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October 2, 2016


Dear Friends,

You may remember that in launching this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis challenged us with these words: “In this Jubilee Year, let us allow God to surprise us.”

That got me to thinking. Are we open as a parish to God’s surprises?  Am I open as pastor to God’s surprises?  To help answer this, I decided to do two things.  The first was to conduct a survey of the entire parish last fall to learn what your hopes, dreams, and concerns were. More than 600 of you participated and the results were shared with you in the bulletin and in our parish journal, In Your Midst.  Secondly, I convened a new Vision Council for the parish. I wanted to explore how a representative group of engaged parishioners—people like you—were experiencing the life of this Cathedral community. Where did we need to grow and change? What were our successes? Where were we falling short of the vision of mercy Pope Francis laid out for this Jubilee Year? How could we open ourselves to God’s surprises in ways that might push us in new, untried directions?

During six weeks of intensive discussions with the Pastoral Vision Council and the parish staff, we explored these and other questions in depth. And I’ll be frank with you--we didn’t come up with all the answers!  But we did come up with some key themes for us as a parish to focus on in the next five years.  The themes are listed below; each is followed by a series of questions, which I am hoping you will give some serious thought to, much as our Pastoral Vision Council and our staff have already done.

Welcoming the Stranger   How can we make the Cathedral a more welcoming place? Do we really welcome seekers and strangers? How can we become a community that is not just focused on itself, but is genuinely outward-looking? With the explosion of new construction, our Cathedral neighborhood and our city will change drastically in the next five years. What new challenges will this bring to us?  What new opportunities? How will we meet them?  How can we reach out and engage in dialogue with the city around us?

Hospitality  One way of making people feel welcome is by being hospitable. Are we welcoming to those sitting in the pews next to us, or to those we walk into Mass or out of Mass with?  We all know what a difference a simple smile or “hello” can make. How can we be more welcoming?  Can we reach out more warmly to visitors and regulars alike? How can we make the coffee hour a place where everyone feels at home, not just the regulars? Are there other opportunities for us to build community by breaking bread together?  How can we make hospitality a way of life at St. James Cathedral?

Outreach and “Inreach”  In a very large community that worships in a very large space, doesn’t it make sense to build what Pope Francis calls “a community of small communities,” where each person has a place, a home? Can we do this by inviting parishioners to truly get involved in the parish, participating in one or another of our many ministries? Our parishioners live all over King County and beyond: how can we form community out in our many neighborhoods (e.g. by getting together in small study groups)?  Are there other ways of extending the Sunday Mass community to the other six days of the week—especially when we live so far from one another?

Telling Our Story   So many of the good things that happen at St. James Cathedral go unnoticed.  They are well-kept secrets!  Are there more compelling ways to tell the story of what is going on here day after day, bringing the Gospel to life through the stories we tell?  Social media offer endless possibilities for making connections. Can we do more to take advantage of the possibilities of technology and social media to share what goes on in the Cathedral throughout the week, making it easy for more and more people to participate in the day-to-day life of the Cathedral?

These are just a few of the themes and questions that our Pastoral Vision Council and our staff found quite exciting to discuss and brainstorm. I am hoping you will find them exciting, too.  I invite you to join me in reflecting on them in the coming months. And I hope we do more than reflect on them. As I mentioned, the Pastoral Team will be setting specific goals in response to these questions. What if you were to set some of your own goals? In the weeks to come, we are going to be proposing some very practical possibilities to help you do just that. Please stay tuned!

Pope Francis has written: “The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community… It is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a center of constant missionary outreach.” I can’t think of better words to describe this Cathedral parish. So let’s accept Pope Francis’ invitation and be creative! I don’t know what will come of this new Vision, what new ideas, new ministries, new communities will be formed. What I do know for certain is that together, we can make this Cathedral parish even more warm, loving, and welcoming; more centered on the Gospel; a parish that conveys the image of God’s merciful face in everything we do, every liturgy we celebrate, every telephone call or email we answer, every new outreach we undertake. We’ve got work to do, my friends. We really do. Each one of us!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Father Michael G. Ryan




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804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303