, 2000, when Alice was 24-weeks pregnant, she started to hemorrhage. Five days later, Isabelle was born weighing just 1-pound, 10-ounces. Her eyes were still fused shut. Surgery to close an open heart valve left her susceptible to infection. Her weight dropped below a pound. She could wear Pete’s wedding ring around her arm as a bracelet. Pete found refuge for prayer in the cathedral. Slowly, she improved. And finally, exactly 100 days after her birth, Isabelle went home.

That next summer, the Ryans started attending the cathedral. Father Ryan noticed the new family right away and came over to introduce himself and they immediately hit it off. Having the same last name led to lots of jokes about being long-lost cousins.

A pivotal moment came when Noah started Children’s Faith Formation (CFF). In the beginning, Pete and Alice would wait in the hall, holding Isabelle and peeking inside the classroom to see what the kids were doing. Then Pete and Alice realized they could do more. Lita McBride, Pastoral Assistant for Children’s Faith Formation, gradually drew them in. (Alice calls Lita the “Holy Spirit Warrior.”) At first Alice helped out in the kindergarten room, later assuming responsibility for her own class. Pete became a member of the CFF Welcome Team. He jokes that he started out as Assistant to the Assistant Door Guard and eventually worked his way up to running the operation.

Noah’s and Isabelle’s commitments to the parish have grown too. They’ve joined the ranks of altar servers, choir members, and youth readers. During last summer’s choir camp production of The Play of Daniel, Noah played Captain of the Satraps and Isabelle played a princess.

A student at Eastside Prep, Noah knows what he likes best about the cathedral. “I love Father Ryan’s homilies. I look forward to them every Sunday. He says a lot of things that increase my spiritual awareness.”

For Isabelle, who attends Forest Ridge, it’s the St. James community. “It’s very friendly.”

Her mother agrees. “Every time we walk in there is always someone with a smile, extending a hand and saying “Welcome to St. James.” The ushers are really amazing! We always say, “Gosh, they are so nice!” Looking around, we see all those Filipinos, and I love for my kids to be exposed to my culture. Growing up in little town in Michigan, I didn’t have that opportunity.”

“I came to the cathedral,” Pete says, “because of the ceremony as well as the organ music. I was raised by classical music types. I’ve grown to like the church because of the diversity, the focus on family. And Father Ryan is the heart of St. James. The parish is a reflection of the broader church. There are disputes within the church and there are different points of view. The nice thing about St. James is our ability to embrace all those diverse points of view and to welcome each person from every background. That makes us feel so at home here.”

Alice sums it all up: “I love what the oculus says. Our family mantra has become, I am in your midst as one who serves. That message--right in the center with the light going through--is so awe inspiring. We take it to heart. Volunteering and serving others has not been compartmentalized in our lives. It’s just what we do.” 

Suzanne Lee 

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