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On Thursday, December 4, the Washington Association of Churches honored
Father Ryan with their award for Ecumenical Leadership

Rev. John Boonstra, former WAC Executive Director, said in presenting the award to Father Ryan:

It is a great honor to present this Ecumenical Leadership Award to Fr. Michael Ryan. Few things would have touched my heart as the invitation to join in honoring this wonderful soul and dear friend.

Michael has blessed my own journey with wisdom in tough situations, guidance in the midst of thorny problems and a caring and love for people that transcends all the obstacles that everyday life throws our way!

In my work with the WAC over 17 years, I was blessed with an evolving sense of defining what and who is a religious leader.

A lot of us define religious leader by office, degree or position. But when it comes right down to it, we all look for religious leaders to be something beyond all that, don't we?
We look for the ones who bring us together church folk and community folk to feel the power of God's people gathered.

We look for the ones who motivate our spirit.

We look for the ones who selflessly care for the neighborhood.

We look for the ones who give thanks for all those gathered at our tables and who then ask --  who is missing and why?

We look for the ones who plan for worship and liturgy that lifts us up and gives expression to our love for God's words, ways &works.

We look for the ones who know that the mission of God precedes the mission of the church

AND are not afraid to live that way.

We look for the unshakeable ecumenical ones.

Enter Fr. Michael G. Ryan.

I celebrate that such a gentle and persuasive and spirited and authentic religious leader has graced us as Senior pastor of St. James Cathedral.

A great cathedral calls people to prayer, challenges them to justice and entices them into the beauty of faith.

Seattle's St. James Cathedral does that, and much more.  And it does that by having strong pastoral leadership from Fr. Michael.

Michael's own words reveal the grace of his leadership: "The embrace of any cathedral should be wide. Sooner or later, people of all faiths and of no faith at all find their way there. St. James is no exception. St. James Cathedral welcomes all people of good will who enter its doors."

Fr. Ryan has called us together ecumenically in this sacred cathedral to pray for peace; to pray for non-violence; to grieve over injustice; to lament oppression; to celebrate our unity and to bring us together to just let us be together for a while.

The most cherished religious leaders we have are those who teach us, show us and model for us how God yearns for the people of God to be with one another.

I thank God for the ministry and ecumenical witness of Fr. Ryan. And with those at the WAC, I offer him this Ecumenical Leadership Award.

Father Ryan's response

            Would it come as a surprise if I told you that the bricks and mortar, granite and marble of St. James Cathedral are 'ecumenical' bricks and mortar, granite and marble?  They are!  In the early years of the last century, all of Seattle, not just the Catholics, dug deep into their pockets to help build St. James.  The Great Cathedral Fair of 1903 that raised nearly $20,000 to begin construction of the Cathedral attracted as many Protestants as it did Catholics -- and that's a good thing because there were a whole lot more Protestants here than Catholics, and if the Cathedral had had to depend on Catholic money alone we would probably still be digging the foundations!  Considering that ecumenism was a largely unknown word back then and the ecumenical movement was still generations away, I find that pretty impressive.
            Some 85 years later when I came to St. James, there were, of course, many more reasons to look at the Cathedral through the ecumenical prism and for me to see my role as an ecumenical one.  My own seminary formation had taken place in Rome during the Second Vatican Council, that launching pad for ecumenism in the Roman Catholic Church.  Those were heady days and very exciting days, thanks to the vision of the great Pope John XXIII, and I remember them well.  After 400 years, the Roman Catholic Church was climbing out of its ghetto-mentality and embracing a vision of Church that emphasized the beliefs we Christians have in common rather than our differences: 'One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and works through all, and is in all.'
            And, then, fairly early in my years of priestly ministry, I had the unparalleled privilege of working very closely with a giant of a man, Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, who will forever represent a high point of ecumenism in this community, and who will forever in my mind define what ecumenism is all about because in his own person he embodies what unity and love and dialogue and being Church are all about.
            All this is a way of saying that whatever I've been able to do to foster ecumenism during my years at St. James Cathedral, I credit to those powerful influences.  Thanks to them, I came to St. James believing that the Cathedral is God's house for all God's children, a place where people, no matter what their beliefs or their differences, can come together in times of challenge and times of celebration, times of triumph and times of testing -- come together to pray, to listen, to learn, to gain resolve, to gain respect and,  ultimately, to find ways to become in fact what we are in faith: the Body of Christ, called together to do Christ's work: to work for peace, to advocate for justice, to speak up for the voiceless, and to care for those who cannot care for themselves.  We do these things so much better when we do them, not alone, but together!
            My friends, it is very humbling to receive this award but it is even more humbling, and rewarding, to work with people like you and with organizations like the Washington Association of Churches, to make the gospel vision of Jesus come alive in our time.




Return to St. James Cathedral Parish Website

804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303