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

Weekly Bulletin: A Message from Fr. Gary

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