Weekly Bulletin: A Message from Fr. Gary
- 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!
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
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[.]
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.
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:
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.
Leader: Let us bless the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
- 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?
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
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
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.
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!
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 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
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
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
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.
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
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