Monday, October 29, 2012

Thank You!


                I am so grateful to the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish community for supporting our family and me these past  nearly five years of formation.  All your prayers and encouragement mean more than you will ever know.   Thank you.

                Mary, Sean, Connor and I’ve been parishioners at Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Perpetual Help for nearly 18 years.  Our boys are both graduates of IC-OLPH School.  Like many over the years, we’d go to whatever Mass at whatever parish fit the family schedule especially when the kids were young and playing sports.  We are blessed to have two beautiful churches here in downtown Everett.

                This long journey began for us in the late 1990s when I experienced “a call” to become a deacon.  I thought at the time, “Are you kidding me, Lord?  Why would you want me?  I’m not worthy.”  Yet, here I am.  God truly does have a sense of humor, an abundance of patience and works in mysterious ways.      

                To Archbishops Peter Sartain and Alex Brunett, thank you for opening the door to this magnificent ministry. 

                To Fathers Hersey, Robb, Petosa, Bon and Sylvain, I thank each one of you for showing me and us an example of true holiness and pastoral service.          

                To Deacon Matt, I thank you for being there every step of the way to guide, mentor and inspire me to know what being a deacon means to this community.  You are a shining example.  I look forward to sharing the role of deacon at our parish community for years to come.

                To Matt’s wife, Kay, thank you for helping my wife prepare for this new life and to know it’s OK to serve in her own unique way. 

                Where would I be without the woman who brought me back to God?  Thank you to my wife Mary Kay for being my best friend for 28 years and my wife for almost 27 years. 

                To our sons, Sean and Connor, thanks for putting up with your less than perfect dad all these years and for being the two main reasons why I experienced the Kingdom of God in my lifetime.

                To our family and friends who gathered in Everett for my first Mass as a deacon, thank you for honoring us with your presence -- especially my mother Suzanne and stepfather Joaquin.

                I wore the ordination dalmatic vestment to Mass this weekend.  You’ll probably only see it on special occasions like weddings, funerals, baptisms, maybe Christmas and Easter.  It was worn to show how honored I to be the only person ordained in a dalmatic made by a parishioner.  Thank you Judy McNamara for creating this beautiful vestment.  You and Tim inspire me every day to become a better servant by showing your loving hearts for this community. 

                For everyone else, thank you for allowing me to see the face of God in Everett.  You’re in my prayers always.  It will be my honor to serve you for the rest of my life.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

First Official Homily - 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 31: 7-9
Hebrews 5:1-6
Mark 10: 46-52


Every day, we should ask ourselves, “Am I a bridge to Jesus?  Or am I a barrier to Christ?”

Discipleship can be a tricky thing.

If we pay close attention to what Jesus is showing us here in today’s Gospel we see two kinds of disciples in the story of the blind beggar Bartimaeus.

One kind of disciple rebukes the poor, tells them to keep silent and ignores their needs.  The other kind of disciple notices Christ’s heart for the poor and marginalized and says, “Take courage. Rise up.” and brings the poor to Jesus.

One is a barrier.  One is a bridge.   I wonder if the bridge and the barrier is the same person?

What Jesus is demonstrating is that we can choose to be a bridge or a barrier.  In this case, it’s a choice about how we look at the poor and marginalized.

In this Gospel reading it is Bartimaeus’ blindness being cured by Jesus.  But indirectly Jesus is also curing the blindness of His disciples, and all of us, to this fact.  Sometimes only Jesus can open our eyes to the big picture.

You see I used to be a barrier to Christ in my thoughts and in my actions.

I used to shake my head at street beggars.  I used to think and say, “Why can’t they just get a job?”  I used to scoff at my wife for giving spare change to the homeless and say, “Why waste our money on those people?” I’m pretty sure I even rebuked a panhandler or two in my day.

Five years ago, I first volunteered to take part in the Homeless Count in Seattle.  As we walked the downtown streets on a cold January morning we counted many homeless, but one person was more than a number.  We saw a man in his late 20s or early 30s.  He was clearly a veteran of Iraq or Afghanistan due to the markings on his duffle bag and other gear, and the neat and orderly way his belongings were stacked next to his sleeping bag.

He was sleeping on the cold, hard pavement near the ferry terminal in downtown Seattle.  The temperature that morning was in the upper teens.

I’ll never forget this man.  His plight opened my eyes to a dirty little secret about homelessness in America.  Sadly, one in four homeless men is a veteran.  This number is growing larger by the year.  These former soldiers put their lives on the line for their country only to come home to no jobs and no hope, broken and abandoned.

Sometimes we look, but we don’t see.

It is Christ who opens our eyes to injustice in society and shows us how we – ourselves – can choose to be a barrier or a bridge between Him and the poor.

I want to share with you a shameful statistic that came to light a few weeks ago.  Perhaps you saw the story on the news.

Washington is the worst state in the nation to be poor.  Our state has the highest taxation of any state in the U.S. for the poorest 20-percent of our population.          

The statistic comes from a recent report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Here are the cold, hard facts:

In 2011, the poorest 20% of Washingtonians with an average income of just $11,000 paid 17.3% of their income in state and local taxes.  The closest runner-up is Florida where the poorest paid at an average of 13.5%.  The average poor pay between 8-and-10-percent nationally.   In Washington, they pay nearly double that.

What's wrong with this picture?

In our parish and our community today are many people living at or below the poverty line.  Thanks to this lousy economy, high unemployment and an unfair tax system, many elderly and poor are barely able to keep their noses above the waters of economic ruin.
These are the poor Jesus is pointing to today. We are called to hear their cries.

There’s a person in our parish who serves as a bridge and not a barrier between Jesus and the poor.  She humbly brings people to Jesus by her actions every day.

Recently, she was filling-in answering phones at the parish office when she got a call about a broken elevator at an apartment complex housing many poor in Everett.  Many residents were unable to get up and down the stairs to buy groceries.

This person organized a group of parishioners to help and called the operator of the housing unit to ask for a solution.  Her pressure helped bring about action by the landlords.  I encourage you to see today’s bulletin for the full story.

I draw my inspiration from people like Carlene Nelson as I begin my service as a deacon in this parish.

One of my deacon heroes is St. Lawrence of Rome.  He was a deacon who served the poor and marginalized of ancient Rome in the early Christian church.  He also was charged with being the “keeper of the treasures of the Church” during the reign of Pope Sixtus the Second.

He lived at a time when the Christian Church was being persecuted and martyrdom was commonplace.

When the Pope and four deacons were arrested and executed, Lawrence was released to go gather the “treasures of the church” to hand them over to Rome.  He told Roman authorities it would take him a couple of days to gather what they asked for.                

When a couple days had passed, Roman soldiers and the Prefect arrived at the Church and ordered Lawrence to surrender the promised “treasures.”  He granted their request by showing them the poor, the sick, the street beggars of Rome and said, “Here are the treasures of the church.”

    St. Lawrence got what Jesus is showing us in today’s Gospel.  The blind beggar Bartimaeus is a “treasure of the church.” He had faith enough to see this reality of Jesus.

In fact, in many ways, scholars say Mark uses the Bartimaeus story to reverse the story of the rich man who could not become a disciple of Jesus because he was too tied to his many possessions.  We heard that story a few weeks back.  It’s a reading that troubles a lot of people.

The street beggar Bartimaeus has no possessions except his cloak, and without a moment's hesitation he casts aside his ONLY possession to follow the Son of David.
          Bartimaeus' cry for compassionate help from Jesus should be the same cry we hear from the poor echoing in our hearts today.

Christ’s disciples tell Bartimaeus – Christ’s disciples tell the poorest of the poor in our present world -- "Take courage! Rise up!"  And bring them to Jesus.

Jesus asks us to cast aside our preconceived notions of rich and poor when we follow Him and do our part to be His heart, His hands, His voice.

Our faith in our High Priest Jesus Christ should open ALL our eyes to what's wrong with the present world and inspire us not just to sit idly by and watch, but stand up, speak up, and act. Only then do we follow Christ's example.

Nobody said it was easy being a disciple of Christ.  Just ask St. Lawrence.  He was executed for his actions.

But when we help the poor to rise up and take courage, when we bring them to Jesus by our words and by our actions, we no longer are barriers to Christ.  We become bridges to the Kingdom of God.



Good Works

+ A newsletter about the good works being done by members of the IC-OLPH community
October 26, 2012                                                                           
Editor:  Deacon Dennis Kelly                                     
Inaugural Edition - Volume 1                                     

This is the story about a ”squeaky wheel,” a phone call and an angel at the other end of the line. 

It all started with a simple phone call to the parish office last spring. 

 An official from the Everett Fire Department said, “I’m looking for some help.  The Monte Cristo’s elevator has been down since February and these people are having a hard time with the stairs and I just need someone to help so we can get (a ‘squeaky wheel’ resident) out of the Mayor’s office.”  Carlene Nelson was filling in that day answering phones at the IC-OLPH parish office and took the call.

Turns out the fireman contacted the perfect person for the job -- an angel at the other end of the line eager to help. 

The Monte Cristo stood vacant for 20 years at the corner of Hoyt and Wall before Catholic Community Services and Catholic Housing Services converted it to low income housing in the early 2000s. 

But the elevator at the six-story building never worked very well after renovation and had finally given up the ghost.  This would be no easy fix.  It would take months to get a new one installed.  Until then, residents had to use the stairs.

But residents there needed immediate help.

“There are many marginalized older people (there), many of them disabled,” Nelson added. 
So, Carlene first called the new manager at the Monte Cristo to set up a meeting that included the “squeaky wheel” resident who lived on an upper floor.  The manager was working through CCS/CHA to get an employee on site to help residents, but was stuck within a human resources hiring process.   Carlene also contacted the Mayor’s office and started working through a helpful staffer. 

After that, Carlene contacted her “partner in crime” Immaculate Conception parishioner Fede Chavez who works with her on “No Disabled Souls” (a recently restarted ministry in our parish providing twice monthly art classes for people with special needs).

Together they found some able-bodied teenagers from the Boe and Jenks families and Our Lady of Perpetual Help parishioner, choir singer and resident master gardener George Grewing.  As Nelson put it, “they are just awesome servants in this community.”    

Working through the Mayor’s office, Carlene set up regular times to have this team of parishioners available to Monte Cristo residents for assistance (bringing groceries up and down the stairs, etc.).

Not everyone needed help, but for those who did the team was a Godsend.

All summer the group showed up several times a week to help.  “You could see the spirits of the people lifted to know that somebody listened and somebody cared,” Nelson said.

Two weeks ago, a CCS/CHS staffer was hired to take care of this work.  The elevator should be fixed by Thanksgiving.

Since then, the residents they helped invited Carlene and Fede back and presented them each with a lovely plant and a signed “thank you” card.

Why does she do it?  Carlene has a soft spot for people struggling with disabilities.  Since a childhood bout with polio, she’s been partially disabled.  “Most of my life I hid the fact that I was disabled until one day God said, ‘Don’t!’” 

But it’s even more than that.  Nelson remembers a cartoon from when she was a child, “it was a picture of a ratty little kid and the caption was ‘God Don’t Make No Junk.’  There’s a purpose for everybody and the challenges He gives us are only opportunities to do what He’s called us to do here so that we can go home (someday) and be with Him -- whole.”

Monday, October 8, 2012


My friends tease me a lot about how much I love the music of U2.  My personalized license plates read LOVE U2.  I've shared the story in preaching that I found my way back to God partly through the music of Ireland's most famous band.  Just talking about it embarrasses my kids to no end.

When Mary and I saw U2 in concert at Qwest Field in June 2011 with our friends Kate and Aaron, I had another God moment in how the group performed a song that helped bring me back closer to God in 1999.

This picture is of our vantage point to Bono and the stage as they were about to perform this song (I'm sure there is something divine in the vicinity to that experience alone).

And, in a version done for a BBC broadcast of a concert in England, here's what connected our hearts together as one in a golden moment of faith, hope and love.

Enjoy, because it is a "Beautiful Day" when we relinquish our worries and trust in the providence of God in our lives even in our darkest moments.  Just ask NASA astronaut Mark Kelly and his wive Gabby Giffords.

Beautiful Day 
Lyrics by Bono
Music by U2

"The heart is a bloom
Shoots up through the stony ground
There's no room
No space to rent in this town

You're out of luck
And the reason that you had to care
The traffic is stuck
And you're not moving anywhere

You thought you'd found a friend
To take you out of this place
Someone you could lend a hand
In return for grace

It's a beautiful day
Sky falls, you feel like
It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away

You're on the road
But you've got no destination
You're in the mud
In the maze of her imagination

You love this town
Even if that doesn't ring true
You've been all over
And it's been all over you

It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
It's a beautiful day

Touch me
Take me to that other place
Teach me (Lord)
I know I'm not a hopeless case

See the world in green and blue
See China right in front of you
See the canyons broken by cloud
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out
See the Bedouin fires at night
See the oil fields at first light
And see the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colors came out

It was a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
Beautiful day

Touch me
Take me to that other place
Reach me
I know I'm not a hopeless case

What you don't have you don't need it now
What you don't know you can feel it somehow
What you don't have you don't need it now
Don't need it now
Was a beautiful day"

Background:  "According to Bono, 'Beautiful Day' is about 'a man who has lost everything, but finds joy in what he still has.' Some have interpreted the song and the line 'it's a beautiful day' as 'a vision of abandoning material things and finding grace in the world itself.'"

I like both of those interpretations and feel the song is divinely inspired.  Peace...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

What happened to the American Dream? New faces of poverty...

Really proud of colleague and friend John Sharify for his sobering work to show the new faces of poverty in the Pacific Northwest. His new beat at KING 5 News is reporting on poverty. Kudos to KING 5 News and John for telling these important stories. Here is his first installment:


Posted on October 4, 2012 at 6:44 PM
It’s easy to pick out those who’ve fallen and can’t get up, those visible to us, visible unless we choose to look the other way.

We met Jaydon Langston at a Tent City in Tukwila. Jaydon is homeless and desperate for work. He has experience working as a welder.

 “I’m still looking for the American Dream,” Jaydon said.

For many that dream has turned into a nightmare – a nightmare that won’t go away. You go to bed, it’s there. You wake up, it’s there. Even for those who did everything right.

“It’s stressful,” said Derrick Davis, a war veteran who lost his job as a medical office manager in July.  He’d been working at that job 14 months.

“Well somebody’s got to like me out there,” he tells his wife Kathy, who pulls in $12 an hour as a medical coder.

“Well he’s trying. It would be different if he was home and feeling sorry for himself,” said Kathy.

He’s trying alright. Derrick Davis has sent out over a hundred resumes from his make-shift office, Cafe Vita.  So far, no nibbles. So he’ll send out a hundred more resumes and keep going.

“What choice do I have?”  he said.

What choice do you have when you’ve gone through all of your savings, you’re down to your last $3,000 from your 401K, and you have no job. Derek’s choice was clear.

“I never thought I’d be here,” he said.

 By “here,” he means the Northwest Harvest Food bank in Seattle. As Derrick goes through the food line, he will express his gratitude.

“Thank you for being here,” he said.

It’s just like him to do that. What he will keep to himself, today at least, is that he was a regular volunteer at food banks years ago, helping those in need.”

“Now it’s my turn,” Derrick said.

The tables have turned for so many Americans - too many.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Oldest Manager to Win World Series Talks About Catholic Faith

I love this story.  Inspiring and a testament to the power of faith in all our lives.


(Courtesy of National Catholic Registry)

Jack McKeon, 81, credits daily Mass and St. Thérèse with helping his baseball career.

Miami Marlins
Jack McKeon– Miami Marlins

Most 80-year-olds would never consider managing a professional baseball team. Then again, most 80-year-olds would never be asked to manage a professional baseball team.

Yet, in June 2011, Jack McKeon accepted the then-Florida (now Miami) Marlins’ offer to lead the team as interim manager.

McKeon’s previous stint with the Marlins included a World Series Championship in 2003. He was a relatively young 72 at the time, but was nonetheless the oldest manager ever to win a World Series. The South Amboy, N.J., native attributes his success not only to perseverance, but also to daily Mass attendance and the intercession of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, the doctor of the Church whose feast day the Church celebrates today.

 McKeon, now 81, spoke with Register correspondent Trent Beattie about his long history in and appreciation for what he calls a kid’s game.

How did you get started in professional baseball?
When I was in high school — I think we had automobiles by then — I played well enough to attract the attention of several major-league clubs. Back then, there wasn’t the draft like we have today, so the scouts would actually come to my house to talk with my father and me.

However, my father was adamant that his boys would go to college, so instead of signing with a team, I ended up going to the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. Every day, I would pass by a beautiful picture of the Blessed Virgin on the way to the dining hall. I thought it would be a good idea to ask for her intercession to convince my father to let me play baseball professionally.

When I went home for Christmas break my freshman year, I asked my father again about signing with a major-league club. He said, “You really want to play professionally, don’t you?” I told him, "Yes," and he said, “Let’s make a deal. I’ll let you sign with a major-league club if you get a college degree.” I agreed, and, eight years later, I held up on my end of the bargain.

What do you like most about baseball?
I like how it’s a kid’s game. Grown men play it, but when you really look at it, for what it is, it’s a bunch of fun. It’s not serious business like most people see it today. It’s meant to be fun.

I grew up dreaming of playing in the big leagues, but my minor-league career was less than spectacular. I hit three ways: left, right and seldom. So my goal changed a little bit, but it was still closely related with the big leagues.

I was a good enough salesman to be able to start managing in the minor leagues at the age of 24. At the time, some players were younger and some older than I was, but there was no communication problem. The same was true last year, when I was the interim manager for the Marlins. Some people asked if I had problems relating to the young players. Not at all. Human nature doesn’t change, and I enjoyed managing last year, just as I did back when I was 24.

My major-league managing started in 1973 for the Kansas City Royals. George Brett [Royals Hall of Fame third baseman] was on the team, and he’s one of the players that stands out when people ask me who my favorite player was.

I don’t really have one favorite player, but there are a few that come to mind, as far as baseball skills. Tony Gwynn, Sean Casey and Ivan Rodriguez are some others.

What stands out in your mind about the 2003 season, at the end of which you won a World Series with the Marlins?
In 2000, I actually managed against the Marlins, when I was with the Cincinnati Reds. I remembered thinking at the time that the Marlins were a great team. They had a lot of very talented, very capable players, but they were underachieving. That made me think of how nice it would be to manage that team.

Early on in the 2003 season, the Marlins were 16-22. By then, I was no longer with the Reds, so the Marlins hired me to help turn the team around. When I first met with the players, I told them, “Look, we can do better than this, and not just have a winning record, but win the whole thing — the World Series — if we’re willing to pay the price.”

Whatever you want to do in life, you have to be willing to make the necessary sacrifices to get it.

When you really give it your all and put every effort into it — not for what the fans or media might think, but for the game itself, your teammates and your own self-respect — then you can leave the ballpark at the end of the day with your head held high. That’s true regardless of whether you win or lose; you put every effort into it and then leave it at that.

It might sound contradictory, but while I wanted my players to work very hard, I also encouraged them to relax and enjoy what they did. It’s not a matter of clowning around and being irresponsible, but having fun playing a kid’s game.

You can try too hard in baseball, in the sense of straining after things which are out of your control. You just have to realize that you can only control your own effort and do the best you can with what’s right in front of you.

The 2003 Marlins’ team was not only the most talented, but the most unselfish and dedicated team I’ve ever been with. You can’t beat a three-part combo like that, and, as it turned out, no one did stop us from winning the World Series.

Didn’t St. Thérèse also have a part in that great season?
Yes, she did. I’ve had a devotion to St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus for many years, and she helped me to get out of my own way and let God’s grace flow through me to do a good job managing. Her intercession helped in a special way to prepare us to win the World Series later in October of that year.

St. Thérèse said before she died that she would do her most important work in heaven, letting a shower of roses fall to the earth. She’s a prodigy of miracles and a very endearing person, so you feel very comfortable asking for her help. She’s not someone aloof and intimidating, but very open and accepting of your requests.

She’s the MVP for the 2003 season — not the "Most Valuable Player," but the "Most Valuable Pray-er.”
I would pray to St. Thérèse every day and would go to Mass every morning during the 2003 season. Then, even though I was 72 at the time, I might jog a little and say at least a decade of the Rosary while doing so. That preparation really helps the day go well.

How does daily Mass attendance help the rest of your day?
It puts everything in the right perspective. In professional baseball, there can be a lot of pressure on players and coaches, but when you get grounded in the most fundamental thing of life — which is your relationship to God — then everything else shows itself for what it is.

Instead of taking things so seriously, worrying and fearing failure, you simply do what you can, be generous with those around you, and let God take care of everything else.

It’s such a great feeling to have gone to Mass in the morning and start the day in the right way: very invigorating, but relaxing. It’s similar to that same paradox of working hard, but doing so peacefully and with a rational plan. It’s great — too great to put into words — what the good Lord does for us.

I remember Johnny Coakley, a longtime baseball friend, asking me one morning to go to breakfast. I told him I’d like to, but first I’d go to Mass. Johnny was a Protestant, but he already had a respect for the Catholic Church. He told me the only thing was he didn’t know all the signals we used at Mass. I assured him I’d explain everything to him, so he went to Mass with me —  and ended up becoming a Catholic.

Johnny thanked me for introducing him to the Catholic faith long ago, and, just recently, he thanked me again, saying that becoming Catholic was the best present anyone could give him. That was three days before he died, which was earlier this year.

Harry Dunlop is another longtime baseball friend who was originally Protestant, but attended Mass with me and became Catholic. Everyone has a free will to make his own decisions, but you can influence people for the better through your own actions. When others see how much the Mass means to you, it means something to them.

Something else that is meaningful to you is your marriage. How has your wife influenced your career?
My wife, Carol, and I have been married for 58 years, and I appreciate every one of them. We have a very solid marriage, and that’s due primarily to my wife.

In professional baseball, you’re away from home for a good chunk of the year, so that can be tough on the family. My wife took up where I left off, and she raised our kids while I was off managing.

When we won the World Series in 2003, I was so happy, not so much for myself, but for my family. It was the first time they had something big to celebrate at the end of the season.

With me, I could see how rewarding all the work was on a daily basis throughout the season, but they didn’t witness that. However, at the end of the 2003 season, they actually had something tangible from baseball to appreciate.

Register correspondent Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.