Weekly Bulletin » Weekly Bulletin: A Message from Fr. Gary

Weekly Bulletin: A Message from Fr. Gary



Dear Friends at St. Louise,


Thank you for the support and prayers you showed for our sister parish and school, Ste. Anne de Hyacynthe in Haiti. And congratulations to our school students for winning the pennies war with the St. Anthony students. They collected well over $2,000 worth of coins!  As a result St. Anthony’s principal, Deacon Cantu, and pastor, Fr. Tom, will have to wear St. Louise Charger gear! I appreciate your warm welcome to Fr. Frank Rouleau who serves as our contact to Ste. Anne’s parish, school and pastor, Pe Josue. The terrible suffering of the people of Haiti makes our resolve to journey together with them all the more meaningful.


Those of us who live in the United States have more connections with our Haitian brothers and sisters than we might think at first. Did you know that Haitian soldiers fought in the American Revolution under the French Army? Things might have been different for the people of our land if it were not for them. Also, the 26 states that came into being through the Louisiana Purchase might not have happened if the enslaved Black people in Haiti had not revolted and set themselves free from French rule. Napoleon decided to sell to the United States the territory the French once held because his plan to use Haitian slaves to produce commodities he planned to sell in that French territory had evaporated. Sadly, slavery in the United States only grew as a result.


And we Catholics in the United States can claim as our own two Haitian‑born people of African descent who are on their way to canonization: First, Venerable Pierre Toussaint came as an enslaved person to New York City and was eventually freed. He was a hairdresser to wealthy women, and used his considerable earnings to help those most in need. He became well known among Catholics in New York for his deep faith and his charity to the poor. Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange was a religious sister in Baltimore and in 1829 founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first African-American religious congregation in the United States.


Your donations will help Pe Josue to continue to pay his teachers, feed the students with a hot meal each, and improve their education. He has the dream to install solar panels so that Ste. Anne’s can have enough reliable electricity to introduce some of the technology that we all take for granted.

Thank you for this and for the many ways that you show generous stewardship to our parish and our school and beyond.


Mesi Anpil! Thank you very much!

Fr. Gary Zender


Thank you to those of you who have helped St. Louise to address our $50K deficit. Every gift, given from the heart, makes a difference, no matter how big or how small. Not equal gift, but equal sacrifice, is what makes the difference.






Dear Friends at St. Louise,


Most of you know that after over two years serving as our St. Louise School principal, Mike Fuerte has discerned that God is calling him to return to the classroom. He let me know early in this school year, which put us in a strong position to post the position with good timing.


I am delighted to announce that we have a new principal! His name is John Black, he currently lives in California, and he comes with a wealth of experience. He will officially begin on July 1, 2024. Here is an adapted version of what he shared with the school community:


John began his career as a Peace Corps volunteer, teaching mathematics to high school students in a little village in central Africa. He returned from that experience fully committed to a career in education. In the decade that followed, he completed his Masters and Doctoral studies while teaching at Catholic and international schools in the United States and Honduras, before becoming a principal at a Catholic school in central California. His leadership career continued at Catholic, independent, and international schools in the United States, the Middle East, and Asia. In total, he has more than 20 years of leadership experience.


John is originally from Massachusetts, born to an Irish Catholic mother and a Lutheran father. His wife was born in the Philippines and grew-up in a staunchly Catholic household. They have been blessed with five children, all of whom are now in college or beyond. Their oldest is married and soon to start his own family.


John describes his leadership style as collaborative and relational. He looks forward to partnering with everyone in the parish and school as we take St. Louise Catholic School to new heights of excellence, while continuing to ensure its strong Catholic identity.


John notes that in education these days, we hear so much about the Whole Child, about how important it is for schools to meet not just the academic but the social and emotional needs of every student. But this is where Catholic education has its greatest advantage. At schools like St. Louise, we can also meet the spiritual needs of each child, regardless of their faith background. In doing so, we are giving our children the strongest of foundations upon which to build their lives.


In the years to come, John looks forward to collaborating with everyone in our community to give the students of St. Louise Catholic School an education that prepares them to be lifelong learners, forever grounded in the values of the Catholic Church.


Thank you for your prayers for St. Louise School in this time of transition.


Fr. Gary Zender


Thank you for your kind words of support after I shared with the parish, two weeks ago at Mass, that we are currently operating with a $50,000 deficit. The 16% growth in attendance at Mass has not been matched with the growth in financial contributions, while expenses that are beyond our control continue to increase. As I said at Mass, I have faith in God, and I know that you do too! I am confident that together we can overcome this challenge to ensure that we have a vibrant parish in the future. Thank you! Fr. Gary





Dear Friends at St. Louise,


Catholic advocacy on issues that implicate or affect our faith is important. For longer than I have been a priest, every Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle has worked hard to protect children and other vulnerable populations, and to ensure a safe environment for them and for everyone in all the ministries of our Church. Every volunteer who works with minors or other vulnerable populations, all members of the clergy, and all staff members must go through Safe Environment training. Every priest or deacon from outside our Archdiocese who serves here in any capacity must have a letter of suitability from their superior that is approved by the Vicar for Clergy of the Archdiocese. For many years now, per archdiocesan policy, all clergy have been mandatory reporters of child abuse while still maintaining the protection of the seal of confession.


You might recall that last year, a bill came before the Washington State legislature that would have included even what a priest might hear in confession in mandatory reporting. Your advocacy led to a new bill being introduced, Senate Bill 6298. It went for a vote on Tuesday, February 20, and passed. That bill makes all clergy of any faith mandatory reporters of child abuse or neglect with the limited exception of information obtained in a penitential communication. The definition of penitential communication is narrowly written to protect the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation. Opponents of the bill are seeking to eliminate the privilege entirely, leaving clergy without any protections when they refuse to break the seal of confession.


The Washington State Catholic Conference (WSCC) is in support of most of this bill, which represents a compromise between the religious liberty rights of religions and the rights of survivors of abuse. Thus, the bill provides a strong exemption from reporting for any information obtained solely in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. On the other hand, if a child is actively being abused, the bill adds a duty to warn authorities, even if the information comes “in part” from a penitential communication.

No priest has authority to violate canon law by breaking the seal of confession, even in part. But, neither the WSCC nor I know of any priest who would allow known child abuse to persist and a known perpetrator to continue to jeopardize their immortal soul after that person has reached out for help in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The WSCC has taken a neutral position on the "in part" language because the broader exemption for penitential communications in the bill is critical to protect the Sacrament of Reconciliation from state intrusion. The duty to warn is such an intrusion, but can be avoided by following Safe Environment policies and appropriate pastoral care of a penitent confessing to ongoing sinfulness.


As noted, advocates are pushing for an amendment to this bill that would eliminate the exemption altogether, placing the priest in violation of state law in all circumstances where there is a confession of past or present abuse. So there may be a time when your advocacy will be needed again.

For information about this legislation, our Catholic views on it, and its legislative status, go to the WSCC webpage and read, or sign up for, their Catholic Advocacy bulletins (https://www.wacatholics.org/stay-informed). There is a path to protect both the integrity of the sacrament and those who are vulnerable, and our current policy does just that.


Fr. Gary Zender







Dear Friends at St. Louise,


This weekend Fr. Tom Belleque and I will do our annual pulpit exchange as a part of our joint commitment to our sister parish and school in Haiti, St. Anne de Hyacynthe.


Your donations in the past have made a real difference for the pastor, Pe Josue, and the people of St. Anne’s. Fr. Frank Rouleau, who will be with us again this year in March, has been in communication with Pe Josue, and reports that the money we are sending is covering the expenses well. For the grammar school, Pe Josue has eight teachers, plus one retired teacher whom he helps financially. The annual salaries for the grammar school teachers are 121,200 Haitian gourdes (HTG) (about US$4,596.51). He spends between HTG30,000 (US$228) and HTG35,000 (US$266) for food each week. For the high school, Father has 23 teachers, whose annual salaries are HTG490,320 (approximately US$18,596). Father also employs two cooks. The school students are fed three to four times a week depending on the availability and price of food (food and other prices continue to increase – the Haitian Inflation Rate in November 2023 was 22.2% according to the Haitian Institute of Statistics and Information).


We also plan to send money so that Pe Josue can buy a motorcycle, at the cost of US$1,750, to help to transport the teachers each day from Ti Goave, the city below the mountain where St. Anne’s Parish and School are located. He will also need money for registration, insurance and maintenance of the motorcycle. We also assist with replacing the tires, fuel and service of the existing parish pickup truck, which costs about US$3,500 for a year. Your donations have made this possible. Thank you!


The Standing with Haiti Committee has also done advocacy work to ask our lawmakers to help with the crisis that Haiti faces due to horrible gang violence. This violence has prevented us from sending delegations to St. Anne’s as has been done the past. Despite the current inability to visit, we hope also to find ways to strengthen our communication and connection with the people of St. Anne’s, since the relationship aspect is key to a strong sister parish and school covenant. I am grateful that our school students pray for St. Anne’s regularly and are learning about the country of Haiti in their classrooms.


Fr. Tom will be at the 9AM, 11AM and 1PM Masses this weekend.


Mesi anpil! Thank you!


Fr. Gary Zender






Dear Friends at St. Louise,


Happy world Marriage Day! This day is an important one for everyone in the Church, married or not, because Christ has made a “marriage covenant” with us, as the Church, through our baptism. This covenant began with his birth, when he joined heaven and earth together as one. By his death he poured out his life-blood for us, with the selfless love of a bridegroom for his bride, the Church. By his resurrection, he raised up to a new level all of human life, including the human experience of marriage.


To highlight the sacrament of marriage is to lift up not only those who are married, but all of us. The grace that is poured upon the couple through this sacrament is not for them exclusively. Rather, it is one of the two “Sacraments at the Service of Communion” (the other is the sacrament of Holy Orders: deacon, priest and bishop), so called because they are directed to the salvation of others. Those who are single, either by choice or by circumstance, those who are widowed or divorced, those who are celibate like Fr. Nehnevaj and myself, are not excluded from the gift and grace of the sacrament of Matrimony. Firstly, so many of us of us are born as the fruit of the sacramental marital union of our parents. Even beyond that, for me, strong marriages in the parish, as well as marriages that sometimes struggle in family life, help to sustain me in my priesthood. When my siblings were raising babies, someone commented to me, “It must be hard as a priest to get a call to anoint someone in the middle of the night.” Knowing the struggles that my siblings faced with young ones who wake up crying in the middle of the night almost every night, I said, “Not as hard as having to care for a baby that wakes up every night. I get calls at night only a few times a year.”


Marriage is a visible reminder that God made all of us, no matter our state of life, of out of love, and for us to live in God’s love. The grace in the sacrament of marriage is that God pours a particular love on the couple, so that they may have the strength to be more united in God’s perfect love, and to let go of the imperfections of their love that happen even in the best of marriages. God pours a particular grace on every person, for what they need in their personal life. It is a beautiful gift for all of us to see that happen in a couple who are no longer two but one flesh, which, God willing, will produce the gift of children.


Know that our love and prayers go to all of you who are married. And married or not, we all share in the nuptial love of Christ for his entire Church; and all of us, through God’s mercy, will sit at the eternal wedding feast of the lamb.


Fr. Gary Zender






Dear Friends of St. Louise,


This weekend is an important one in the life of our local church in Western Washington. After more than a year of preparation and consultation, this weekend Archbishop Etienne is sharing with Catholics in Western Washington his decision on the composition of the “parish families” that will formally begin this coming July 1. There are some proposed parish families in the Archdiocese that have been reconfigured, based upon the input of parishioners. But at this writing, I am 99% certain that we will be a parish family with St. Madeleine Sophie Parish in Bellevue, based on the positive input that you gave to that proposal last Fall. If that proves not to be true, well then, we will pivot!


We never know from one day to the next about what will happen in the world, in our country, in our families, and even in the Church. Life goes better with a high dose of flexibility! I found these words about parish life from Pope Francis to be extremely helpful the first time I read them in 2013:

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. (The Joy of the Gospel, # 28)

Flexibility – from everyone – around what it will mean to be a parish family will be important, because there are far more questions than there are answers at this point. We will live into the answers in the next three years, after which each parish family will become one canonical parish (i.e., officially, according to Church law). It is easier to be flexible when we take our questions, our fears, our hopes, and our efforts to grow in faith and prayer, to the Lord, and allow him to look at us with love, so that we in turn can look at every experience and every person with the gaze of his love. That is the first and most important step.


I invite you to include the prayer for Partners in the Gospel in your daily prayer, and to consider attending the Partners Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament the first Wednesday of each month. The next one is this Wednesday, February 7, at 6:30PM. Even if you can’t join, do please pray for our parish family at home.


With gratitude for you and your faith in Christ,

Fr. Gary Zender







Dear Friends of St. Louise,


Lent is early this year. In fact, Ash Wednesday falls on February 14, Valentine’s Day, or as we say in Spanish, El día de Amor y Amistad (the Day of Love and Friendship). Since God is love and we have no greater friend than Jesus himself, it seems appropriate that we begin our Lenten Journey to renew and strengthen our friendship with the Lord with prayer, penance, and fasting instead of flowers and chocolate. (The night before will work just fine for those! It might even be easier to get a restaurant reservation, if you are going out to celebrate.)


Meals together are so often an expression of love. Jesus built on this human experience when he instituted the Eucharist. Since this year is the Year of Eucharistic Revival, we will offer an opportunity to help St. Louise parish dive deeper into our appreciation of the Eucharist, through a small group faith sharing program called “Living the Eucharist” (in Spanish, Vive la Eucaristia) by Paulist Press. It will run on Thursday nights, 6:30-8PM, for the six weeks of Lent. Fr. Nehnevaj will lead the sessions in English and Deacon Abel Magaña will lead the sessions in Spanish. Both language groups will gather together in the lobby of our School and Faith Formation Center for an introduction to each evening, then separate for the sessions in their preferred language and for prayer. You can also participate even if you cannot make the Thursday night sessions – every week, each parishioner who has their email in our records will be sent a summary of the theme for that week. And, there will be a celebratory potluck dinner for all participants once Lent is over and the Easter season arrives.


Lent is a time to renew our faith, to turn away from sin, and to grow in our love of the Lord. One real way to do that is to grow in our understanding and appreciation of the meaning of the Eucharist. You will hear more about this in the coming weeks as we get closer to Lent.


With my gratitude and promise of prayer,


Fr. Gary Zender


Fr. Gary will be on vacation starting Wednesday afternoon, January 31, and returning Thursday afternoon, February 8.


Next weekend we will receive the official announcement of the Parish Families for the Archdiocese of Seattle. Please keep in your prayers that the Holy Spirit continue to guide us in this process of “Partners in the Gospel.”







Dear Friends at St. Louise,


Each year on the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time we celebrate “Sunday of the Word of God,” and the theme for this year is “Remain in my Word” (John 8:31). This is important since, as St Jerome once said, anyone who is ignorant of the scriptures is ignorant of Christ. Jesus Christ himself is the Word made flesh.


How can we grow in what it means to remain in God’s Word? That all depends upon where we are in our own personal journey of knowing and understanding the Bible. We do know that left on our own, it is easy to get discouraged about reading the Bible regularly when the passages are confusing. Some people wonder even how to begin. We need the help of the Church to interpret and understand the scriptures, as we have the wealth of centuries of wisdom and spiritual insights from the Fathers of the Church, the saints, and scholars on which to draw.


One good place to start is with the readings for each Sunday. Could you make a commitment to pray over one or more of the Sunday readings, perhaps the Gospel, sometime before coming to Mass each weekend? Taking that step can help with listening better both to the Gospel as it is proclaimed and to the homily. After all, even in this year of the Eucharistic revival, half of the Mass is still the Liturgy of the Word!


There are numerous online resources for Bible study. Many people find Bishop Robert Barron’s weekly commentaries, called Word on Fire, helpful; these are available online. I know people who listen to these commentaries while driving to work or while on a walk. If you would like to go beyond that, try listening to Fr. Michael Schmitz’s The Bible in a Year podcast on YouTube. Many in the parish and others I know have found his commentaries to be very helpful.


If you are interested in joining an in-person Bible study, we also have several active groups. Geri Hanley (425-747-4450 x5464 or [email protected]) can provide you with more information.


Sometimes taking a small step forward in faith makes a big difference in our spiritual growth, and that can also be true for growing in our understanding of the Bible.

With my prayers that the Word of God may dwell deep within you!


Fr. Gary Zender






Dear Friends at St. Louise,


Each year on the third Monday of January, our country remembers the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It can be tempting, as with any federal holiday, to let the day come and go without doing anything more than using the day to rest, recreate or to catch up on our “to do” list. I hope that this column will be a way for us to take at least a few moments to reflect on this important day.


Here is something we need to not forget, from the opening paragraphs of the 2018 U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Letter, Open Wide Our Hearts:

Racism arises when—either consciously or unconsciously—a person holds that his or her own race or ethnicity is superior, and therefore judges persons of other races or ethnicities as inferior and unworthy of equal regard. When this conviction or attitude leads individuals or groups to exclude, ridicule, mistreat, or unjustly discriminate against persons on the basis of their race or ethnicity, it is sinful. Racist acts are sinful because they violate justice. They reveal a failure to acknowledge the human dignity of the persons offended, to recognize them as the neighbors Christ calls us to love (Mt 22:39).


Here is what Dr. King said in his speech, The Other America, at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967, just one year before his assassination:

In the final analysis, racism is evil because its ultimate logic is genocide. Hitler was a sick and tragic man who carried racism to its logical conclusion. He ended up leading a nation to the point of killing about 6 million Jews. This is the tragedy of racism because its ultimate logic is genocide.


Lest we think that racism is a problem of the past, consider that here in the United States movements such as the Ku Klux Klan, Proud Boys and other groups that seek to promote white nationalism have grown stronger and bolder in recent years. If you ask a person of color, most will have some story to share about how they have personally experienced racism – sadly, even at times within the Church. Our bishops were aware of this as they wrote their letter.


I invite you to take time to go online to read one of Dr. King’s speeches – which you’ll find still very much apply to our nation today – or a section or even all of Open Wide Our Hearts. Here is a prayer from that same pastoral letter that you can pray at home:


Mary, friend and mother to all, through your Son, God has found a way to unite himself to every human being, called to be one people, sister and brothers to each other.

We ask for your help in calling on your Son, seeking forgiveness for the times when we have failed to love and respect one another.

We ask for your help in obtaining from your Son the grace we need to overcome the evil of racism and to build a just society.

We ask for your help in following your Son, so that prejudice and animosity will no longer infect our minds or hearts but will be replaced with a love that respects the dignity of each person.

Mother of the Church, the Spirit of your Son Jesus warms our hearts: pray for us.


With my prayers,

Fr. Gary Zender





Dear Friends at St. Louise,


On the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, we celebrate that Christ was born to save all nations.


In recent weeks, there has been much reporting and discussion in the secular as well as the Catholic media about the recent Declaration on the meaning of blessings – particularly in the context of same-sex relationships – from the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith. I have felt confusion as I listen to or read secular sources, and pain when Catholic sources attack the Holy Father rather than adding to the conversation or simply disagreeing with him.


A friend forwarded me an article from the Vatican website by Rocco Buttiglione, an Italian professor and member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. I found it one of the most helpful commentaries I’ve come across on this subject. I share it with you with the hope that is might clear up some confusion for you as well. Here is what he writes:


“The Declaration ‘Fiducia supplicans’ on the pastoral meaning of blessings of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith marks an authentic pastoral development solidly anchored in Church tradition and its moral theology. The Dicastery's Cardinal Prefect, Víctor Manuel Fernández, wisely prefaces the Declaration with a brief presentation in which he explains, among other things, what the Declaration is not: it is not a green light to gay marriage, and it is not a change in Church doctrine regarding sexual relations outside of marriage as always a serious matter of sin. So it changes nothing, then? No, it changes a lot; it is almost a revolution. In the Church’s history, however, every authentic revolution is also simultaneously a return to the origins, the missionary presence of Christ in human history. The starting point of the reality the Declaration has in mind is that of a couple in an ‘irregular’ situation asking for a blessing. To avoid any misunderstanding, let us imagine that they ask not a priest but their parents. Would you give this blessing? I would give it. I would not bless the irregular sexual relationship. Still, I would bless the care they have for one another, the support they give each other in life, the comfort during times of grief, and the companionship in the face of difficulties. Love is never wrong; sexual relations, on the other hand, sometimes are. In the life of this couple, the good and the bad are so closely intertwined that it is not possible to separate them with a clean break. If a daughter of mine were in such a situation I would bless her and certainly pray to God that in the journey of life, He might separate the good from the bad in that relationship by making it a step on the path to truth. God writes straight with crooked lines. I think any father would do the same thing and I don't see how a priest, if he has a father's heart for the members of his community, could do any different. Of course, there is the danger of scandal. There is the danger that in God's faithful people the poorest and weakest will be misled and will no longer understand what marriage is and why sex outside of marriage is wrong. This is a real problem and one that should not be underestimated. And this is precisely why Cardinal Fernández felt the need to make his preliminary remarks.” [Sentences that are in bold font are my additions for emphasis and ease of reading.]


Let me add a few remarks. In my pastoral experience, I have had conversations with people who have an incomplete understanding or who even reject the Church’s teaching on the nature of marriage and in particular sacramental marriage in the Church. That can lead to “scandal” or a weakening of the faith in people. But there is another source of weakening of the faith or scandal, and that is the false notion that the Church hates LGBTQ+ people. The truth is that the Church embraces all her children as a loving mother, and only corrects them, whoever they may be, with the greatest of tenderness and mercy.


Pope Francis and Cardinal Fernández have heard many stories from faithful Catholics of who for a variety of reasons feel excluded from the maternal embrace of the Church. This declaration is a pastoral response, not a change of doctrine, to their heartfelt plea for the ministry of the Church.


Fr. Gary Zender







Dear Friends at St. Louise,


Christmas Eve is only a week away (and it’s also the Fourth Sunday of Advent this year). On every Gaudete (“Rejoice!”) Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, we have the option of using vestments colored rose – among the range of colors we can see in the morning sky, even in the dark days of winter.


Many of you know that I exercise almost every day, following my morning prayer, and I often run around Larsen Lake, located close to St. Louise, at the blueberry farm on 148th. I never fail to enjoy the ever-changing sights and sounds of that little oasis of nature tucked away in our suburban neighborhood.


Monday morning, December 4, I debated with myself whether to do an indoor workout on my stationary bicycle and some weight training or to take in the fresh air of an outdoor run. The rain had subsided, and even though it was still dark, I decided to go for the run.


I was fully prepared to need to turn around at the point where the lake is closest to the trail and the trail is often flooded after hard rains fall. To my surprise, it was completely open. I thought that I was home-free when, less than a mile from the rectory, a huge mud puddle filled the trail. I decided, as I had done many times before, to side-step the mud puddle – but in doing so I then stepped into very slippery mud, slipped, both my feet went up into the air and I landed with most of my body weight on my right ankle, which broke. Ouch! But I don’t need surgery and am able to walk (hobble) on a boot and crutches as long as I don’t overdo it.


Just two days later I celebrated the 9AM Mass and was delighted to see one of our Pre‑K classrooms there to celebrate St. Nicholas Day. During the homily I normally step down to the children when they are at Mass, but since I needed to sit as much as possible, I invited them forward. That simple exchange on such a special day for them (and for the adults too!) was just the remedy I needed to bring home the joy of the Gospel.


There are always dark days, and from now on I will think twice about where I step on a dark, wet morning. Yet I also know that every step, whether I run or fall, is guided by the loving presence of God, who was born into our dark struggles that we meet along the path of life.


Rejoice, I say it again, rejoice!

Fr. Gary Zender





Ask Fr. Nehnevaj - Is Judas in heaven?


This is a question that has come up a few times while I’ve been visiting various classrooms at the school. Each time it has led to a really good discussion with the students. I usually respond by asking the inquirer what they think. Typically, they will say something to the effect of “Well, no, because he betrayed Jesus.” I will then ask the rest of the class if anyone thinks otherwise. Usually someone will respond “Well, but if he repented, he could still go to heaven” or “Well, but Jesus chose Judas as an apostle knowing Judas would betray Him, so Judas was just doing Jesus’ will.” I have been really impressed that our school students can fairly summarize the two sides to a somewhat debated question.


Of course, it is important to note that sin is never part of God’s will. It is something that He allows out of immense respect for our free will. And sin – all sin not just Judas’ sin – is a betrayal of Jesus. Sin is a rejection of relationship with God. And those who die in sin, in this state of rejection of God, cannot enter heaven, not because God refuses them entry, but because the unrepentant sinner himself refuses to enter. This is where the discussion usually turns to repentance and the last moments of life. For there is some evidence that Judas repented: he tries to return the money to the Temple. And the Bible here uses a Greek word, Ἥμαρτον, meaning “I have sinned,” that otherwise only appears (at least in the exact same form) in the story of the prodigal son and his forgiving father.


Additionally, the Church never declares any specific individual to be in hell. The Church knows with certainty that specific people, the canonized saints, are in heaven, but there is never any certainty as to the residents of hell. While we can recognize the objectively evil acts that Judas has committed (his betrayal of Jesus), we cannot know the subjective aspects of his sinful actions. We cannot know what was in Judas’ heart, mind, or will. We cannot know what Judas’ last moments of life were like or if at that time there was repentance present in his heart and mind. Indeed, this is true for all sinners. We cannot know what final merciful encounter they have with God in the last moments of their lives, where God extends to each one final chance for repentance.


So while we should, in charity, hope for the last‑minute conversion of Judas and other sinners, we should never rely on the uncertainty of a deathbed conversion for ourselves. While we may not be able to know what grace is present in the final few moments of life, we do know that grace is always present in the sacraments, in Baptism and Confirmation, in Confession and the Anointing of the Sick, in Holy Orders and Holy Matrimony, and above all in the Eucharist. So don’t wait for grace that may or may not come in life’s final moments – live now the grace-filled life, centered on the sacraments, that God is calling you to live.





Dear Friends at St. Louise,


As we begin the season of Advent, we as the Church in the United States are also celebrating the Eucharistic Revival. We also are aware of the disturbing tensions and violence in the Middle East. Every Christian, every Jew and every Muslim feels this conflict deeply since it began in the Holy Land on October 7. We long for peace, for the end of violence, and for God’s justice. These two themes, the revival of the Eucharist and the longing for justice, are both Advent messages of our hope for what is … not yet.


The whole reason for the Eucharistic Revival is that there has been such a drop in the belief in and practice of the Eucharist over the past three decades. Bishop Barron called the results of the 2018 Pew Study, which reported that only one-third of U. S. Catholics believe in transubstantiation, a “massive failure” of the Church to pass on effectively our own traditions. His impassioned message is what moved the U.S. bishops to put into motion the “Eucharistic Revival.”


Let me highlight for you a passage that we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), that speaks to the “advent-longing” of Eucharist as the fulfillment of the centuries-long awaited promise of God. “In the Old Covenant bread and wine were offered in sacrifice among the first fruits of the earth as a sign of grateful acknowledgement of the Creator. But they also received a new significance in the context of the Exodus: the unleavened bread that Israel eats every year commemorates the haste of the departure that liberated them from Egypt; the remembrance of the manna in the desert will always recall to Israel that it lives by the bread of the Word of God; their daily bread is the fruit of the promised land, the pledge of God’s faithfulness to his promises. . . When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he gave a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup.” (CCC #1334). Advent can be a time for us who regularly attend Mass to deepen our understanding and appreciation of the Eucharist, and to invite others to join that journey. If you are reading this column and have fallen out of the practice of attending Mass regularly, I invite you to share in the fullness of Jesus’ blessing, and make this Advent time of year your time to return to active participation in the Mass.


Why is this important? Because the active celebration of the Mass is about the salvation that God wants to be present in the world – and through our sharing in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection we are Christ’s hands, feet, eyes, ears and mouth. In the liturgical prayers there are numerous references to active living of our faith, and here is one I would like to highlight: Keep us attentive to the needs of all, that, sharing their grief and pain, their joy and hope, we may faithfully bring them the good news of salvation and go forward with them along the way of your Kingdom. (Eucharistic Prayer for use in Masses for Various Needs III).


We are especially aware during Advent that our hope for the end of war and violence in all its forms and our care for others in their need is rooted in the active celebration of the Eucharist, which is our heavenly food on the way to the Kingdom – the Kingdom that is already here, in the Eucharist … but not yet. That is what Advent spirituality is about.


Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

Fr. Gary Zender







Dear Friends at St. Louise,


Most of you know that I had minor surgery on October 23 (although one person told me, no surgery is minor . . . anything can happen). Well, something did happen, and it was more than just the surgery! It was a time to reflect on the gift of God’s constant care for me.


The time of reflection began as I was waiting to be wheeled to the operating room. I had a good bit of time to myself and just took in my surroundings. The first thing I noticed was how comfortable I was. Even though I had nothing on but a hospital gown, I was wrapped in a very warm heated blanket. I noticed the walls, the curtains, the medical equipment around me. I began to think, someone had to make the walls and the curtains, someone had to install them, someone had made the medical equipment, and still others knew how to operate it and to use it for my good. I became aware of the many people it took to make for a successful surgery, and I experienced a profound sense of gratitude.


And I became aware of the many people who helped me: of one friend who took me to the hospital and another who brought me home. I was not permitted to drive for several days after the surgery, so my brother-in-law Mike picked me up and drove me to Bellingham so I could recover with my mother at her home. My brother Bob and his wife Barb brought me back. What a blessing to have an 89-year-old mother who has the health and desire to give me a comfortable space to rest, eat good food and recover. I needed a lot of people to get through the “minor surgery”!


All of this has made me more aware that just everything in life is that way. The food and drink that I take in every day, the home where I live, the office where I work, the computer that I am typing on this moment, the cell phone in my pocket – all these everyday things represent dozens if not hundreds of people who make them and provide them to me and make what I do possible.


I realized that I am not nearly as independent as I would like to think I am . . . and that is a good thing. It keeps me humble, it helps me to realize that I am much more connected to others than what I often realize. We need each other and we need our loving God, who is the source of all that is.


Fr. Gary Zender








Dear Friends at St. Louise,


As you know, the word Eucharist means thanksgiving. Have you thought that the words Eucharist and Thanksgiving can inform how we think about our moral life? Moral theologian (and former rector of my alma mater, St. Meinrad Seminary) Fr. Mark O’Keefe, OSB, certainly thinks so! He writes: “As a Catholic moral theologian, I believe that the daily living of the Christian moral life is empowered by gratitude. At the very least, we can say that fostering a spirit of gratitude is a powerful tool for enhancing our ability, one day after another, to live the sometimes‑difficult demands of Christian Discipleship. . . . ”


He then continues, “Many good Catholics think that morality is basically about obeying rules, following commandments, doing the right things and avoiding the bad things. Fair enough. Good moral living is about all of those things. But is good Catholic moral living — most basically, most fundamentally — about obeying the rules, following commandments, doing the right things and avoiding the bad things? I think that the answer to that question would have to be ‘no’.” He refers to a quote from Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritas Splendor, #22, where he refers to the teaching of St. Augustine:


Does love bring about the keeping of commandments, or does the keeping of commandments bring about love? But who can doubt that love comes first? For the one who does not love has no reason for keeping the commandments.

Fr. Mark then goes on to observe that Jesus is “the perfect revelation of God’s love for us” – and our human response to that perfect love is gratitude. I would add that a personal encounter with Jesus will fill our hearts with pure gratitude, because it is then that we know, in the depths of our being, that we have received a gift that we could in no way earn or deserve. It is love beyond all telling. There nothing more to say than, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” – and not only with our words, but with everything in our lives.


The most basic meaning of stewardship is gratitude to God for all the good that God has done for us. It is not just about trying to be a good Catholic and “help Father” or “help the staff” to do ministry, have vibrant liturgies, or pay the bills and have enough in the bank for the next building project, as important as all these things are. It is about our personal relationship with the Lord and our need to give our thanks to Him. Without God, we have nothing!


With true gratitude to God for you!


Fr. Gary Zender


(All quotes are taken from “Priestly Virtues: Reflections on the Moral Virtues in the Life of the Priest,” Rev. Mark O’Keefe, OSB, pp. 1-3)











Dear Friends at St. Louise,


Jesus calls each one of us to a deeper friendship with him. The Father has revealed us to His personal love for us through His Son Jesus and through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our hearts. The person who experiences a personal encounter with Jesus sees his or her life and everything in the world in a new way.


Jesus was never shy about talking about the things of this world, both the things of beauty that draw us to the source of beauty and the danger of forgetting that all the things of this world are passing. With this in mind, it is not surprising that of all the topics that Jesus addressed, the most common one is the role of wealth, money, and possessions in the life of one who chooses to follow him. As the scripture so clearly tells us, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”


We all need money to live, and each one of us needs to balance this need with our faith in God. When we take to heart what Jesus has to say about money, we might not be able to go so far as to give everything away and follow him, as he tells the rich young man who seems to want to be perfect in his love for the Lord. That man couldn’t get there – he walked away sad, because he had many possessions. But Jesus would much rather that we walk with him and know the eternal happiness that only he can give. A big part of that walk is to discover the joy of giving away a portion of all that the Lord has given to us.


When we are to give away a portion of our treasure, we need to take time to prayerfully plan the portion that we will give. The Church encourages us to dedicate half of our total giving to our parish, and the other half to other needs, for example Standing with Haiti, Catholic Community Services, the Missions, St. Louise School and other special collections to which the Church invites our contribution. Of course different households will differ in their ability to make these financial contributions – parents with a growing family and a moderate income will not be able to make the same commitment as a single person with a high-paying job. The ideal is that everyone would make, not equal gifts, but equal sacrifices. And if each makes a sacrificial gift, in faith that God will provide blessings both spiritual and temporal, each will experience an inner peace and joy – and the whole community will be enriched.


I know that some people wonder about our future – and if we’re not certain about our future, should that not cause some doubt about how much to contribute? I would point out that making decisions out of fear will not help us to be strong and vibrant in our mission to preach and teach the Good News. Our mission will continue! We will still provide programs, we will still need to pay staff a living wage and provide for their benefits (which is the highest expense in our budget), we will still need to pay for our insurance (which, as an expense over which we have no control, keeps climbing at an alarming rate). Here on our St. Louise campus we will still need to tear down the original school building and replace it with new structures to meet the present and future needs of our parish and school. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that every parishioner make a commitment.


Thank you for the ways that so many of you do make a commitment to give your time (prayer), talent (service) and treasure (financial gifts) – all of which, taken together, make St. Louise strong in our mission to bring the love of Christ to the world.


Fr. Gary Zender




Dear Friends at St. Louise,


This is the last of the three columns that I am writing on what it means to be pro-life as a Catholic. This week I will focus on care of the earth. Many times, our bishops have instructed us that the protection of life in the womb is “preeminent” among all the issues of Catholic Social Teaching. Of course, this is from the perspective that life in the womb has no means of defending itself – the unborn child has no voice. This understanding becomes the lens through which we view all the other issues of protecting human life in all its stages – even protecting life on our common home, the earth. The key question concerning the protection of life in every circumstance becomes: Who is voiceless, who is most vulnerable? Pope Francis is calling us to also consider that the care of earth itself is care of the poorest, the most vulnerable, children, and those who often don’t have a voice in society.


Many of you will recall that eight years ago Pope Francis promulgated Laudato Si’, an Encyclical Letter (which means it was “circulated” throughout the whole world), to officially say that the Catholic Church believes that care for the earth is a common good, a duty that we owe to future generations and to the poor. “We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity.” (#160) The dignity of the human person is the basis for all pro-life teaching.


This year, on October 4, the memorial of St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis issued Laudate Deum, an Apostolic Exhortation (which means a letter to the faithful emphatically urging them to consider a matter of importance). While an Apostolic Exhortation does not carry the same authority as an Encyclical Letter, the language in Laudate Deum is even stronger than Pope Francis has used before, because we have all witnessed the severe decline in the health of our planet since Laudato Si’was written. The Holy Father is emphatic as he writes: “I feel obliged to make these clarifications, which may appear obvious, because of certain dismissive and scarcely reasonable opinions that I encounter, even within the Catholic Church. Yet we can no longer doubt that the reason for the unusual rapidity of these dangerous changes is a fact that cannot be concealed: the enormous novelties that have to do with unchecked human intervention on nature in the past two centuries. Events of natural origin that usually cause warming, such as volcanic eruptions and others, are insufficient to explain the proportion and speed of the changes of recent decades. The change in average surface temperatures cannot be explained except as the result of the increase of greenhouse gases.” (Laudate Deum #14. Cf. INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE Climate Change 2023, Synthesis Report, Summary for Policymakers, A.1.,2., and 3.)


The Holy Father is especially concerned about the decisions that we are making, about how we develop technology, and the use of limited resources for pure financial gain in the short term, rather than considering the long-term cost of compromising the common good. He points out that emissions per person from burning of fossil fuels in the United States is two times greater than emissions per person in China, and seven times greater on average than in the poorest countries, and so he calls especially upon us in this country and the Western World to change for the sake of caring for the poor.


His final line is especially strong and applies to all questions on human life: “’Praise God’ is the title of this letter. For when human beings claim to take God’s place, they become their own worst enemies.” (Emphasis is my own.)


These are challenging words, so be sure. However, is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness a challenging message that demands we change our lives?

I encourage you to read Laudate Deum in its entirety (only 73 brief paragraphs). It is available online at https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/20231004-laudate-deum.html.


Fr. Gary Zender


Dear Friends at St. Louise, 
As you know, the Catholic Church has long been a defender of all who are vulnerable and who have no voice. The radical choice to stand up for the vulnerable takes on many expressions, which include rejection of the use of nuclear arms, care for our common home, the Earth, and defense of human life in all its stages. I will address later this month Archbishop Etienne’s visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the sites that suffered the use of nuclear arms, and the three-day climate conference to be hosted by the Archdiocese of Seattle and Seattle University in July 2024. 
Here is an excerpt from the October 2023 statement on Respect for Life in the Womb, by the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Chairman, USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities: 
While ending legalized abortion remains our preeminent priority, the most immediate way to save babies and mothers from abortion is to thoroughly surround mothers in need with life-giving support and personal accompaniment. This is radical solidarity. St. John Paul II first defined “radical solidarity” in this way: “In firmly rejecting ‘pro-choice’ it is necessary to become courageously ‘pro woman,’ promoting a choice that is truly in favor of women. … The only honest stance, in these cases, is that of radical solidarity with the woman. It is not right to leave her alone.” [footnote omitted]
Being in radical solidarity with women who are pregnant or raising children in difficult circumstances means putting our love for them into action and putting their needs before our own. Pope Francis reminds us that solidarity “refers to something more than a few sporadic acts of generosity. It presumes the creation of a new mindset,” a transformation within our own hearts.

This new mindset requires that we come alongside vulnerable mothers in profound friendship, compassion, and support for both them and their preborn children. It means addressing the fundamental challenges that lead an expectant mother to believe she is unable to welcome the child God has entrusted to her. (Respect Life Month Statement: Living Radical Solidarity, October 2023, from the USCCB website)

There are two primary ways we attempt to walk in “radical solidarity” with women locally. One is through Prepares, and the other is through the New Bethlehem Project. 

Prepares is a program of Catholic Community Services (CCS) in Western Washington, and “walks with” pregnant and parenting women, men and families who find themselves lacking a healthy support network. This ministry is active at St. Madeleine Sophie Parish, and since they are proposed to join with St. Louise as a parish family, I can see the possibility of our parishioners who already serve there helping us to strengthen the connection to Prepares in the future. 

New Bethlehem Project is also a ministry of CCS, located in Kirkland. It provides shelter and “wrap-around” services for women and children who are homeless. St. Louise has supported this ministry since its inception, providing funding for construction and operations and also sending volunteers, meals and so on.

Next week: More information on Together for Our Common Home: A Climate Action Summit, the conference planned by the Archdiocese of Seattle and Seattle University. 

With gratitude,

Fr. Gary Zender 
Dear Friends at St. Louise, 

I arrived back home from 10 days of vacation the night before I wrote this column. This will be short and sweet! 

Sometimes a vacation is more than a vacation. That is what I experienced in these September days away. 

To be truthful, I was feeling anxious about leaving at all. You recall that I had had two family funerals in late August, which took unexpected time away from the parish and school; there is more to do this year to be prepared for Partners in the Gospel; and it felt strange to take time away at the beginning of the school year. But that is the time that worked on my friend Fr. Jim Lee’s calendar, so that is what we went with. 

The “vacation more than a vacation” began as I was leaving the cemetery after burying my Uncle Red. I heard and felt this message from the Lord: “All shall be well. You are where you need to be.” 

You will recall that my friend Fr. Jim has ALS. This was our first vacation together since he has had to use a wheelchair. Some people asked me if I was really up for that, and whether driving in a car for hours to Northern Idaho, and staying in places that might not have everything he needs, might not be the wisest choice. We talked about it and decided that the worst that could happen would be we would need to decide that it was too much and we would come home early. Fr. Jim has an amazing ability to see the “work-arounds,” as he calls them. He comes up with the adjustments to make things work not only for him, but for me. 

I admit, it is sad that our bicycling, skiing and hiking days are over. Fr. Jim had to sit on the patio above, while I took the steep path down to the dock to go swimming. Yet, the quality of our time together was no less; in fact, there were moments of prayer and sharing that were wonderfully profound and close – maybe related to the fact that I had to help him with everything, including bathing and using the restroom. 

When Fr. Nehnevaj greeted me on my return to the rectory the evening of September 15, I told him about the places we visited and how beautiful the place was where we stayed. I also told him that I now feel an even closer bond to my dear friend, whom I have known for more than 36 years. 

It was more than a vacation. It was a journey of trust in the message that “All shall be well.” It was a struggle at times, and ultimately it was a gift in growing in a beautiful friendship and in sharing in the joy of our priesthood together. 

Blessings to you in this Fall season!

Fr. Gary Zender
Dear Friends at St. Louise,

Many of you are aware that the bishops of the United States have called for a “Eucharistic Revival.” All of us are all too familiar with the drop in active participation in Sunday Mass over the last 30 years, and how the pandemic pushed that trend even further down the road. While here at St. Louise we saw a 5% increase in our official Mass attendance counts from October 2022 to May 2023, we also know that our Mass attendance has not rebounded to pre COVID levels. This has been the experience of parishes throughout the United States, so our bishops are making great attempts to turn the trend around. 

While our focus here in the Seattle Archdiocese needs to be primarily on the work of Partners in the Gospel, the two initiatives are related in their focus on forming mature disciples and being a church that goes out to people on the margins. 

I plan to dedicate one column each month to the Eucharistic Revival, to help us journey with other Catholics in the United States in a revival of our love for, awe of, and faith in the Eucharist. 

One of the greatest preachers of the early church was St. John Chrysostom. I recently read these words that he proclaimed:
Do you want to honor Christ’s body? Then do not scorn him in his nakedness, nor honor him here in the church with silken garments while neglecting him outside where he is cold and naked. For he who said: This is my body, and made it so by his words, also said: You saw me hungry and did not feed me, and inasmuch as you did not do it for one of these, the least of my brothers, you did not do it for me. 

What we do here in the church requires a pure heart, not special garments; what we do outside requires great dedication. 

(From a homily on the Gospel of Matthew by St. John Chrysostom, bishop. Taken from the Office of Readings, Saturday of the 21st week in Ordinary Time.) 
The inner conversion of our hearts is what will renew us, individually and as the Church. That inner conversion will inspire us to celebrate the liturgy with devotion and great care. And our care for the beauty of the Eucharistic celebration, the Christ present at our altar, must not be greater than our care for the Christ present in those who are in need. The proper celebration of the Eucharist will lead us to “live not for ourselves, but for him who died and rose again for us . . . .“ (Eucharistic Prayer IV) 

With my sincere hope for us to grow in Christ together, 

Fr. Gary Zender
Dear Friends at St. Louise, 

Preaching and teaching the Good News is a major task for Catholics. One of the ways we carry this out is through our Catholic School system, which is the largest piece of the total budget for parishes with schools, because of the salaries and benefits that our teachers so rightly deserve (as do other parish employees). And when you think about it, most of our other parish programs have something to do with teaching people about the faith and how to put it into practice. In addition, we at St. Louise also are united with our sister parish and school, Ste Anne de Hyacinthe, Haiti, to which we provide financial support primarily for their parish school. On this Catechetical Sunday, we remember what a huge and wonderful enterprise of preaching and teaching we have taken on here at St. Louise. 

Good catechesis (teaching of the faith that moves the heart as much as the mind) leads to a greater love of God and our neighbor. It is out of love for our neighbors in the developing world that we joined together with St. Anthony in Renton to form a sister parish relationship with Ste Anne Parish and School nearly two years ago.

The past two years have been a time of great difficulty for Haiti. Their president, Jovenel Moise, was assassinated on July 7, 2021; that horrific event was followed by a hurricane and later a major earthquake. Since then, the country has been controlled by gangs, who terrorize the citizens with kidnappings, threats, and murders. Our sister parish and school are protected from most of the violence since Ste Anne’s is located in the hill country far from any urban center. At the same time, their people are afraid to go to the nearby towns to sell their crops because of what could happen. 

Fr. Frank Rouleau, who is director of Outreach to Haiti based in the Diocese of Norwich, Connecticut, visited St. Louise and St. Anthony parishes in March and was asked what our two parishes could do to help the Haitians with their challenges. He said to “urge your parish to write to your congressional leaders to plead with them to take legislative action to intervene in Haiti and to end the violence.” Fr. Frank also asked us “to implore our Archdiocese to encourage the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to support these legislative actions.” He said that the people in Haiti are begging for help because they realize that they can’t do it alone. 

To this end, in this weekend’s bulletin you will find the text of a letter to our Senator, Patty Murray, who is Senate President pro tempore, asking her to co-sponsor bipartisan legislation to help the Haitian people take back their country from the control of gangs. There will also be the text of a letter to Bishop Elizondo, our Archdiocesan representative to the USCCB, urging the USCCB to support these legislative actions.

We invite you to take these letters home and pray over them during the week, and to consider signing the letters after Mass next weekend (September 23/24). Thank you for your help in advocating for our brothers and sisters at Ste Anne de Hyacinthe, Haiti. 

Mesi anpil! (thank you very much!)

Fr. Gary Zender
Dear Friends at St. Louise, 
We are entering a very important phase of the archdiocesan initiative, “Partners in the Gospel.” As you know, due to limited resources – including the drop Mass attendance over the past 20 years (which translates into less money in the collection), fewer lay people who are willing to work for the Church, fewer priests, and aging parish and school facilities (which in some cases represent millions of dollars of deferred maintenance – all these factors add up to the urgent need to do some major reorganization, the goal of which is to focus those limited resources less on maintenance and more on mission, that is, living the mission of the Gospel. With only a few exceptions, beginning July 1, 2023, every parish in the Seattle Archdiocese will be joined to another one or two parishes. 

The proposed groupings – “parish families” – are scheduled to be announced September 23. The next phase of this project is to hear from as many parishioners as possible between September 23 and October 14, 2023. Our St. Louise in person sessions in Spanish will be on Sunday, September 24, following the 1PM Mass, and on Friday September 29, at 7PM. The in person sessions in English will be on Sunday, October 1, following the 9AM Mass, and Sunday, October 8, following on the 5PM Life Teen Mass. Those who do not attend a session will have the opportunity to send written feedback. You will be asked to prayerfully comment on the proposal for which parish(es) St. Louise will be partnered with. 

It will be important that you be well informed so that you can give your best input possible. Good information will be available that will help you as we begin this journey – links will be posted soon on our parish website. 

I encourage you to do all you can to keep updated on the latest information on Partners in the Gospel. Your input will be essential for helping the Archbishop to make a final decision about the parish families. I invite us all to pray the Prayer for Partners in the Gospel regularly.

In joyful hope,
Fr. Gary Zender
Prayer for Partners in the Gospel 

Gracious God, we praise and thank you
For the Catholic Church in Western Washington
We praise and thank you 
For the women and men 
Who have shared the joy of the Gospel here
For more than 170 years.
Send your Holy Spirit upon us
That we might encounter your Son anew 
and become more effective partners
in sharing the Good News of his saving love.
May our partnership in the Gospel
Empower us to be your missionary disciples,
Bringing the Good News to all, 
Especially to those who are marginalized or 
Hurting in any way. 
Give us the courage
The flexibility and the vision
To renew parish life,
So that the good work,
Begun long ago, 
May continue among us,
And one day, be brought to completion 
In your Kingdom,
Where you live and reign 
Forever and ever. 
Due to a variety of circumstances, I often find myself celebrating Mass by myself in the afternoon on Thursdays. For reasons on which I elaborate further in this weekend’s parish bulletin, this is not the ideal way in which Mass is meant to be celebrated. So, I wanted to extend an invitation to you, our school families, to join me for Mass on Thursdays after school.

A few logistical notes. First and foremost, this is not a parish initiative, nor is this a new Mass being added to the schedule of Masses at St. Louise; there is no guarantee that I will celebrate Mass every Thursday or that this will continue indefinitely. The plan is that if I am available, I will celebrate Mass at 3:30PM on Thursdays when school is in session, and if I am not available, then I will not. I would confirm that Mass will be celebrated on any given Thursday by sending out an email the Wednesday before. If you would like to receive these emails, please let me know by emailing me at [email protected]. I will also let you know when I celebrate Mass outside of the normal parish Mass schedule on Mondays or Saturdays or if I will be celebrating Mass at a different time on any given Thursday. There will be no homily at these Masses.
Fr. Nehnevaj
Dear Friends at St. Louise, 
Happy Labor Day weekend! I was happy to hear that so many of you enjoyed the series on the Book of Revelation. I will now make a shift to some points on the liturgy, and in particular on the meaning of liturgy as the work of the people. 
We often define our word “liturgy” as “the work of the people.” It comes from the Greek word leitourgia, whose roots are public or people and work or action. Yet, we can more fully understand the liturgy as the work of the people when we understand that the liturgy is first the “work of God,” in particular the work of the Holy Spirit. We believe that the Sacred Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit and written by human authors. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that Christ is present in the sacraments, again God’s “work” mixed with ours. 
If the liturgy were our work alone, it wouldn’t have much distinction from any other human activity. But in a wonderful way God, who is spirit, chose to become incarnate through his only Son, Jesus Christ, and he, our resurrected Lord, lives in us in such a powerful way that the baptized, especially when they gather for the Eucharist, form the mystical body of Christ. God transforms the work of our human hands, bread and wine, into the Body and Blood of his Son; and we who eat his Body and drink his Blood are one – are so powerfully united to him that we become his hands and feet, ears, eyes and mouth in the world. Union with Christ and with each other is key to the celebration of the Mass and to how we “go out” from Mass to live our lives. 
Archbishop Etienne wrote of the importance of unity in the Eucharistic celebration in his 2020 Pastoral letter, The Work of Redemption. 
The singing, the spoken responses, and the postures we take during the Mass – standing, bowing, kneeling – are important signs of that unity, and more: They can actually help build the unity we seek. (p. 17)
One of the reasons that Archbishop Etienne emphasized the unity of postures is that, at various parishes, he had observed a wide variety of practices that too often were not following the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. He asked that all pastors, together with their Worship Commissions, instruct their people on the importance of unity of posture, especially at the Communion Rite. 
Here at St Louise, we gave that instruction back in 2020. I think that now is a good time to again offer the reminder that Archbishop Etienne gave: 
As we move in procession to the altar, we bow before receiving the Body or Blood of Christ, and remain standing to receive Holy Communion, whether the host or the chalice. To kneel at this point, or to add other gestures, individualizes the reception of Communion. But this is not the moment for personal expressions of piety…. Rather, reverent in our belief in the Lord’s true presence in the Eucharist, this is the time when we should be most unified as a community. (p.19-20) 
Thank you for your kind attention to the instruction that Archbishop Etienne has given. If we all follow this instruction, the “work” of our outward gestures at Mass will better express our deep desire for unity with God and with each other in the Eucharistic celebration, God’s amazing work of love for his people. 
With deep gratitude, 
Fr. Gary Zender
Pilgrimage of PeaceDear Friends at St. Louise, 
One of the most recent significant events for our local church was the Pilgrimage of Peace made by Archbishop Etienne of Seattle and Archbishop Wester of Santa Fe. The largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world is located at Bangor, Washington, here in our archdiocese; and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe is where many of those weapons are produced. Here is an excerpt of the joint statement of Archbishop Etienne, Archbishop Wester, the Archbishop of Nagasaki and the Bishop of Hiroshima: 
Partnership for a World Without Nuclear Weapons 
From the Archbishops of Santa Fe, Seattle, Nagasaki, and Bishop of Hiroshima 
Nagasaki, Japan, August 9, 2023 – On the 78th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we, the bishops of four Catholic arch/dioceses in areas impacted by nuclear weapons, declare that we will begin working together to achieve a ‘world without nuclear weapons.’ We urge that there be concrete progress made by August 2025, the 80th anniversary of the atomic bombings. 
“In the spirit and teaching of Pope Francis, we recognize that even the possession of nuclear weapons is immoral. Therefore, we call upon the leaders of the world, as we urged the leaders of the G7 meeting in Hiroshima in May 2023, to also undertake the following concrete steps toward the abolition of nuclear weapons: 
  • Acknowledge the tremendous, long-lasting human suffering that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings inflicted upon hibakusha [the survivors of either of these bombings];
  • Acknowledge the tremendous, long-lasting human suffering and environmental impacts caused by uranium mining and nuclear weapons research, production and testing around the world; 
  • Reiterate that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought, as well as emphasize that, as the G20 agreed to in November 2022, the use and the threat of use of nuclear weapons are ‘inadmissible’; 
  • Announce and commit to concrete steps to prevent a new arms race, guard against nuclear weapons use, and advance nuclear disarmament; 
  • Honor the international mandate to enter into serious multilateral negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament, pledged to more than a half-century ago in the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty; 
  • Support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was first signed and ratified by the Vatican. 
“At the same time, in recognition of our own responsibility as religious leaders to exercise leadership, we have agreed to create a new initiative to promote the realization of a world without nuclear weapons. In the spirit of ‘remembering, walking together, and protecting,’ as Pope Francis said in his message in Hiroshima on November 24, 2019, we will work hand-in-hand with our four arch/dioceses as well as with other dioceses and other faith traditions to build an interfaith partnership. To remember is to learn from our painful history, to examine the current situation, and to build a culture of peace. To walk together is to pray together, to support each other, and to act. To protect is, among other things, to help all victims of nuclear weapons, to restore the environment destroyed by nuclear weapons, and to protect our common home, the earth. 
“We invite all religious traditions to develop specific activities in accordance with the spirit of this partnership introduced above.”
There is more to the statement that you can read on our parish website, www.stlouise.org. Nuclear disarmament is one of most significant pro-life issues of our time. I ask that we do all that we can to pray and show support for how our bishop and pope are leading us on a path to avoid a human disaster beyond our imagination.
Fr. Gary Zender
Dear Friends at St. Louise, 
I am going to postpone the next column in our series on the Book of Revelation for one week, so that I can share with you some of my reflections after attending and speaking before the bench at the June 23 sentencing of the person who vandalized St. Louise’s campus and sprayed one of our staff with spray paint on June 28, 2022. You might recall that the vandalism took place the Tuesday after the Dobbs decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was issued by the U.S. Supreme Court. Because the messages that were spray-painted on our campus were messages against the Church, the incident qualified as a hate crime, and as such, became a federal proceeding and included an FBI investigation. A suspect was charged, tried and found guilty in the case. 
At the sentencing hearing, when it was my turn to give my testimony on behalf of St. Louise Parish, I pleaded for leniency for the defendant. Here is why. Again, you might recall me saying that the day after the event, the defendant’s roommate came to let me know what was going on personally for the defendant in the days before the incident, and that she struggled with mental health. Because the police had been able to apprehend the defendant, she was already jailed. Her roommate pleaded with me that what she needed was help, and that time spent in jail would only worsen her mental state. She apologized and promised to pay for the damages. As a result of this conversation, the person who attacked our parish had a “human face,” became a fully human person in my mind and heart – and that made all the difference. 
Of course I knew that I had to proceed with caution and not be naïve, and to work closely together with the proper authorities and the lawyers. Some months after the incident, the defendant’s lawyer contacted me and asked if I would be willing to meet with his client to hear her apology. Since she still had a no contact order, she told me her story as we went for a walk around Larsen Lake, rather than meeting on the parish grounds. She apologized and promised to make amends; and she asked that I express her apology to those who were most affected by the attack, which I was glad to do. Her lawyer walked several paces behind, listening carefully to the conversation. He later said to me, “Lawyers aren’t able to do what you were able to do in that conversation. Thank you.” 
Before I spoke at the sentencing, the defendant and her lawyer both told the court of her sincere desire to make amends and to live a new life. How could I not plead for leniency when I knew that her desire to repent was sincere, and knew how forgiving God has been to me? Isn’t the reason we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that we will not only experience personally God’s mercy through his Son, Jesus Christ, but also show our thanks to God for that mercy by being merciful to others? 
The federal judge sentenced the defendant to three years of counseling, and ordered her to reimburse the insurance company for its payment to St. Louise for the damages and also the parish for the deductible that we paid. This seemed to me to be a just sentence that would help the defendant to emotionally and spiritually heal by taking responsibility for the harm done, as her roommate had promised the year before. 
No pastor wants to see his parish vandalized. Yet, when I look at the whole story of what happened last year and in the months that followed, I am grateful. Grateful to our loving and merciful God, who clearly used this incident and its aftermath to show us a sign of what justice with mercy can look like, when we have the chance to see the person behind the actions. Grateful as well to the defendant and her roommate who were willing to be vulnerable with me.
In the peace of Christ,
Fr. Gary Zender
p.s. I will be away the afternoon of Friday, July 21, and all day Saturday, July 22, for a family reunion . . . 280 Zenders are expected to gather at the Deming Log Show Grounds! Fr. Nehnevaj will be the only priest for confessions on July 22. I will see you at the Parish Picnic. – Fr. Gary
Dear Friends at St. Louise, 
Now that we have finished the post-Easter Solemnity celebrations of the Most Holy Trinity and the Body and Blood of Christ, we are back to using the color green on Sundays and are fully into what we call “Ordinary Time” in the liturgical calendar. It doesn’t mean ordinary in the sense of “ho-hum”! Rather, Ordinary Time is simply time other than the “extraordinary” times of Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter. The Church’s liturgical year includes several Solemnities – a solemnity is a feast day of the highest rank, celebrating a mystery of faith such as the Trinity, an event in the life of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or important saints. The Solemnity of Christ the King, in November, concludes each liturgical year. Just to keep us on our toes, for Solemnities that fall during Ordinary Time, we break out the white vestments again and interrupt the usual cycle of readings and prayers for Ordinary Time. 
I will write a series of columns for several Sundays of Ordinary Time about an extraordinary book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, to drive home that very point – that there is nothing “ordinary” about our faith. Everything is grand, wonderful, beautiful, mysterious, and beyond our ability to fully comprehend. The idea for this series came as a suggestion from one of our friends at St. Louise. 
This week I will simply begin with the notion that the last book of the Bible, Revelation, belongs to the literary genre called “apocalyptic literature.” It is important to think of the Bible as a library of different, separate books that we believe to be inspired by the Holy Spirit. In broad terms, the Pentateuch (our Bible’s first five books), the prophets, the psalms, the Gospels, the letters, all are examples of different literary genres. We approach each with an understanding of what genre, what type of literature, we are reading – as when we check out a book from the library, we read a book of poetry differently than a history book or a novel. We don’t read the Gospels, which tell of Jesus’ saving action for us, in the same way as we read the Psalms, which are songs of prayer and praise to God.
Apocalyptic literature is not unique to the last book of the Bible – in fact, it has its roots in Old Testament prophecy like we find in the books of Daniel and Zechariah. “The apocalyptic literature deals with the final period of world history and the world catastrophe; here the powers of evil make the supreme struggle against God and are finally routed after a dreadful and bloody combat. These powers, allegorically described, are the world powers of contemporary history, which in apocalyptic literature is the last of the world periods before the end.” (John McKenzie, S.J., Dictionary of the Bible, p. 42) 
In that description, notice the phrase allegorically described. Christians throughout the centuries have tried to use Revelation, in light of then-contemporary events, to predict the day and hour for the end of time. They have always been wrong! The reason we approach this literature in the Bible as allegory rather than prediction comes from Jesus himself, who told us: “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be watchful, be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” (Mark 13:32 33) Jesus’ warning is an excellent guide for us in reading apocalyptic literature in the Bible. 
Fr. Gary Zender
Fr. Gary and Fr. Nehnevaj will be away June 19 22 for the annual Priest Days gathering at Ocean Shores. Communion services are scheduled for that Monday-Thursday at the usual daily Mass times. This year the conferences will focus on giving the priests a spiritual grounding for times of transition, and also an opportunity to give further input on the process for “Partners in the Gospel.” Parishioners will have their opportunity for giving input on this process in late September and early October. 
Dear Friends at St. Louise, 
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord. Christ is present under the physical signs and symbols of all the sacraments in both a spiritual and a physical way. It is Christ himself who baptizes, who anoints the sick, who forgives sins, who ordains, etc. In the Eucharist, the “Blessed Sacrament,” Christ is present in his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. There is no greater gift we have from Jesus than the Mass, the gift he gave us on the night before he died -- and he has commanded us to eat his Body and drink his Blood in memory of him. He says, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53)
This particular year, this day is important for the Church in the United States because it begins our observance of the National Eucharistic Revival. The need for this revival was highlighted by the drastic dip in the percentage of Catholics who reported they believe that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of the Lord. (See Pew Research Center survey, “What Americans Know About Religion,” conducted Feb. 4 19, 2019. You can read more about the survey at https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2019/07/23/what-americans-know-about-religion/ and https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2019/08/05/transubstantiation-eucharist-u-s-catholics/.
We have all observed the disturbing downward trend, over the past 40 years, in the percentage of Catholics who attend Mass on a regular basis (or at all). We see this in our own families and among our Catholic friends and acquaintances. There are many reasons for the decline, of course, but we can imagine that if someone doesn’t actually believe that the Eucharist truly is the very presence of Christ, as the Church has taught since her beginning, it could be pretty easy to rationalize why there might be “more important things to do” than go to Mass on Sunday. (Catholic author, Flannery O’Connor once quipped, “If it is just a symbol, to hell with it.” She also said, “I will always stay with the church because the Eucharist feeds my soul and is a source of Grace. I need to conform myself to him. To become his image in the world.” Somehow, many Catholics today are missing O’Connor’s insights.) 
Archbishop Etienne has invited parishes to do what they can to promote the Eucharistic Revival. Fr. Nehnevaj, Katie O’Neill and I are looking at several resources that will help us to do exactly that, while also planning for the formation of our “parish family” through the Partners in the Gospel initiative. 
Here are some ideas for increasing your own full, active and conscious participation in the Eucharist: 
  • Try to read at least one of the Sunday readings each week before Mass. An easy way to find the readings for Sunday (and every day) is to go to https://bible.usccb.org/daily-bible-reading.
  • Give thought to what you wear to Mass. All are welcome, whatever they may be wearing – but remember Mass is special, the banquet feast of heaven and earth!
  • Mindfully bring the experience of your past week to the Eucharist. Surrender everything to Christ each day, and offer it all to him when you come to Mass.
  • Do your best to express our union as the Body of Christ through the gestures at Mass. Stand, sit, bow, and kneel (unless you are physically unable), in union with the whole congregation, and avoid private gestures of reverence, especially at Communion. Archbishop Etienne made these specific instructions in his pastoral letter on the Eucharist because he saw too many different practices across the Archdiocese. We are one body.
  • And make it a point to welcome others – not just the people you know already! – as your brothers and sisters in Christ. Get to know a stranger – show patience and understanding to parents with young children who fuss at Mass. We are grateful that everyone is here! 

May we all grow in our love, reverence, and unity of belief and practice in celebrating the Eucharist during this year of Eucharistic Revival!
Fr. Gary Zender
Dear Friends at St. Louise, 

Happy Holy Trinity Sunday!

The belief in one God revealed as a Trinity of persons – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – is unique to the Christian faith. There are religions that profess belief in one God; there are religions that profess belief in many gods. We believe in only one God, who is three Persons: the Father, from whom all things proceed, the Son, with whom all things exist, and the Holy Spirit, in whom all things exist. In other words, the one God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – created all things. This is different from the Jewish faith, which calls God the Father of all that exists. The Christian faith accepts that belief and accepts what Jesus Christ revealed to be true. 

Another aspect unique to the Christian faith is the revelation that God is relationship. The Father is the Father in relation to the Son, and the Son is the Son in relation to the Father; and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. 

We also believe that each one of us is made in God’s own image and likeness, and that we are members of Christ’s mystical Body, the Church. Through our baptism, we are adopted children of the Father, and are temples of the Holy Spirit. We are who God made us to be, through our relationship first with the Son, who is one with the Father and makes us one with Him; and then the Father and the Son pour the Holy Spirit into our hearts. Our personal relationship with the Holy Trinity forms us to be who God created us to be: we live and have our being in relation with one another, a community of love and praise that seeks to reflect the eternal and Divine love and praise that the Father offers to the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Son offers in an equal and unique way to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit also offers to the Father and the Son. 

The one God, a communion of persons, is not some distant God – God is transcendent, yes, but also intimately present. We are blessed to have a God who is transcendent, who is a power beyond all understanding (who among us has figured out the mystery of the Holy Trinity?) – and we are also blessed to have a God who chooses to make a dwelling place in our very hearts.

Rejoice today in the gift of the Holy Trinity! If you struggle with living in perfect communion with someone else, remember that the Holy Trinity understands and will guide you to a more perfect, if not a completely perfect, path of forgiveness, mercy and love. 

Fr. Gary Zender
Dear Friends at St. Louise, 

On this great Solemnity Pentecost (a big day of celebration liturgically – actually the second biggest day of the Church Year, after Easter Sunday), we rejoice in the power, gift and grace of the Holy Spirit. With this day, we celebrate the fullness of the Paschal Mystery. Those two words mean the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, his glorious Ascension to the right hand of the Father, and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Pentecost completes not only the 50 days of Easter, but also the 40 days of preparation, through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, that we call Lent. These 90 days are the lens through which we view the rest of the liturgical year, including Advent and Christmas (which mirror the Lent and Easter seasons), and all the other weeks of the year that we call “Ordinary Time.” 

Ordinary Time, which occurs between Christmas and Lent, then again between Easter and Advent, signifies a numbered (or ordered) list of Sundays that anchor our daily lives in the Catholic Church. Really there is nothing “ordinary” about it, because we celebrate the paschal mystery every time we celebrate the Mass. Ordinary Time is just the time when we aren’t celebrating the “extraordinary” times of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. And in truth every Sunday is a mini-Easter, the Lord’s Day. 

What does it mean that Jesus Christ has now passed from our sight and lives among us through the power and gift of the Holy Spirit? Allow me to quote from a sermon by St. Leo the Great, pope, that appears in the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours for the Sixth Friday of Easter: 

And so our Redeemer’s visible presence has passed into the sacraments. Our faith is nobler and stronger because sight has been replaced by a doctrine whose authority is accepted by believing hearts, enlightened from on high. This faith was increased by the Lord’s ascension and strengthened by the gift of the Spirit[.]
I hope that those words of St. Leo touch you as deeply as they do me. We often speak about the Lord’s real presence in the Eucharist, saying and believing that the Eucharist is the “Blessed Sacrament,” since in it we receive his body, soul and divinity into our bodies and souls – since through it we can become more like him and be strengthened as members of the Mystical Body of Christ. And Christ’s presence is every bit as real in the other sacraments. 
The Church too (and that is us!) is a sacrament of Christ, which is to say that we are the hands, feet, ears, eyes, voice, and hands of Christ. There is no body of Christ without both the head and the body, he being the head, and we being the members of his body. And there is no place where this is more visible than at Mass. The priest, who leads the prayers sacramentally through his ordination, represents Christ the head, and the assembly, gathered to raise our voices in song and prayer, sacramentally, through our baptism, represent the body of Christ. At Mass, we are truly a priestly people, raising our prayer up with Christ, the one, true high priest. 
And the Mass only takes on its mission when we then “go out,” taking the love of God to others throughout the week. As “full, active and conscious” members of the body of Christ, we take his love – fully, actively and consciously – to all the places we go and the people we meet. 
Come Holy Spirit, and enable us to live in the fire of your love!
Fr. Gary Zender
Dear Friends at St. Louise, 
Last Sunday we heard these words from the Second Reading at Mass: Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who ask you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness . . . . (1 Peter 3:15). Are you always ready to speak to others about your faith when they ask? I sometimes find it a challenge to do so myself; and yet that is how we are called to live by the gift and call of our baptism. Everyone has a part to play in helping others to know of the love of Christ.
How can we better prepare ourselves, so that when someone asks, we can be ready to give the reason for our hope? Lord knows, everyone could use more hope! 
The first reason for our hope is Jesus himself, and that he promises us that we are truly one with him, as he is one with the Father, and that, through him, we too are one with the Father.
What does this mean? It means the fullness of being one with Christ is that we, who are many members, form one body, the Church; and we can only live the fullness of the life that Christ wants for us, if we, as the body , the Church, are one with him, who is the head of the body. Here are some incredible words from Blessed Isaac of Stella, abbot: “[T]hose who by faith are spiritual members of Christ can truly say that they are what he is: the Son of God and God himself. But what Christ is by his nature we are as his partners; what he is of himself in all fullness, we are as participants.” 
As a practical matter, when someone says, “I am spiritual, not religious,” or “I like Jesus, but not the Church,” we might well respond with, “Yeah, I hear you.” For a good number of people, there is a lot not to like about religion or the Church. 
I invite you to consider that in the scriptures we encounter the fullness of Christ, all that Jesus offers us. The fullness of Christ isn’t one or the other – it is both /and. Christ in his fullness is in both spirituality and religion, Christ the head and Christ the body. We experience Christ as head of the Church in his perfection and purity; and we also see Christ fully present with the body of Christ, the people of God, the Church, in all its greatness and messy imperfections and division, the Church that is constantly in need of conversion, of God’s forgiveness and healing. 
Christ wants us to be his partners, to share in his nature fully. The fullness of Christ is found in him who ascended to the heavens and in him who still lives among us in this imperfect world. 
Happy Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord! 
Fr. Gary Zender
Dear Friends at St. Louise, 
Happy Mothers’ Day!
Now that I am 65 years old, I find myself feeling an even deeper appreciation for my mother. I have a heightened sense of what her gift for listening, offering words of wisdom, her faith, and yes, cooking a good meal when I visit, mean to me. Most of my friends close to my age don’t have their mothers with them any more, so I am especially aware that each day with her is gift from God. 
And this experience parallels my relationship with Mary, the Mother of God. My appreciation for her and her care for me, especially as a priest, has only grown throughout the years. Mary played a strong role in the experience of my 30 day retreat 12 years ago. The first day back in the parish I told the people, “I used to think that I loved Jesus, I used to think that I loved Mary – but I wasn’t even close to what true love from them means.” I am still growing in that love!
I found that, with Archbishop Etienne’s invitation, I turned to the intercession of “Mary, Undoer of Knots,” during the months of the pandemic shut-down three years ago. The day I wrote this column, the memory came back to me of that time three years ago, while I was praying in the very chapel from which we live-streamed our Masses when only eight people were allowed to be in the room. I hope that we never have to return to that, and I am grateful that the Lord saw us through it, with the intercession of Mary. 
I am reading a book a priest friend gave me called “The Catholic Catechism in a Year.” I was struck when I read that while we call God “Father,” the Church also believes that God’s love can be experienced as like a mother’s love. 
If that is true, and if it is also true that all of us are made in God’s own image and likeness, then the fullness of our humanity will be discovered when we seek to unite our life and love with God’s, who is both Father and mother-like in our relationship with Him. 
We sometimes refer to the Church as “Mother Church.” We experience the deep care that the Church has for all of humanity, the love of a mother if you will, in the intercessions from the Liturgy for Good Friday. In them, we pray for the Church, for the pope, for the catechumens who are to be baptized, for all who believe in Christ, for the Jewish people, for those who do not acknowledge God, for all the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned, for travelers, for pilgrims, and for the dying. We pour out our prayer for everyone, as Christ poured out his love for us on the cross and his Mother, Mary, remained at his side. The prayers are long, and they imitate the length and breadth, height and depth of Christ’s love and the love of his mother. (c.f. Ephesians 3:18 21) 
The way that we pray leads us in the way that we believe and live. Mothers can be powerful teachers of all of us who are called to live. 
Fr. Gary 
Dear Friends, 
I was struck by the power of these simple words that we heard from the Gospel for the Mass on the 2nd Thursday of Easter: “[God] does not ration his gift of the Spirit.” (Jn 3:34) These few words express the lavish love and mercy of God, poured out on those who were baptized at the Easter Vigil, on the children who will soon receive their First Communion, on the young people and adults who received Confirmation on Monday, and on all of us. God is generous beyond measure; and he calls for us to be generous in return. 
There are many ways for us to imitate God’s generosity. We grow spiritually, in our personal relationship with the Lord, when we are generous in the time we give to prayer, first together at Sunday Mass, and then individually in our daily commitment. We can be generous in showing mercy and forgiveness – in fact, we put the gift of God’s mercy for us at risk if we are not merciful in return (c.f. James 2:13). From the story of the Good Samaritan we know that the neighbors God commands us to love may be strangers to us or even enemies, and that we are called to be generous in the love we show them; this story makes clear that “love” includes the monetary gift the Samaritan left to cover the expenses of the Jewish stranger he found in the ditch (see Lk. 10:25-37).
One of the ways that we show our gratitude to God is through the stewardship of treasure. Each Fall everyone (myself included) is asked to prayerfully plan their charitable giving for the whole year, with the suggestion that the first half of our total commitment would go to our own parish and the second half to other charities. I would strongly encourage you to commit some of that second half of your annual giving to support the many ministries of our Seattle Archdiocese through the Annual Catholic Appeal. The resources we all give through the ACA provide an umbrella of support that benefits all our parishes throughout the Archdiocese – for instance, HR and Benefits services for all the employees in the Archdiocese, the Catholic Schools Office, Property and Construction, CYO summer camps, and of course the Office of the Vicar of Clergy, just to name a few. 
Our parish goal for this year is $263,274. The good news is that any monies that are collected over our goal will be rebated back to the parish. We plan to use the rebated monies this year for “sprucing-up” the liturgical furniture in the church, which is looking a little worn from the many years of use it has seen. 
Next week one of the chancery employees, Edwin Ferrera, Director of Hispanic Ministry, will speak at the Masses about the importance of this ACA collection. Thank you for your generous expression of thanks to God, whose mercy endures forever. 
With gratitude, 
Fr. Gary Zender
Dear Friends at St. Louise, 
Everyone wants to do all that they can to protect children from harm, and especially from the harm that comes from sexual abuse. As you probably know, every employee of the Church is deemed to be a mandated reporter of abuse under Washington State law. This includes priests, with one exception – when the priest learns of abuse from an individual confessing their sins in the context of sacramental reconciliation. And in fact such disclosures are absolutely prohibited under canon law: “[t]he sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.” (Can. 983 §1) Most know this as the “seal of confession” or as the “clergy-penitent privilege.”
This year the Washington House of Representatives introduced HB 5280, which, if passed as currently written, would make priests mandated reporters even of what they might hear in the confessional. Archbishop Etienne recently wrote about this topic on his blog (see our parish website for the full text). He points out that the Washington State Bishops have testified to the legislature that they support the mandatory reporting by priests that is already part of our Church policy, which includes the exception for the sacrament of Reconciliation. Archbishop Etienne argued that this exception must be added to HB 5280 because Reconciliation is an act of worship, for the salvation of those who have fallen into sin and where penitents can unburden their souls – and therefore, that the clergy-penitent privilege must be protected as an expression of religious liberty. The U.S. Constitution has protected this privilege for over two hundred years. Under Church law, priests who break the seal of confession are excommunicated, which means that they are forbidden from celebrating or receiving the sacraments. I would add that the Church teaching will not change, even if State law does change to eliminate the priest-penitent privilege and include information a priest learns during the sacrament in mandatory reporting. 
I would also point out that this bill if passed as proposed, it will not promote the good that it intends. Currently (as Archbishop Etienne also points out), the priest has the opportunity to promote justice by telling “offenders to turn themselves in as a matter of restitution. Penance and restitution are integral parts of the sacrament of Reconciliation.” But if offenders know that priests are required to report what they are told in confession, offenders will be less likely to confess their sin. 
While the Washington legislature will most likely have already acted on this legislation by the time you read this column, my primary goal here is to clarify our Church teaching. No matter what happens, I for one will continue to follow the teaching of the Church and will remain faithful to my priestly vows. In the unlikely event I were reported for breaking the law, I would face the consequences in fidelity to Christ and to the priests who in ages past gave their lives to protect the faithful and their right to the sacraments. 
-Fr. Gary Zender 
Hello St. Louise School Families,
I am Fr. Nehnevaj, and I have been at St. Louise for almost 10 months now. I have greatly enjoyed getting to know your children this school year. Recently, one of the school families had me over for dinner – and it was a really great experience. So, as part of an invitation to the larger parish, if you would like to have me over for dinner, simply click on this link here: https://calendar.app.google/NuGJVieLqEECDrW37 (a permanent link is also available on the parish website under About > Events and News > Messages from Fr. Nehnevaj) and choose one of the available dates. I would also encourage you to invite at least one other family over, to help me efficiently meet other school families. Looking forward to getting to know you and your family a little bit better!
-Fr. Nehnevaj
Dear Friends at St. Louise, 
Today we celebrate the most important day of the Church year, Easter Sunday. Just like any important event in a family when all the family members come together, so too does the whole family of the Church gather to celebrate the central experience of the first followers of Jesus: that he is truly risen from the dead, just as he had promised. We are Easter people, and Alleluia is our song, as St. Augustine says. No matter who you are or where you are from, we are glad that you are here! 
The Easter “song” is something that we certainly live as we gather for Mass, which is the summit and source of all Christian activity. In the Mass we encounter the risen Lord, most especially in the Eucharist, in his Body and Blood. Then we are sent to live it, at home and in our daily lives. 
When we make the commitment to give our lives to the Lord who gave his life for our sake, we choose to make him the center of our lives. As central as the Sunday celebration is for us to develop as mature disciples, so too is how we live the faith at home as the “domestic church.” Certainly, this includes praying together as a family. It also means giving priority to spending time together as a family and to forming close relationships – to show affection, to affirm each, to forgive each, and to give attention to each other’s needs. For people who live alone, prayer and meditation can become an even more prominent way to live the faith at home; and any time you welcome someone into your home, or reach out to someone, you too are living what it means to be the “domestic church.” The practice of care and affection with the love of God at home then teaches each of us how to be generous and kind to friends and strangers alike as we live our lives outside our homes, going to school and work and doing all our daily business in the world.
There is an online ministry platform to help you live as the domestic church called CatholicHôM (Households on Mission) created by the Peyton Institute for Domestic Church Life. I invite you to download the app (at www.catholichom.com and give it a try for the Easter Season.
And here is a suggested prayer for your Easter meal: 
On this Easter Day, we celebrate the empty tomb and Jesus’ resurrection, but think also of our brothers and sisters in need, who may not eat today – especially for the people in our sister parish and school, Ste. Anne in Haiti. We lift them up as we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 
A Blessed Easter to everyone! 
Fr. Gary Zender

Dear Friends at St. Louise,


Today we begin Holy Week. Christians give time to follow the path of Jesus in his passion, death and resurrection, especially with liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday – what we call the Triduum (“three days” in Latin) – and Easter Sunday. We fast and abstain from meat on Good Friday. Here are some prayers for each of these days that you can pray at home:


Palm Sunday

Leader: Blessed are you, God of Israel, so rich in love and mercy. Let these blessed branches remind us of Christ’s triumph. When we look upon them, may we rejoice in his cross and sing your praise for ever and ever.


All: Amen.


Leader: Let us bless the Lord.


All: Thanks be to God.


Holy Thursday

Leader: Lord, on this Holy Thursday, we thank You for the gift of Your Son. May our entry into the mysteries of his life, death and resurrection give us the confidence to live with unshakeable faith in Your faithful and abiding love. We make this prayer to You in his name.


All: Amen.


Good Friday

Leader: May abundant blessing, O Lord, we pray, descend upon your people, who have honored the death of Your Son in the hope of their resurrection: may pardon come, comfort be given, holy faith increase, and everlasting redemption be made secure. Through Christ our Lord.


All: Amen.


Holy Saturday

Help me (us), dear Lord, to enter into the sorrow and the silence of this Holy Saturday. Today no sacraments are celebrated. Today the world waits, in mourning, in anticipation of the glory of new life! As I (we) keep vigil, awaiting the celebration of your Resurrection, fill me (us) with hope.


All: Amen.


Next week I will give you a prayer to use at home for Easter Sunday. I hope these simple prayers will help you to live Holy Week as the “domestic church” and to take the wondrous love of Christ to others.


Happy Holy Week!

Fr. Gary Zender

Dear Friends at St. Louise, 

As we welcome Fr. Frank Rouleau from Outreach to Haiti, we also listen to the powerful and yet at times puzzling story of the raising of Lazarus. Why did Jesus wait to go to Bethany, even though he knew that his friend was seriously ill? Why did Jesus weep at the tomb, even though he knew that he would soon be showing the glory of God by raising his friend from the dead? While there are answers to these questions (he waited so that all would believe in the resurrection, he wept that death entered the world through Original Sin and caused so much human suffering), the answers may leave us less than completely satisfied. And we know that people everywhere are left unsatisfied with great needs, including at our sister parish and school in Haiti. 

After Jesus does the “heavy lifting” of raising Lazarus from the dead and Lazarus comes out of the tomb, still bound by the burial cloths, Jesus asks for the active participation of his disciples when he says, “untie him and let him go.” These are powerful words as we reflect and pray on what it means for us to join with St. Anthony Renton in signing the covenant agreement with Ste. Anne de Hyacynthe Parish and School, to form a sister parish and school relationship for five years.

It might be easy to immediately think that we are untying what binds them. It is important to think first of what holds us bound, and to see that the experience of our brothers and sisters in Haiti might help us to be free. We can all too easily get caught up in our own problems and challenges and allow them to consume us, all too easily lose our sense of peace, all too easily be preoccupied by our own troubles and needs. Sometimes we use the phrase “but that’s a first-world problem” to help give ourselves some perspective. 

The very first step in our sister parish relationship will be for us here at St. Louise to learn more from the people and students of Ste. Anne Parish and School. As much as our financial help is essential for the very existence of Ste. Anne School, our prayerful presence with that community is every bit as important. I remember well when I went to Haiti with the second St. Anthony’s delegation and we sat down with the teachers. Someone asked, “What is it like to teach here at Ste. Anne?” There was a pause and one of the teachers said, “I don’t talk about it because I will begin to cry.” That hit us hard. Some asked, “What can we do to help?” The response: “Your presence here helps us to know that we are not alone.” That short exchange set each group free – the delegation was set free to focus more on being with the teachers rather than doing something for them, and the teachers were set free from feeling isolated and hopeless in their struggles.

As we move forward with this new experience for our parish, we will slowly discover, with God’s help, what it means to live the words of Jesus: “Untie him and let him go.” 

With deep gratitude, 
Fr. Gary Zender

Welcome again to Fr. Frank Rouleau! Many of you will remember his visit from last year. He is a priest of the Diocese of Norwich, Connecticut, which has a sister diocese relationship with the Archdiocese of Port au Prince. He served many years in Haiti and will be preaching at all the Masses this weekend. 
Dear Friends at St. Louise,

I am sure that most of you are aware that the state mandate for face coverings for health facilities will end on April 3. This is another signal that the pandemic is behind us, although due cautions still need to be observed as we do for other communicable diseases. COVID 19 is not gone, but is much more manageable than before. Some facilities may still require mask-wearing even after the legal requirement is lifted.

In a similar way, our Archdiocese has previously allowed, but not mandated, the distribution of the Precious Blood of Christ at Mass. This decision was made because the medical community had determined that COVID is spread through aerosols (infected people exhale the virus and others inhale it) rather than through contact with saliva. As St. Louise pastor I decided our parish would wait until after the flu season to bring this cherished practice back at our Masses. Even though Christ is fully present under the symbol of bread, the fuller sign of that presence is expressed with communion under both kinds. In fact, a priest celebrating or concelebrating Mass is required to receive communion under both kinds. 

We will offer the chalice to the faithful who choose to receive communion under both kinds at the Easter Vigil, and then at all Masses starting on Divine Mercy Sunday. I expect that fewer people than before the pandemic will be comfortable receiving communion from the chalice. The same norms apply as before: Do not receive communion from the chalice if you are sick or think that you are getting sick. The Eucharistic Minister will continue to wipe the chalice with the purificator and turn the chalice. The alcohol in the wine itself, plus wiping and turning of the chalice, will further reduce the chance of spreading germs among most people. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to let me know. 
Fr. Gary Zender
Dear Friends at St. Louise,
As you know, at Sunday Mass we listen to a three-year cycle of readings. Over the period of three years, we hear from a portion of every book in the Bible. This year we are listening to the Gospel of Matthew, next year we will hear from Mark, and in 2025 we will turn to Luke. There are weeks in each year when we also hear from John’s Gospel.
This year, we will hear from the Gospel of John today and on the next two Sundays of Lent. These particular passages are always read every year at those Masses at which we celebrate the scrutinies, which are rites for the Elect in preparation for baptism at the Easter Vigil. These Gospel passages are meant to “scrutinize” or uncover how God’s healing is working in our broken world and with our broken hearts.
Since for these three Sundays we will hear from the Gospel of John, the fourth Gospel, we need to be aware that John’s Gospel is written so that people may come to believe. We see the amazing works of God described in the first three Gospels (the Synoptic Gospels) now shaped by John the Evangelist into signs that lead people to believe in Jesus as the true Son of God.
  • The story of the Samaritan women at the well is a masterful story of how Jesus gently, and yet with real purpose, exposes the woman’s sin and leads her to believe in him – because he “thirsts” for her to “drink” of the faith he is offering. And she drinks so deep that she in turn evangelizes the people of her village! (Jn 4:5‑42)
  • In the story of the healing of the man born blind, Jesus does something that no‑one has ever done before. Witnessing this also leads people to believe. (Jn 9:1‑41)
  • The raising of Lazarus from the tomb, after he had been buried for four days, is a powerful sign that also leads people to believe in Jesus as the resurrection and the life. (Jn 11:3‑7, 17, 20‑27)

How do we experience Jesus offering us a “drink” of deeper faith in him? How do we experience Jesus helping us to see with eyes of faith? How is Jesus calling us out of the tomb of sin and death? 
If can you do nothing else for Lent, at least spend time praying over even one of these three Gospel passages. Try to imagine yourself as the Samaritan woman, or the man blind from birth, or Lazarus in the tomb. Allow the Lord to speak to you as he spoke to them. We all thirst to have our sins forgiven – we all long to have our eyes opened, so that we who have been blinded by Original Sin may see with new vision – we all long to come out of the tombs that keep us powerless to free ourselves from what binds us.
May the Lenten season lead us all to deeper faith!
Fr. Gary Zender
Dear Friends at St. Louise, 

Jesus calls each and every one of us to follow him more closely, to love him and to serve him in the poor. We especially focus, even more intently, on our Christian discipleship during the season of Lent. 

In the Bible, the mountain is a powerful symbol of our faith journey. Moses climbed Mt Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments; in Matthew, chapter five, we read about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the central part of his teaching. This Sunday we hear about Jesus taking Peter, James and John up Mt. Tabor, where they witnessed his transfiguration. Each of these journeys is for our good, for our transformation, and for our salvation. When we look into our own hearts, we know that each one of us fails to live faithfully the Ten Commandments, the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, and the complete transformation that Jesus desires for us. 

Even though we fall short, and even in serious ways at times, God constantly calls us back. He calls us back through the penitential season of Lent, when we “up our game” on what it means to be Christian with extra emphasis on prayer, fasting and giving to the poor. God calls us back sacramentally through the Rite of Penance. When I say sacramentally, I mean through a personal, physical, and spiritual encounter with the Lord. When we say our sins out loud to a priest, we are doing something that is both personal and physical. We are opening up our hearts to truly show our wounds caused by sin. This is a spiritual imitation of Jesus himself, who in his resurrected body showed his physical wounds to his disciples, after he had taken the wound of human sin to the cross. When we speak in confession we use our body, our voice, to say what we often leave unsaid. We say these things not just to anyone, but to the priest, who by ordination represents both the person of Jesus Christ in his humanity and divinity, and the community of the Church. The words of forgiveness or absolution are not just the priest’s words, they are the prayer of the Church, spoken with the priest’s body, and in addition to that they are the sign and symbol of Jesus speaking his forgiveness to us. 

Our communal Reconciliation service this year is next Thursday, March 8, at 7PM. Since Ash Wednesday we are now able to use the new Order of Penance that was approved for use by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2021; this form will be required for use beginning on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 16, 2023. As you come for individual confessions, we will include one of the new options for the Act of Contrition, as well as the new translation for the dismissal of the penitent, which was in the 1973 rite, but was rarely used. At the end of the confession, the priest will say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.” The penitent will respond, “For his mercy endures forever.” The words will be in the program and the priest will help, as always. For now, we have the new rite in English. We hope to have it in Spanish soon. 

The Reconciliation service will begin with a short Liturgy of the Word and adoration; adoration will continue as confessions are heard. Benediction will take place at 9PM, or earlier if the confessions are finished before. 

Blessings to all of you during this season of ongoing conversion to the Lord.

Fr. Gary Zender
Welcome to our former pastor, Fr. Tom Belleque, who will preach about “Standing with Haiti” at all the Masses this weekend. Fr. Gary is at his former parish, St. Anthony in Renton, doing the same. Next weekend, Fr. Fabian MacDonald will be here for confessions Saturday afternoon, the 5PM Saturday Vigil Mass and Sunday 9AM Mass while Fr. Gary is away with family for a short vacation.
Dear Friends of St. Louise, 

March 4 and 5, the second weekend of Lent, I will do a pulpit exchange with Fr. Tom Belleque, pastor of St. Anthony in Renton, as part of our joint partnership with St. Anne de Hyacinthe Parish and School in Haiti. As most of you know, the sister parish and school relationship between St. Anthony and St. Anne’s began 10 years ago, while I was still pastor at St. Anthony’s. In 2021, following the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise, then the earthquake a few weeks later, followed by Tropical Storm Grace, I spoke with Fr. Tom, and said that the people at St. Anthony must truly be feeling those tragedies, because a number of them had served on the delegation teams that had gone to Haiti over the years. Fr. Tom agreed, and asked if St. Louise might be able to help, because St. Anne’s school had grown so much that it was difficult for St. Anthony to continue providing the funds for the teachers’ salaries and a hot lunch for the students each day. How could I say No? 

Our pulpit exchange will help to prepare the parish for Fr. Frank Rouleau’s visit next month. You might remember him from his last visit. Fr. Frank is a priest of the Diocese of Norwich, Connecticut, and serves as the priest assigned to oversee the sister relationship that the Diocese of Norwich has with the Archdiocese of Port au Prince. He was instrumental in helping St. Anthony’s establish the sister-parish relationship with St. Anne. He lived in Haiti for many years, but is now living in the United States due to the dangerous state of affairs in Haiti, with gangs essentially in control since the assassination of the president. 

Be sure and mark your calendars for two important events. One is the fundraising Mexican dinner in the Parish Hall on Saturday, March 25, following the 5PM Mass. Tickets are on sale after Mass and are also available through our parish website. Also, Fr. Tom, Fr. Frank and I will give a panel discussion on our sister parish and school relationship on Monday, 6:30PM in the Parish Hall. 

We hope that next year the pastor of St. Anne, Pe Josue Seide, will have his travel visa in hand and will be able to visit us in person. Know that the funds you donate go to pay the teacher salaries, serve a hot lunch for the students each day, help to maintain the parish vehicle, and last year, made repairs to the school building sustained in the 2021 tropical storm. This school would not exist without our help. 

Thank you for your generosity and prayers for Pe Josue and the people of St. Anne de Hyacinthe!

Fr. Gary Zender
Dear Friends at St. Louise, 
Can you believe it, this week is Ash Wednesday?! Ready or not, get ready for the joyful season of Lent. Joyful, you say? Since when has Lent been joyful? Ever since the Church has set these 40 days as the time to prepare for the center of the liturgical year, those most joyful days of the Holy Easter Triduum. 
Think for a moment, that Christian joy is different than the joy that this world offers. The joy of this world, as great as it is, not going to last. Just one mundane example – when your favorite team wins the World Cup, the World Series, the Superbowl, the Stanley Cup or whatever sporting event it might be, sure, you will feel incredible joy! But what about the next season? Will your team even qualify? How will you feel then? Some real sports fanatics become depressed and so grumpy their family members don’t want to be around them. 
Christian joy is about knowing that with God, everything in life has a purpose and has meaning, including our suffering. We find that purpose and meaning in Jesus, God who took on our humanity so that we could share in his divinity. He didn’t take on our humanity only part way – he suffered, died and rose again so that we could find that our path of suffering, when united to his, will lead us to everlasting life. I can’t overstate how much Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, his ascension into heaven and sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, that which we call the Paschal Mystery, changed the course of human history. The age-old curse of sin and death having the final say was destroyed! Yes, we still live with sin and death in this world, but we know the end of the story. We know that Jesus, the way, the truth and the life, will lead us to where there will be no more tears, no more suffering, where death will be no more. 
Catholics fully embrace the joys of this world, having fun, eating, drinking, maybe even occasionally over-indulging, especially in the Christmas and Easter seasons. But we are just as happy to fast, pray, and give alms to the poor with a generous portion of what God has given us. We do all things in moderation in this sense, and with a spirit of detachment. As St. Ignatius would say, “It matters not if I am rich or if I am poor, if I have good health or poor health, if I have a long life or a short life.” Why? Because Christ himself was poor, he suffered greatly physically and he lived a short life. Lent is the time that we “give up” some of our normal pleasures and joys so that we never, ever lose sight of our one lasting joy, Christ himself. 
Have a joyful season of Lent!
Fr. Gary Zender
Dear Friends at St. Louise, 

Even before the pandemic our parish staff had several discussions about the possibility of transmitting our Masses online, especially for our homebound parishioners. After the shutdown, we had to pivot overnight to offer remote instruction for our school students at home and remote Mass for parishioners who were sheltering in place. Now, our school instruction is completely in person (except for snow days), but our Masses online continue. You probably noticed in the parish annual report that people from 43 countries viewed the Mass at St. Louise last year!

Many people have expressed their appreciation for our continuing to offer Masses online. Just recently, a man who needed to be traveling in the Middle East on a Sunday, and so would not be able to attend Mass in person, expressed his gratitude that he will be able to view Mass at St. Louise from wherever he is. Numerous people who are homebound also appreciate that they can feel such a strong connection to the parish by viewing our Masses (they can also receive communion at home from a trained lay minister, deacon or priest). My own mother watches our livestreams at St. Louise. Her parish did not have the resources to continue offering Masses online once restrictions were lifted on the number of people who can attend Mass – and of course she likes to keep up on what her son is up to! 

Remember that Mass is meant to be an in-person gathering of the People of God, and viewing Mass online is a substitute, a second choice, to be used only when needed. It might be easy for healthy people who aren’t traveling long distances, etc., to get in the habit of viewing Mass online out of convenience rather than real need. As we approach the Lenten season (Ash Wednesday this year is February 22), I want us all to be clear about the importance of attending Mass in person for those who are well or have no legitimate reason to miss Mass. The Mass is an active, communal celebration of thanks and praise to God. Much of the meaning of the Mass is embodied in the People of God gathered together, in person, to rejoice in our salvation and receive the very Body of Christ. 

If you know someone who has been holding back from attending Mass from concern about getting sick, please let them know that at the height of COVID we installed an air filtration system that eliminates most contagions from the air in the church. In addition, we have maintained a generous “socially distanced” seating section in the church (in front of the Marian wall) – people who need or want to take extra precautions may sit in the socially distanced sections of the church, and everyone is welcome to wear face masks in any seating section if they choose. 

If you know someone who is holding back from attending Mass, or even if you yourself have been hesitant to return, remember that our church building is a safe place to gather – and Lent is a good time to come back.

Fr. Gary Zender

Dear Friends at St. Louise,


On Thursday, January 19, I had the opportunity to bless the new water stations in our school that were donated by the 2022 graduating class. Our principal, Mr. Fuerte, Vice Principal, Mrs. Jaster, a few parents of that class and representatives of the teachers and students were there.


Why would a priest or deacon bless water stations? I frequently bless cars, houses and other such items that are important in people's everyday lives, and, even more frequently, religious objects and bibles. Our new water stations are important - even holy, in a way - because our students can now more easily refill their personal water bottles at the station instead of purchasing one-use bottled water. This is a great benefit to the environment and a way of caring for God's gift of the earth. 


Protecting the environment is a Catholic value. When I blessed each station, I pointed out to the students that I was using a green stole for the liturgical season of ordinary time, and I asked them what the color green means. Their response came: “Life!”  When we look at God’s creation, we can see that plants and trees are very often green in color.  


We blessed the stations using holy water, and I asked the students what the use of water means.  Again, the response came: “Life!”  We all need water to live, and water sustains every living creature. The blessing of the water stations, which will help the school community reduce their use of plastic bottles, dedicated them to our efforts to protect our water and the planet.


Plastics, which are so convenient in our modern world, are also causing great harm. I was horrified to see how much plastic littered the streets and highways in the Holy Land when I was there in October. Too often, plastics that aren’t reused or recycled end up on our streets, where they can be carried to our waterways by rainwater; and from there they can end up in our oceans. Most of us have seen pictures of the huge amounts of plastics that float in our ocean waters. Endangered leatherback sea turtles die when they mistake floating plastic bags for their natural food, jellyfish. When plastics in the environment break down into smaller pieces, they can be ingested by animals, birds, fish and other creatures, and be passed up the food chain - including humans' food. Living bodies were not made to process plastics.


Three modern popes have written about the importance of being good stewards of creation: Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis. Pope Benedict acted upon St. John Paul’s teaching by making Vatican City a carbon-neutral state.  In 2015 Pope Francis wrote his encyclical letter Laudato Si’: Care for our Common Home, the Earth.  This world-wide message (encyclical means to be sent to every bishop) makes clear that the pro-life teaching of the Catholic Church includes care for the earth. Even the small actions that we take, like installing water stations, can make a big difference over time.

This Catholic Schools Week, we are thankful for the St. Louise Class of 2022 for giving us a chance to reflect on the blessing of the good earth that our loving God has given us, and on our responsibility to be good stewards, not only of human life, but of all God’s creation.


With my prayers,


Fr. Gary Zender


P.S. Last week the Archdiocese of Seattle launched the “Partners in the Gospel” initiative, which will affect the life of every parish in Western Washington. If you missed seeing the kick-off video at Mass last week, I highly recommend that you view it on our parish website. More information, and invitations for you input, will be coming later this year.     

Dear Friends at St. Louise, 
On Monday, January 16, our country will celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year is significant because this August 28 will be the 60th anniversary of his “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., which was pivotal in moving the Civil Rights movement forward in the United States. 
In 2018 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops promulgated a pastoral letter against racism called Open Wide Our Hearts: An Enduring Call to Love. Here is a short excerpt of what they wrote: 
As bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States, we want to address one particularly destructive and persistent form of evil. Despite many promising strides made in our country, racism still infects our nation. 
What Is Racism?
Racism arises when—either consciously or unconsciously—a person holds that his or her own race or ethnicity is superior, and therefore judges persons of other races or ethnicities as inferior and unworthy of equal regard. When this conviction or attitude leads individuals or groups to exclude, ridicule, mistreat, or unjustly discriminate against persons on the basis of their race or ethnicity, it is sinful. Racist acts are sinful because they violate justice. They reveal a failure to acknowledge the human dignity of the persons offended, to recognize them as the neighbors Christ calls us to love (Mt 22:39). Open Wide Our Hearts, pp 3-4.
While Dr. Martin Luther King gave his life in doing the “heavy lifting” of fighting racism, the Bishops proclaim loud and clear for us that there is much work still to be done, and that we as Catholics are called to actively participate.
It could be tempting to treat this holiday like any other, as a day to go on an extended weekend getaway, shop, or do chores at home. I would strongly encourage you to do something different. Maybe read the “I Have a Dream” speech or Open Wide Our Hearts, which is available on the USCCB website. Or attend the Mass that Black Catholics in the Archdiocese organize each year to remember Reverend King. This year’s Mass will be on MLK Day, January 16, at 11AM in the St. Ignatius Chapel on the Seattle University Campus. Bishop Frank Schuster will preside and preach. 
Catholics, together with all people of good will, need to make Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream our dream. 
Fr. Gary Zender
Dear Friends of St. Louise, 
Today we celebrate the Magi’s search for the newborn King on Epiphany. Jesus is the light of all nations, and came so that our joy might be complete. In other words, God wants us to be happy! A couple of years ago Pope Francis shared these words, inspired by Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, about the happiness we all seek: 
[R]emember that being happy is not having a sky without storm, a road without accidents, work without fatigue, relationships without disappointments.
To be happy is to stop feeling like a victim and become the author of your own fate. It’s walking through deserts, but being able to find an oasis deep in the soul. It is thanking God every morning for the miracle of life. It’s kissing your children, cuddling your parents, having poetic moments with your friends, even when they hurt us. 
Being happy is letting the creature that lives in each of us live, free, joyful and simple. You have the maturity to be able to say: “I’ve made mistakes.” It’s having the courage to say “I’m sorry.” It’s having the sense to say “I need you.” It’s having the ability to say “I love.” May your life become a garden of opportunities for happiness. . . that in spring you may be a lover of joy and in winter a lover of wisdom. . . . 
Use your mistakes with the serenity of the sculptor. Use pain to tune into pleasure. Use obstacles to open the windows of intelligence. Never give up . . . Above all, never give up on the people that love you. Never give up on being happy, because life is an incredible spectacle. 
Not bad words to remember at Epiphany and as we continue the journey of faith in 2023!
-Fr. Gary Zender
Thank you to everyone who gave us cards and gifts at Christmas. Our real gift is to serve you, the people of St. Louise. We are grateful for your expressions of affection and appreciation. 
With our prayers,
—Fr. Gary and Fr. Nehnevaj 
Dear Friends at Louise,

Merry Christmas! On one of the darkest days of the year, we celebrate the birth of the Light for all nations, Jesus Christ the Lord!

We never know when a dark period of time in our lives, in our Church, or in the world, will come. We do know that it will come – and in fact, many of us might be living with some kind of darkness right now. However, just as surely as darkness falls on the earth, so too will the light rise. That light is Jesus Christ himself. There are times when we live and walk in the fullness of light; there are times that we see just enough light to continue. The Paschal candle that burns in the darkness of the Easter Vigil Mass also is lit for both baptisms and funerals. That is also a powerful reminder that Christ, who was born at midnight, came at the darkest hour to lead us to the light of a new day.

As you look at the lights of your Christmas tree today, no matter where you might be emotionally, or no matter what is going on in the world, try to remember what those lights represent. They represent Jesus Christ, who is born today . . . who is born today. His birth is ever-present, ever-real, and gives birth to light for our darkness. Every day. 

When I celebrated Mass at the Shepherds’ Field in Bethlehem last October – and we celebrated Christmas Mas – our tour guide told us that every day is Christmas Day in Bethlehem. Spiritually, the same is true, here in Bellevue, and for every heart who believes in Jesus, who is born today. 

A very merry Christmas to you and all your dear ones!
Fr. Gary Zender

And congratulations to Kathryn Gaston, who after two years of RCIA journey is making her profession of faith and being confirmed at the 10AM Christmas Day Mass. She attended Mass for the first time on Christmas Eve 2020. Our prayers, congratulations and welcome today go out to Kathryn! 
Dear Parishioners, 
Thursday, December 8, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the patroness for the United States of America, and so this feast is important not only for Catholics throughout the world, but also especially for all of us who live in this great country of ours. If we lived in a Catholic country, this feast would be a national holiday. It is, for all Catholics, a Holy Day of Obligation, because on this day we profess our belief that Mary, at her conception, was given the same grace that we are given at Baptism. She was preserved from the stain of original sin to prepare her to be the worthy mother of the Son of God – so that, through him, we could have that same stain washed away at Baptism. These truths are so important to our salvation that we are all obligated to attend Mass on this day.
What are we saying, when we say that December 8 is a Holy Day of Obligation? Basically, that is just as important to attend Mass on that day (and other Holy Days of Obligation) as it is to attend Sunday Mass. It is “our duty and our salvation,” as we hear in the preface of almost every Mass. As with Sunday Mass, things like sickness, an unavoidable work schedule, etc. may prevent you from attending; however, everyone should make every effort to attend. If it truly is not possible for you to attend through no fault of your own, I strongly encourage you to at least view one of our Masses (our livestream Masses are recorded, so you can view them at a time that works for you). 
I would love to see our Masses so full that we need to add another Mass for next year. Come! Let us together celebrate, with joy, this great mystery of our salvation!
Fr. Gary Zender

Dear Friends at St. Louise,


After the biggest holiday for feasting, Thanksgiving, we begin the season of Advent.Maranatha, come Lord Jesus” carries both joyful expectation, that Christmas is coming soon, and a reminder that we are still fighting, that the struggles of our lives are not easy. Life is both good and difficult.

It was a great joy to see a young teenage girl gleeful at winning the black-out at the Bingo party on November 5, and also hard to see another young girl sobbing in her mother’s arms because she lost. Even a Bingo party reveals the drama of life. The message of Advent is that The Kingdom of God is already here … but not yet.


I recently met with a couple who were worried and conflicted with their son. On a retreat last year they had heard a priest say, “If we stay close to Jesus, we know that the victory is already won – but the path to that victory is hard!” This couple shared with me how their young adult son has struggled with depression, even more so since the pandemic.

I know that this autumn there have been times that I felt anxious, with the awful smoke in the air. Some are saying it’s almost as if we have five seasons now, the smoky season being the fifth.


We can wonder, for these and many other reasons, where the world is going.


But we as followers of Jesus don’t run away from these struggles. Instead, we try to do what we can to make our lives and our world better, because they reflect the life and the world to come. And we know that this world will pass away – we await a new heaven and a new earth.


Our Advent prayer of Come, Lord Jesus not only asks Jesus to deliver us from our sorrows, but also to help us and show us how to live through them, with the strength and hope that comes from him alone.

Blessings to all of you in this Advent Season!


Fr. Gary Zender

Who is this Son of Man? 
Even when Jesus was walking the earth people were wondering about this mysterious title for Jesus. Other titles like Christ, Son of God, Lord, Savior, and Word were more understandable and have passed into common usage, likely because their full meaning was illuminated by the cross. Son of Man on the other hand did not pass into common usage, even in the early Church, likely out of respect for the fact that it is Jesus’s title for himself. In the New Testament it was only used by Jesus himself, with two exceptions: the above quote from John, where people ponder the mystery of the Son of Man, and once by St. Stephen, who was quoting Jesus during his martyrdom.
Even Jesus’s usage of the title only contributes to its mystery. The title is often used to refer either to Jesus’s great humility (“the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head” ) or to his divinity (“the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins” ). The title, Son of Man, by its mysterious and paradoxical nature both conceals the mystery of who Jesus is and slowly reveals the truth of who he is . This is the very nature of being a follower of Christ, of living in the Christian mystery, true discipleship entails a gradual uncovering of what it means to be a Christian. There is always more to uncover about God and that is the reality that the Son of Man, both the title and the person, slowly unveils to us. 
Another aspect of the title is that it emphasizes Jesus’s humanity. As Pope Benedict XVI writes, Jesus “comes from God and he is God. But that is precisely what makes him—having assumed human nature—the bringer of true humanity” . The Son of Man, as truly human and truly divine, reveals to us what it is to be human. Jesus shows us that to be human is to be united with God. And we unite ourselves to God by doing what Jesus did, offering our lives to God as followers of the Son of Man.
Fr. Nehnevaj 
Dear Friends at St. Louise,
“The loyal heart must praise the Lord.”
I find these words from Morning Prayer (and based on Psalm 33) to be a source of encouragement and challenge. Encouragement because when I read them, I am praying! They remind me that, in that moment, I am being loyal to my baptismal call to praise God each day. They are challenging because they also remind me that sometimes I am not as loyal as I wish I could be. I too often miss praying Midday Prayer, which I promised to pray on the day of my ordination, and I can find myself praying those prayers at night, instead of at the proper time of day. None of us lives perfectly the call to be loyal to the Lord – but that does not mean that we give up! With the encouragement that Jesus constantly gives us, we can take two steps forward after that one step back. 
What does it mean to praise the Lord with a loyal heart? For Catholics, it means first of all to keep holy the sabbath by attending Sunday Mass, the source and summit of all Christian activity. Any community group could put together an event like the wonderful Bingo Night our parish and school held on November 5, where about 250 people enjoyed fellowship and BBQ and raised money to assist children in need. But we do it because we love Jesus – and the best way for us to be one with Jesus is when we eat his body and drink his blood in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is how we become both physically and spiritually one with him who is our salvation.
We can see that people are slowly coming back to Mass here, reestablishing regular attendance at our weekend liturgies after the isolation and danger of COVID these last two years. In fact, based on our annual October Mass count, we are averaging over 200 more people at our Masses each weekend than last year! Yet, we also know that we have not returned to pre-pandemic numbers. While attendance is not everything – engagement is also important – as your pastor I am acutely aware that I need to remind everyone in our community of the importance of living with “loyal hearts” that “must praise the Lord” – which means coming to Mass every week, unless you are unable due to sickness or some other serious reason. It’s at Mass that we truly become one with God’s love incarnate, our savior Jesus Christ – the very best thing that can happen to us, ever. 
May the Lord continue to convert our hearts!
Fr. Gary Zender
Dear Friends at St. Louise, 
Brothers and sisters: May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word. (2 Thess. 2:16)
When I read these words from the second reading from today’s Mass, I couldn’t help but think of the pilgrimage I was privileged to be on last month. I keep returning to the word “grace,” and how experiencing the wonderful sites in the Holy Land opened up my heart to God’s encouragement to do good in deeds and words. I still experience the grace of the pilgrimage that continues to flow into my heart and out of my heart. In other words, the trip was not just for me and the other pilgrims. It is for all of you as well!
That is the way God’s grace works: it flows freely over us and into our hearts, and then, when it is rightly received, it also flows from us. The current of God’s love is natural and not forced. The person who has truly received the grace of God loses nothing by sharing it. Quite the contrary, the grace only increases. 
In this time of year when we take time to take stock of our blessings and the greatness of God’s love, I invite you consider what it means to share what you receive from God and how we lose nothing, and gain everything, when we make God the center of our lives. 
The picture below is of me celebrating Mass at Shepherds’ Field. Such a simple place, where the poor and lowly shepherds were the first ones to hear the great news from the heavenly hosts – that a King had been born! Being there reminded me of Pope Francis’ invitation to “take on the smell of the sheep.” We all do that every time we share something of what God has given to us.
Blessings to all of you!
Fr. Gary Zender
Dear Friends at St. Louise, 

I am writing this column on the first full day after my return from the Holy Land pilgrimage. There were many blessings in visiting the sacred sites where Jesus was born, lived, died, rose again, and ascended to the right hand of the Father. One of the most impactful for me personally was the Garden of Gethsemane. Our guide, Johnny, explained to us that the “Rock of Agony,” which is venerated as the place where Jesus sweated blood, is almost without a doubt truly the place where he asked his Father that the cup of torture, humiliation and death pass him by – but that not his own will, but his Father’s will be done. The rock is now located the base of the altar of the chapel at the Garden of Gethsemane and is worn smooth by the many pilgrims who have touched the rock. As I bent down on my knees to do the same, I found that I was moved with profound emotion and gratitude for what Jesus did for me, for you, and for the salvation of the entire world. Johnny said that we can firmly claim that this particular rock is the authentic site because it is consistent with the description in the Bible, because the garden is small, so it would be difficult to confuse it with somewhere else, and because the same rock has been venerated by Christians since the earliest times of Christian tradition. 

The Garden of Gethsemane is located in the Kidron Valley at the base of the Mount of Olives. The garden is filled with olive trees, one of which was planted by Pope Paul VI when he visited there more than 50 years ago. That tree looks healthy and strong, and yet is small compared to several other trees that are over 2000 years old and would have been “witnesses” of Jesus’ agony. The olive tree is considered the tree of life, because it can live for thousands of years, almost literally forever in terms of living things. It needs very little water and can grow in almost any kind of soil. In that sense, it takes very little and still gives life in abundance. 

The name Gethsemane comes from two Hebrew words, Geth shemen, which means “oil press.” The fruit of the olive tree is pressed to produce olive oil. In Jesus’ time olive oil gave strength to athletes in competition, healing to those who were injured or sick, and health in nourishment. The olive tree is a powerful symbol of the life that was “pressed” from Jesus as he gave himself on the tree of the cross. He gave life in abundance without asking or expecting anything in return. His sacrificial love is unconditional. We can never repay him – but we can imitate his selfless generosity. Our stewardship of time (prayer), talent (service) and treasure (financial contributions) is how we express our gratitude for all that God has done for us. 

We who strive to follow Jesus with our whole heart seek to imitate him, to live lives of unconditional love. We seek to give as he gave, to love as he loved, with a sacrificial love that is unconditional. This is the spiritual and theological underpinning of our sharing of time, talent and treasure. This is the time of year when each of our households is asked  to discern an annual commitment to sacrificial giving. We know that doing our share to keep the lights on at the parish is important; but we give for a deeper reason than that. We do so to “press out” the love that Jesus has so abundantly given to us. The more we are able to make our commitment in true gratitude to God, the more we will grow in the joy of giving, and the more our parish will be able to live the mission of Jesus Christ in abundance. 

In deep gratitude to Jesus and for you, 

Fr. Gary Zender
Dear Friends at St. Louise, 
Last month we blessed our school’s new Pre K classrooms, in space that served as the school library when the entire school was housed in the original school building, and more recently was the multi-purpose “St. Louise Room” used by both the parish and the school. While it was very exciting to bless these classrooms to meet the growing demand for Pre K spots, this is only a temporary solution to our space needs. 
As I announced at the blessing – while pointing to the original school building, “As great as this day is, try to imagine the future. Imagine these failing buildings replaced by a beautiful new wing attached to the School and Faith Formation Center, a new Parish Hall, and a new entrance to our church. Imagine this being done by the time these students are eighth graders!” Actually, I hope that we will be completed by the time that they are in fourth or fifth grade. Now is the time to imagine and dream for our future.
You know how much your home is worth to you – not just its monetary value, but its importance in your very life. Public spaces like what we need for both the school and the parish come at a very high monetary cost, but they are worth it for what they mean to the community, and all the ways they serve us. With faith in the Lord, we can do great things, just as St. Louise did when the current School and Faith Formation Center was constructed in 2010. That building was paid for within seven years, a real accomplishment of faith, to the glory of God. It happened because this community, everyone who was part of the parish or school, came together with faith in the Lord. 
There are many ways to give glory to God and to show our trust in Him. One way is to be good stewards of the gifts of time, talent and treasure that God generously gives us. The morning I was writing this column I happened to read this text, in 1 Timothy, 6:17-18, “Tell those who are rich in this world’s goods not to be proud, and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth. Let them trust in the God who provides us richly with all things for our use.” So in obedience to God’s word, I am telling you, the amount of trust in we place in God is directly evidenced by our use of money! 
To realize the dreams that we have for the future of our parish and school, we all need to truly come together in new ways – in faith, in hope, in love, in prayer, and in the scriptural meaning of being good stewards of the monetary gifts that God gives us. Remember our watchword is equal sacrifice, not equal gifts. If everyone takes this message to heart we can, with God’s help, do what otherwise seemed impossible. With God, all things are possible! 
With faith, hope and love, 
Fr. Gary Zender
Dear Friends of St. Louise, 

As you read this, I will be in the Holy Land with 42 parishioners. More precisely, our group of pilgrims will be in Bethlehem and the Mount of Olives on Saturday, so we will experience the holy places of Jesus’ birth and his death. That alone is quite a summary of the Christian life.
Our life is a constant cycle of life and death and, with Jesus, rising to new life. For me personally, I recently lost my oldest uncle, Uncle John, at 95 years of age and a cousin, Laurie, on the very same day. Two weeks later I learned that my nephew, Drew, and his wife Johnna are expecting their first child in early April. Life, and death, and life.

We at St. Louise and, really, the whole Archdiocese of Seattle are committed to finding the path to new life in our local Church following the impact that COVID had on our lives. In many ways, patterns of decline were visible long before the pandemic. We have seen a drop in Mass attendance and participation in parish life for quite a number of years. Lower numbers at Mass has a ripple effect throughout our ministries – it means for instance, that it’s more difficult to keep the St. Vincent de Paul food bank stocked. 

On the other hand, pre-COVID, I had numerous conversations about whether we were going to be able to maintain two classrooms for each grade in our school due to drops in enrollment. As it turned out, COVID served Catholic schools well across the Archdiocese. Our St. Louise School enrollment is up, with the exception of only a few grades; and as you know, we were able to add a second classroom for Pre-K for the first time in our school’s history. Could that be a sign of hope for renewal for the entire Church in Western Washington?

Both Pope Francis and Archbishop Etienne want us all to be attentive to how the Holy Spirit will use something like a world-wide pandemic to do something new. This time we live in is challenging, for everyone, but in a special way for people of faith. Our society as a whole is becoming more secular and less focused on God – we can see this throughout the United States in the dramatic drop in attendance of any faith community, both Christian and non-Christian, and the increase in those who say they do not believe in God. But the more that we can be attentive to the movement of the Holy Spirit, the more we will see this time as really a time to be renewed and ignited in our faith, to witness to God’s love in the world. We might have fewer in numbers, but could we in turn actually be stronger in our faith? 

Archbishop Etienne wants every Catholic, every person of faith, to grow stronger in our experience of Jesus Christ. That is number one. Closely following that is the strategic plan called Partners in the Gospel, which will touch the life of every Catholic in the Archdiocese. It will be a five-year process of looking at our limited personnel resources, both priests and lay staff, and at our parish and school facilities. Many of these are structures that were built in the 1940s 1960s, during a time of great growth and expansion; and now the maintenance of too many aging buildings is becoming a burden to living the mission of the Gospel. You will hear much more about this in 2023 as the plan is formalized. For now, I want every council and commission, all staff members, and all our parishioners to be aware that this is coming. I invite you all to read, either for the first time or again, Archbishop Etienne’s article from the April/May edition of Northwest Catholic (you can find it here on our parish website, stlouise.org/ptg).

This is a message of life, death, and resurrection. It is message of our faith. Faith. When we live intentionally, is not easy, but it is always about the hope that the Lord alone can give us!

You are daily in my prayers as we pilgrims walk the path of Jesus in the Holy Land. 

Fr. Gary Zender
Dear Friends of St. Louise, 
People of faith are, by definition, people who are on the search for truth, and most especially the truth that comes from God. As we search for the truth from God, who is Truth itself, we are also are on the search for God’s mercy. We are all God’s children and we are all sinners – we all need God’s forgiveness. 
In the month of October, we as a Church focus on the great truth that our God, who is Love, has created all humans, no matter who they are, in his own image and likeness. Every human life, at every stage, has equal dignity and value. Without mercy, this truth can become a message of harsh judgment against those who don’t see things as we do. Judgment is different from discernment. Discernment is something we human beings must do – it comes from the Holy Spirit, and is communicated to us through Church teaching. Judgment belongs to God alone; and, while we can be stewards of God’s judgment, seeking to model God’s truth for the world, we must do so with great humility, so that God’s truth – his judgment, his love and his mercy – are not misrepresented. If instead we are arrogant and judgmental to others, we may end up alienating people from the truth or even from God. 
Ever since the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June, we have heard a lot about the issue of abortion. Catholics, as much as anyone else, can have conflicting feelings about the decision and what we hear in the news about it. There have been even comments in the news on the Church’s position, that are not always accurate. Taking much of this discussion at face value, many people might wrongly conclude that the Catholic Church is only concerned about the pre-born child and not about the life or the needs of the woman. In truth, the Church is a constant advocate for all people, most especially for the vulnerable. We as Church strive to serve the needs of the woman and the child, both before and after birth. We realize that women who lack resources need support in order to bring children into the world. We are dedicated to providing those resources through programs like Prepares. The Church is there to provide emotional and spiritual healing, without judgment, for women who experience post-abortion trauma, through a ministry of Catholic Community Services called Project Rachel. 
There are cases in which the health and even the life of a pregnant woman can be at risk. In the absence of better alternatives, life-threatening maternal health conditions may require interventions that lead to the death of an unborn child, even though that isn’t the intention of the treatment. A clear example are ectopic pregnancies, which result when an embryo implants outside the uterus, often in the fallopian tube. Sadly, such embryos cannot survive, and this condition can pose serious risks to the woman’s life and future fertility. While ectopic pregnancies sometimes resolve naturally, most often, medical interventions are necessary. This procedure should be considered as something different than an abortion. Abortion has the intention of ending a pregnancy, thereby taking the life of an embryo or a fetus. Medical intervention is morally acceptable when the intention is to remove an embryo that has already died or to remove the damaged fallopian tube in order to safeguard the life and health of the mother. This is what the Church means about truth and mercy, and making judgments not on our own, but with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and in light of the teaching of the Church. 
Government laws about the meaning of respecting human life may flip-flop, but the teaching of the Church will remain consistent: that every human life is a gift from God and so deserves our respect and protection, especially the most vulnerable lives among us. Those vulnerable lives include the immigrant, the poor, and people at the end as well as at the beginning of life. 
Fr. Gary Zender
Fr. Gary will be away, with 42 parishioners, on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from October 10-24. The group will remember you at Mass each day!
Dear Friends of St. Louise, 

Last week I wrote about an important international way that St. Louise parish reaches out to people in need, through Standing with Haiti. (Again, you can check it out on our parish website.) This week I would like to lift up another important ministry our parish supports, the New Bethlehem Projects. New Bethlehem is in Kirkland, and provides a day center and overnight shelter, plus other services, to homeless women and their children. If you use your favorite search engine, you can find more specifics.

The New Bethlehem Projects got its name from the place where Jesus was born, after St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary had searched desperately for a place to spend the night. This ministry began with the dream of parishioners at Holy Family Parish in Kirkland. They reached out to Catholic Housing Services (CHS) and to St. Louise. Salt Lutheran Church in Kirkland was able to provide space for a day center for homeless woman and children, and now there is 24/7 housing for them. The wrap-around services New Bethlehem supports help the families to get on their feet again and to move into permanent housing. As the effort has progressed, others in the Kirkland community have gotten on board. It is amazing what God will do when people come together. Rachel Nightingale, a St. Louise parishioner and the mom of a St. Louise student and a recent graduate, works for CHS, and has a special love for this project. 

As we celebrate Respect for Life month in October, it only makes sense that we would come together to help moms in need, who only want what every parent wants for their children: nourishing food, a warm place to sleep, a safe place to play and do homework. 
If you have a heart to help, even in a small way, don’t forget the Spaghetti Feed in the Parish Hall following the 5PM Mass on October 8. Our St. Louise parish and school staffs are putting it on! Proceeds will help support both Standing with Haiti and the New Bethlehem Projects. This is a great way to come together both as a school and a parish to have fun, get to know each other better, and raise money for two important ministries. 

Have a blessed week! 

Fr. Gary Zender

Dear Friends at St. Louise,


The new pastoral and school year is off to a great start, and the Parish Pastoral Council had its first meeting (in person!) on September 14. One of the topics we discussed was our Standing with Haiti ministry. As many of you already know, we are joining with St. Anthony Parish and School in Renton (together with their pastor and former St. Louise pastor, Fr. Tom Belleque) to form a sister parish and school relationship with Ste. Anne de Hyacynthe, Haiti. You can read more about the history of how it all got started on our parish website.


Ste. Anne School depends completely on our support to exist. With the support of our two parishes, the school is able to pay their teachers and provide a warm meal for the students. In the last 10 years, since St. Anthony’s support began, Ste. Anne School has grown over from 60 to well over 350 students, and just celebrated their first high school graduation class. The school used to be housed in the church, which is just a rickety open-air building of 2‑by‑4s and a tin roof. Because of the financial stability that St. Anthony’s support provides, Pe Josue, the Ste. Anne’s pastor, was able to get a construction grant from Digital, the major phone provider in Haiti, and Ste. Anne’s now has a beautiful school building! Pe Josue would like one day to build a new church.


More than buildings, this ministry is about building relationships, and we look forward to exploring how we can all do just that. You will hear more about this ministry this year. If you might be interested in serving on the Standing with Haiti committee, please contact David Gehrig at [email protected].


In the meantime, mark your calendar for our October 8 Spaghetti Feed, in the Parish Hall following the 5PM Mass! Proceeds will go to Standing with Haiti and New Bethlehem Projects in Kirkland.


Next week I will tell you about how our parish and school will continue to support New Bethlehem Projects, including their family shelter and day center.


Blessings to you all!


Fr. Gary Zender

Hello St. Louise School Families,

I am very excited about the 2022-2023 school year and thought that I would do a brief introduction of who I am as well as Fr. Nehnevaj, our new priest. (Fr. Ben is now at Holy Trinity Parish in Bremerton.)


I was born in Bellingham and grew up as the eldest of six children with a large extended family in rural Whatcom County in small community called Deming. My dad was one of nine brothers and two sisters and all the brothers and brothers-in-law had a logging business called Zee Brothers that operated for 52 years. I still have some cousins that are loggers and I worked in the words the summers that I was in college. I grew up with 54 first cousins! My mom was from Oliver, British Columbia and is an only child. She became Catholic when my folks were engaged. My dad and his eight brothers also played on a semi-pro baseball time and got second in the nation, also when my parents were engage. I attended public schools until I went to the seminary.  I have been ordained 36 years for the Seattle Archdiocese. St. Louise if my fifth parish and 4th school and I have been here for eight years. I speak Spanish and I enjoy skiing, cycling, hiking and visiting family and friends.  


Fr. Josh Nehnevaj is from the opposite end of the state. He grew up in Vancouver, WA and is the eldest of five children. He attended Our Lady of Lourdes Parish and School, although his family now attends St. James Proto-Cathedral in Vancouver. His brother closest in age to him, Dan is a world-class walk racer. His dad grew up in Chicago and is one of 14 children! He just returned from Chicago to preside at his cousin’s wedding. St. Louise is Fr. Nehnevaj’s first parish assignment and he was ordained at St. James Cathedral on June 25. He studied in Rome and speaks Italian as well as Spanish. He likes to play cards, boards games and enjoys jogging and soccer.    


Both of us look forward to getting to know you and the students of St. Louise School. This space will normally have the same message that I send to the parish. One of the goals that Mr. Fuerte and Mrs. Jaster and I have is to increase the connection of the school and the parish.  After all, the school is a program of the parish (albeit by far the largest).  No matter if you attend another Catholic parish or another Christian church, our hope is that you will always feel at home at both St. Louise Parish School and Church! 


Fr. Gary Zender