September 1, 2022
With summer nearly in the rear-view mirror now and a whole new season before us, I thought it would be timely to touch base with you.
First of all, I hope you have been able to enjoy some R & R during a summer that was pretty slow in coming but beautiful when it finally arrived. So many times—while meeting and greeting visitors at Sunday Mass—they have remarked at how blown away they’ve been by the beauty of our city and our region. I tend to take that for granted, but I shouldn’t. We are very blessed to live in the Pacific Northwest.
A highlight of my summer came in mid-August when I flew to Los Angeles to attend the Profession of Vows ceremony of our parishioner and my good friend, Cyrus Habib. Cyrus, as many of you know, served some years in the Washington State Senate and then as Lieutenant Governor of the State. He had a promising—even brilliant—career in public life ahead of him when he answered the call of God and entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus. At the vows ceremony, which I found both beautiful and moving, Cyrus professed the evangelical vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. It was a joy and a privilege to be there with his mother, his brother Jesuits, and some friends, for that holy and important moment. And, I want to mention that, since Cyrus was for many years a parishioner here at St. James, you can all take some credit for the role you played in his journey toward religious life and priesthood. Priestly vocations come from families and strong communities of faith like ours. They do! Please keep Cyrus in your prayers as he prepares to begin his years of Regency with graduate studies at Loyola University in Chicago.
Closer to home, it has been heartening to welcome more and more people back to regular Mass attendance after the long months of the pandemic. We still have a long way to go, however: Mass attendance is still just 61% of what it was when, in March of 2020, we had to suspend public Masses.
Any way you look at it, that number could be improved. And I know, some of you should be staying home because of illness or because of compromised immune systems. I don’t believe in guilt trips and I’m not going to lay one here, but I do want to make the point that if you’re waiting until the pandemic is over to return to church, you will most likely be waiting for a long time! Doctors tell us that Covid is going to become endemic—something we will all have to live with, not something that will go away. Life goes on. It must. And the community of faith goes on, too! And, as you well know, the primary way we grow as a community of faith is by coming together to celebrate the Eucharist.
A couple of weeks ago, one of our parishioners returned for Mass for the first time in two and a half years. When she greeted me after Mass, she had tears in her eyes, “It’s so good to be home, I’m so glad to be home.” That’s another way of saying that wonderful as live-stream Masses have been (and I know they are a godsend for the homebound), they do not—they cannot—substitute for our weekly communal celebration—and reception—of the Eucharist. There is no such thing as ‘virtual Holy Communion!’ Worshiping together, serving together, learning together: this is what it means to be part of a parish community.
So, if you are still on the sidelines, I invite you to consider getting back in ‘the game!’ And I want to assure you that you and your family can come back with confidence because going to Mass has actually proven to be a very safe activity. We continue to set aside a section where masks are required for those who wish or need to continue to mask up. We have installed HEPA filters, and we do everything possible to keep the air moving for added safety. So if you and your family have been away, or participating mostly online, I invite you to take the leap and return for Mass. You will be happy you did, and our community will be immeasurably enriched by your presence.
Father Michael G. Ryan