By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium
St. Mary’s Church Catholic Church on 20th Ave and South of Jackson Street in Seattle’s Central Area has a 120-year history and tradition of serving its community and embracing diversity.
However, with the future outlook of the church being uncertain, the Archdiocese, according to members of the church, is planning to have St. Mary’s merge with a parish in close proximity in order to help strengthen the overall Catholic community during a time when they have limited resources.
In response, members of St Mary’s will gather outside the Chancery offices of the Seattle Archdiocese located on Columbia St., between 9th & Terry Ave, this Sun., Oct. 10 from 1:30 – 3:15 pm to lend their voices and to call for their church to remain open. The Archdiocese has slated it to be closed in summer 2022.
Parishioners like Wendy Kimball, who joined the St. Mary’s community in 2013, says that it is important for people to show up at the rally and to help voice the peoples’ concerns about the potential closure of the storied church.
“What is important is that the people that have grown this church is what is remarkable about this,” says Wendy Kimball. “They are the people that if you attend the rally, they will be giving testimonials to what St Mary’s means to the community that it is in.”
After months of listening sessions and community meetings with the church leadership, an appeal signed by nearly 200 parishioners was submitted to Archbishop Paul D. Etienne to meet with them. According to members of the church, the Archbishop refused to meet with them in a written response to their letter, leaving the members feeling unheard and unseen. So now they are taking their prayers and voices to the streets to ask the Archbishop to have the courtesy to meet with their representatives.
“I feel this is real tragedy,” says Paul Purcell, a forty-five year member of the Parrish. “St Mary’s was a very vibrant, progressive community as a Catholic community. Leadership changes over the last five to seven years seriously decreased the involvement of parishioners, families in particular, there has just been a vacuum of leadership that has just reduced the engagement of the people in the Parrish.”
Parishioner Ruth Zeek is in disbelief that the leadership will not meet with them.
“We have been faithful servants of the church and St. Mary’s has been a home for immigrants in Seattle for over 120 years,” said Zeek. “We can’t believe we’re being ignored and disrespected in this way.”
According to parishioners, during the summer, St. Mary’s parishioners gathered in a series of prayerful, bilingual vigils to seek guidance from their patron Mary and the Holy Spirit for a faithful response to the Archdiocese.
St. Mary’s is a Parrish rich in diversity offering a bilingual religious experience and the Latin community too is dismayed by the current events that have taken place at the church and the possibility of the church being shut down for good.
The Archdiocese made a plan for the English-speaking mass to worship elsewhere, but, according to church members, alternatives for Spanish-speaking mass have not been conveyed to them yet.
“It was painful and sad to hear the Archbishop say he was closing St. Mary’s our spiritual home for 35 years, where we walked along with our brothers and sisters from the English speaking mass,” says Felipe Maqueda, a long time parishioner. “They [English speaking parishioners] were told where they could move to on day one and he left us on the steps in front of locked doors with our families, telling us to find a community where we can be accepted. We have been abandoned, we the poor minority waiting to meet the Archbishop who has refused to meet with our community.”