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Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 29, 2012

     You may have noticed the image of the Good Shepherd that is on the cover of today’s bulletin. That little statue sits on my desk over in the rectory. Sometimes it’s nearly buried under stacks of paper, phone messages, and other desktop debris, but I can always see it, and it’s always a nice reminder to me of my calling. Sometimes, after reading an angry letter, or during a difficult telephone conversation, or while preparing a homily, I’ll glance over at the statue and be reminded of my calling to be shepherd.

     Of course, priests aren’t the only ones who are called to be shepherds. Parents certainly have that calling. In fact, I think that there are no better shepherds than parents who willingly and constantly lay down their lives for their children. Twenty-four seven!

     And then, there’s a sense in which every disciple of Christ is a shepherd – called as we are to love and care for one other, especially for the poorest and the most forgotten.  In our better moments, we do this pretty well.  We in this parish community of St. James, for instance, show the loving face of Jesus the Good Shepherd to countless people day after day:

  •  Some of them are poor and hungry and they come here for food; others of them are homeless and friendless and they come for a listening ear and open heart.
  • Some are newcomers to this land and don't know our language; others are elderly and need a reminder of how valued they are.
  • Some are young and come here to learn about Jesus; others are sick and need to feel the healing hand of Jesus.

     So many people meet Jesus the Good Shepherd here thanks to you who have listened to the gospel and taken it to heart: taken seriously his call to lay down your lives in the service of others.

     But even this is not enough.  Today we are reminded that there are some things we as a parish community simply cannot do by ourselves no matter how hard we try.  We are reminded that we are part of a Church that is larger than our own parish -- the Catholic Church here in the Archdiocese of Seattle whose calling is the same as ours: to be good shepherds like Jesus.

     This is Annual Catholic Appeal Sunday -- the Sunday each year when we are given a chance to look beyond our parish’s needs to the needs of the Church all over Western Washington from Canada to the Columbia, from the Cascades to the Pacific -- and to do what Jesus did: care for the flock in loving ways.

     This morning I want to remind you of just a few of the ways you do this but let me first acknowledge that for some of you, supporting the Annual Catholic Appeal this year presents a serious challenge. There’s the recent disheartening and disturbing news about the investigation of the women religious in this country, and there’s the whole business of Referendum 74. Some of you are unhappy that the Archbishop promoted signature-gathering in the parishes; others of you are unhappy with me for not allowing it, even though I did so with the Archbishop’s permission. Feelings, I know, run strongly on both sides. These are difficult issues, difficult times.

     But allow me to offer this thought:  refusing to contribute to the Annual Catholic Appeal this year will hurt the tens of thousands of people whom the Archdiocese serves far more than it will hurt the Archdiocese itself, because this Appeal is really not about funding a bureaucracy, it is about serving and caring for people.

     It’s about housing the poor, the disabled, the elderly,  war veterans, people with alcohol and substance abuse issues, and migrant workers and their families.  It’s also about providing shelters and basic social services for homeless men and women.  In other words, it’s about supporting the extraordinary work of Catholic Community Services and Catholic Housing Services – those great Catholic agencies that are second only to the State of Washington when it comes to providing essential social services.

     The Annual Catholic Appeal is also about keeping our wonderful Catholic grade and high schools going strong and making sure that they don’t become enclaves for the elite and the affluent.

     The Annual Appeal is also about training our seminarians who are preparing for the priesthood.  It costs upwards of $50,000 each year to educate one seminarian, and it takes five years, and there are more than 30 of them. You can do the math!

     And at the other end of the spectrum – my end! – the Appeal helps fund the retirement costs of hundreds of priests, sisters and brothers who have given their lives in service of this local Church.

     You know all this.  You know, too, that each year the Archdiocese sets an Annual Appeal goal for the entire Archdiocese and a goal for each parish.  The overall goal this year for the Archdiocese is the same as last year: $10 million. Our share of this – our parish’s goal – is $346,000 -- a huge sum of money, especially in challenging economic times like these when some of you are out of work and many of you are suffering significant financial setbacks. I’m well aware of this, well aware that the only way we can possibly meet our goal is if the more financially able among us step forward and give even more generously than in the past.  And you have always been more than generous.  In fact, you have made this the most generous of all the nearly 175 parishes in the Archdiocese!  By any reckoning, this is pretty wonderful and pretty amazing!

      Let me remind you that everything given over and above our $346,000 goal will come directly back to us as a rebate.  And we need the rebate. Thanks to your past generosity, we have come to depend on it in our budgeting process.  And let me tell you why we especially need the rebate this year. We need it to help meet the costs for our extensive parish social outreach programs.  Did you know that each year, we spend approximately three- quarters of a million dollars to fund these programs?

      The rebate will help with this.  Without it, we simply will not be able to meet the huge expenses that are involved in our many outreach ministries, including the Cathedral Kitchen, the ESL program, the Mental Health Ministry, and the Solanus Casey Center.  You’re aware of the first three programs but perhaps not so much of The Solanus Casey Center, which is a drop in and referral center (the only one on First Hill) for homeless and recently incarcerated people.  This relatively new program jointly sponsored the Cathedral and Catholic Community Services is one of our best-kept secrets.  Like the other outreach ministries, it involves very significant expenses (salary, rent, utilities, supplies), and that’s where this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal rebate will come in.

      To tell us a bit about the Solanus Casey Center, I’ve invited – what can I say? – an expert.  One of the wonderful core of volunteers who help staff the center.  Now, I’m a bit biased about this particular volunteer.  She just happens to be my sister, Judy, a sister of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.  You can call us the Ryan ‘tag team!’  Please join me in welcoming Sister Judy Ryan.

     Father Michael G. Ryan


      A few months ago, I joined the volunteers at the Solanus Casey Center.  It is one of many ministries at St. James where befriending and shepherding is what we do.  We’re located in a house on Terry & James, a couple of blocks from the Cathedral and are open three afternoons a week, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1-4 pm.
      The Center is named for Fr. Solanus Casey, Sr. Anne Herkenrath’s cousin, a renowned and holy Franciscan monk who spent his life in Detroit, touching countless people through his welcoming and outreach to the poor. He is now in the process of being declared a Saint.  Just think what prayer power we have going for us!  
      At the Solanus Casey Center, Sr. Peggy Kennedy, the Director along with a group of volunteers, welcome homeless and recently incarcerated women and men who are seeking a place of respite from the streets…a place for a cup of coffee or tea, a chance to share their stories with listening ears and hearts and to find practical help to meet their many needs.  Given our limited funding, our main focus is to provide vouchers for Washington State IDs for about 60-70 people monthly. (each costs about $20).  I never would have guessed this, but without ID, you can’t apply for a job, find housing or navigate your way to most community resources.   We also offer referrals to places that can provide food, clothing, medical or dental services, legal help, emergency or transitional housing and financial help with ORCA cards for seniors and the disabled. The needs are endless as you may imagine!
      Just one story to illustrate…one afternoon, a pregnant woman came by, about 35 years old.  She had recently left her abusive husband with her 2 ½ year old daughter and desperately needed housing as another baby was due in a couple of weeks.  She and her daughter had gone from shelter to shelter in search of longer-term options, only to be told abruptly that “there was no room in the inn.”  What could I do?  I spent about 3 hours with her that afternoon, making many phone calls to referral resources, finally finding an opening at the YWCA  where she could stay for a few days while we pursued more permanent housing.  . The Solanus Casey Center can’t “fix” our many social and economic problems, but we can be a presence and advocate, and most of all let our guests know that God loves and cares for them.
      I had great admiration for this woman who had already taken many courageous steps to help herself. I felt sad and frustrated that our most vulnerable people are “left out” by all the budget and service cuts in this economy.  But I was deeply touched by her gratitude when she told me that “this is the first place anyone has taken time to help me out. I know that God is on my side!”   That’s what we’re here for, I told her!    
      As my brother said, the parish rebate from this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal will help strengthen our parish outreach programs, and in particular, the Solanus Casey Center.  Come by and visit us sometime, and you’ll see for yourself what your generous support makes possible! Thank you!

Sister Judy Ryan, snjm



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804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303