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The 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 6, 2022


    The summer after I graduated from college, before setting out for a new life in the unfamiliar city of Seattle, far away from my family and friends, I took a trip to Spain with my college singing group that had us follow the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James. Imagine my surprise then, when having Googled the nearest church to my First Hill apartment, I was greeted at the Cathedral with a bulletin that highlighted a special event, the “Camino Seattle” - a series of mini-pilgrimages leading up to Feast of St. James.

    Since that happy coincidence in 2013, I’m incredibly blessed to say that St. James Cathedral has become my home. I call St. James my home not because it’s where I live—though there are some weekends where it can certainly feel like that—but rather because this parish emblemizes what home is: Home is where you feel safe and welcomed. Home is where you find comfort and peace. Home is where you serve, and home is where you are transformed. Today I’d like to share a few stories of how St. James has been, and continues to be, a home for me.

     Thinking back to the first few months of visiting the Cathedral, I’m struck by how immediately welcome I felt. One Sunday evening, the former music director James Savage tapped me on the shoulder during an entrance procession to say, “you’ve got a great voice – keep it up!” It was a small gesture, but it meant a lot to be noticed. Within a few months, I was welcomed as an EM at the Noon Mass by my fellow servers who insisted I join them at the fiesta for Santo Niño, for which they had prepared a massive feast of Filipino delicacies. Even just recently on a Saturday evening, I encountered a young man who had been kicked out by his partner and was resting in a pew, looking for somewhere warm to be. For a short while, St. James was his home, in special part because of the Sacristan who hunted down a jacket to give him.

      Having been so graciously welcomed, I came to find in the Cathedral a place of peace and comfort. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of this space when it’s very quiet and empty, but pregnant with peace. Meditating with others in the silence of Taizé after a stressful workweek or taking a moment to pray for a loved one in the Marion Chapel, I’ve always found immense comfort in this space. But it’s not just the space – it’s the people of this parish that bring comfort. In 2019, when my dad suddenly had a brain hemorrhage, I travelled to Florida to say “goodbye” to him and help make funeral arrangements. During that time, and afterwards, parishioners were checking in on me and offering their prayers.

    This parish comforts, this parish welcomes, but above all, this parish transforms. The enriching faith formation, beautiful liturgy, and humble service opportunities abound, and dipping my toes into many of these continues to change me for the better. For eight years I helped our high schoolers prepare for the Sacrament of Confirmation, and I love seeing many of them go on to join the choir or become altar servers, living out the gift of the Holy Spirit. I’ve personally been transformed through helping the Cathedral to offer safe access to Mass during the pandemic. The wind, rain, and snow, occasional cranky Mass goer, and countless hours of rearranging social distanced seating were tough (those purple “no seating” laminated cards still haunt my dreams). But, I wouldn’t change a single moment of the past two years because they have also brought me the joy of getting to know so many parishioners. I’m grateful to be giving back to a parish I care so deeply about – a parish I call home.

       A home is a place of welcome, peace, and transformation, but a home also requires care and upkeep, and our home is maintained and grown thanks to your gifts of funding, time, and talent. Thanks to your continued generosity, our parish is a crossroads where dialogue and encounter such as what we experienced in the Synod flourishes. Thanks to you, our parish is a hub of music, art, poetry, and prayer. Thanks to you, our parish goes above and beyond to serve those on the margins. Each year around Sacrificial Giving time I try to look back at all the blessings I’ve had in life and challenge myself to do more to support this place because, who knows, maybe my support will help another lonely new Seattleite find a home.

      Every year on the Feast of St. James, we open Mass with the hymn, This is the feast, the joyful day. The last verse of that hymn always tugs at my heartstrings. Referring to St. James the Apostle, it goes: “Then let our due feet never fail to follow where he trod, and still to keep the pilgrim way that leads us home to God.” It’s a perfect reminder of what our parish embodies – not just a home, but a path. A path along the Camino of life, nourishing us, comforting us, and guiding us. May we never fail to follow that pilgrim way that leads us home to God.

John Engel-Kemnetz





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804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303