Friday, June 14, 2024

HOMILY – 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Seeds of Love


          This weekend we are “Sowing the Seeds of Love” in the Kingdom.

For two thousand years, disciples of Jesus have sowed the seeds of love throughout the known world. The fruit produced by these planted seeds has grown abundantly and changed the world.

The mustard seed is a powerful image for what lies ahead for our partnership with St. Anne Mission July 1st, a small, but important community. 

This weekend, Jesus is talking in parables.

          As Gospel writer Mark reminds us, “God’s ways are not our ways! We must be patient and let God be God!” (This last parable in Chapter 4) is about a seed, the smallest of all seeds, the mustard seed (vv. 30–32). Even though the early Christian community was small in number, this parable assures Mark’s readers that all their efforts will be fruitful in the growing kingdom of God — if they will just understand”[1] the parable of the seeds and how we plant them and let God tend to their growth.

The seed is also a symbol of new life and of change. Change can be hard for most of us.

Except when we trust in Jesus. 

For a moment, a brief update on your humble servant.

This is my first-time preaching (in English) since returning to Our Lady of Hope after an 18-month sabbatical.

Deacon Duane is taking Father’s Day weekend off being on the altar to be with his family and asked me to step in.

          As Fr. Joseph shared with you a few months back, my new assignment is to serve the Spanish language community at Our Lady of Hope, the Mission of St. Anne community and as Deacon of the Word at bilingual Masses here.

          My main ministry outside of the Church remains MercyWatch, providing street medicine and homeless outreach to our unhoused population in Snohomish County. These seeds were planted in this community eight years ago and continue to grow with God’s grace. I want to take this moment to thank the over one hundred parisioners who volunteer for MercyWatch.  

I am most grateful for this rare opportunity to stand before you today. 

My new parish assignment is a dream come true for this deacon.

It started with seeds planted with Archbishop Etienne in late 2021 as my three-year assignment serving as pastoral leader of Christ Our Hope and now closed St. Patrick Catholic Church in downtown Seattle was coming to an end.

He asked what I wanted to do next. I said, my dream was to serve a Church dedicated to a Native American community.

Little did I know then what would come of our pairing with St. Anne Mission as part of the Partners in the Gospel.

You may wonder why St. Anne Mission was paired with Our Lady of Hope. I can assure you it had nothing to do with my conversation with the Archbishop.

It had everything to do with how our two communities are already connected.

Did you know Our Lady of Hope School has about 30 families and a little over 40 students from the Tulalip Tribe? Or that many of our former IC-OLPH church and school members now live on Mission Beach and Priest Point and many attend St. Anne Mission?

These are among the many reasons for the pairing.

St. Anne Mission has a beautiful history. One you should know about. 

While it is a smaller parish community, it has an important history in the Archdiocese of Seattle thanks to seeds planted 175 years ago.

It was the third Catholic Church founded in 1857 (32 years before Washington was even a state) in what would become the Seattle Archdiocese, at the time called the Nesqually Diocese.

A Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate priest named Fr. Eugene Casimir Chirouse asked permission from tribal leaders to live on what would become Priest Point and build a Mission Church there.

Fr. Chirouse was called “the Apostle of the Puget Sound” Native Americans.

He was instrumental in baptizing over 500 Native Americans in the Catholic faith, including Chief Sealth (or Chief Seattle the namesake our Archdiocese) who would serve at the first Mass at St. Anne Mission and be confirmed there.

This came after a sad chapter two years earlier when the Treaty of Point Elliott was signed in what is now known as Mukilteo.

The treaty moved Native Americans from their lands in what is now Seattle, King County and elsewhere to the Tulalip and other reservation lands.

Fr. Chirouse followed the natives to the Tulalip to help tend his seeds of love.

The French priest even learned the Lushootseed language and translated the bible for his many followers. He brought with him a “French Madonna” and a Church bell that continue to adorn the Mission Church today.

Over time, Fr. Chirouse became a beloved figure in the Native American community.

His Oblates Order decided to move Fr. Chirouse from his assignment on the Tulalip in 1878.

From the St. Anne Mission website is this intriguing slice of history:

In 1878, the Tribes wanted to petition the Pope to let ‘their Father’ stay, rather than be transferred. Their request was denied. When he returned for a visit in 1891, 400 Tulalip (natives) camped at the Mission for a celebration. Father Chirouse gave last rites to Chief Seattle (Sealth)… and presided over his Requiem Mass.”

           The original Church location on Priest Point burned to the ground in a suspicious fire shortly after the U.S. Government took over tribal schools from the Sisters of Providence.

          The church was rebuilt in 1904 at its current location near Mission Beach and its pastor Fr. Paul Gard restored the Madonna and bell to the new site.

           In recent years, Jesuit priest Fr. Pat Twohy served this community for over 20 years. He also became a beloved figure to the Native Americans on the Tulalip and other mission Churches on tribal lands throughout Western Washington.

          In other words, we will be standing on the shoulders of giants as we step into this important mission (no pressure, Fr. Joseph).

On this Father's Day weekend, the seeds of love planted by three fathers: Fr. Chirouse, Fr. Gard and Fr. Twohy are what Our Lady of Hope is about to inherit. 

What a blessing it will be for all of us to tend this important garden in the Kingdom of God. 

[1] Bergant, D., & Karris, R. J. (1989). The Collegeville Bible commentary: based on the New American Bible with revised New Testament (p. 913). Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

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