'Spiritual refugees' feel the loss of closed Catholic churches in Seattle. Some are appealing to the Vatican

Nina Shapiro, The Seattle Times on

Published in Religious News

Meanwhile, some of the archdiocese's 100 active priests cater to two, three or even four church communities. And the archdiocese estimates that in 15 years, it will have only 67 priests (not counting Jesuits or others outside its authority) to serve roughly twice that many parishes.

Many churches, while historic and beautiful, were built close together at a time when people walked to Mass. No longer the case, that layout is unsustainable, the archdiocese maintains.

"We simply cannot continue with the status quo," Etienne said in a statement as he ordered that St. Patrick's parish merge with St. Joseph Catholic Church on Capitol Hill.

Some parishioners are embracing the change.

Joseph Tseng, president of the Seattle Chinese Catholic Community, said roughly 50 members who had been worshipping at Our Lady of Mount Virgin — a multiethnic parish founded by Italian Americans that later attracted successive waves of immigrants — have received a warm welcome at St. Peter Church on Beacon Hill. A once-retired priest from Taiwan is leading a Chinese-language Mass there.

The community desire, though, has been to find a parish home on the Eastside, where many live. That's becoming a reality: Tseng's group last week announced an agreement with St. Monica Catholic Church on Mercer Island to hold a Chinese-language Mass there, pending the archbishop's approval.


"I cannot say enough about how grateful and fortunate we are," Tseng said, adding that his group's trust in the archdiocese has been rewarded.

The Rev. Scott Connolly, who serves at St. Peter and three other churches in South Seattle and Skyway, said other refugees from Our Lady of Mount Virgin and St. Mary have arrived in his parishes, including as many as 200 Vietnamese speakers from the closed Mount Baker church.

Longtime St. Mary parishioner Felipe Maqueda, in contrast, said he isn't rushing to another church. When it came time for Mass on the first Sunday after St. Mary closed, he tended to his houseplants.

"I'm taking time to process what just happened," he said.


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