First things first: decisions needing made before July 1 at Parish Family 49

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Over the last several days I have reached out to the priest administrators and lead staff of the communities within Parish Family 49. By the time this post goes live, I hope to have made progress in initial plans to visit the various churches and begin making connections with the deacons, staff and key leadership as we prepare for the next stage of Partners in the Gospel: actually making the transition to a parish family. I am looking forward to get to know the Catholic communities of the Olympic National Park region and be known by them myself, especially as I become pastor in July.

However, before July 1 there are a number of decisions that need to be made. The most pressing revolve around the day-to-day: priestly life and liturgical celebrations.

Why make any changes at all?

A poster from the Partners in the Gospel initiative quoting Archbishop Etienne saying "the status quo is no longer an option"
One of the most arresting quotes from the archbishop

In my last post, I highlighted how the urge to keep things as before – though a common impulse – is not sustainable. Before we talk decisions, we need to consider why this is the case for our parish family. I imagine that many may (reasonably!) ask why any change is necessary when we will have the same number of priests (3) on July 1 as we had before.

The answer is twofold. The first part has to do with priestly assignment. Observant readers of Archbishop Etienne’s appointment letter will notice that between our four parishes and one mission, there is one pastor and two parochial vicars. Take note of a key detail: one pastor of all the communities. Though all three of us are priests, it is the pastor who has primary responsibility for the care and administration of his communities. Among other responsibilities, he must supervise and direct staff, work with the various leaders of the communities under his care, and (most importantly) make himself known & available to the people of each community. Though there are some things that can be done from afar, the pastor must ensure that he is personally involved in the life of each community to which he assigned.

The second part has to do with the newly created parish family. Though each parish (Saint Thomas the Apostle mission is an extension of Saint Anne parish) is distinct, the coming together of five locations means that new ways of communicating, collaborating, and moving forward must be discerned, discussed, and decided. Though there have been independent or solitary decisions made in the past, we must now re-orient ourselves to a new kind of solidarity – such that we will eventually become one parish, regardless of how many locations are involved.

These two parts – one pastor for five locations and five locations newly joined in collaboration – form an entirely new situation, despite having the same number of priests. This new situation requires particular changes: 1) priestly rotation and 2) centralized, common priestly living arrangements.

Deciding how to address schedules & living arrangements

By now, you can probably see why changes are necessary: it is simply not possible to have any kind of pastor presence if we maintain the status quo of priestly living arrangements and liturgical celebrations. To this end, there are several major decisions that need to be made over the coming weeks so that we can prepare for and implement changes by July 1:

  • Decision #1 – priest housing
    • Aware that the vicars need to be able to rotate among all five locations, a centralized residence for all three priests will be necessary. Where will our priests live?
  • Decision #2 – Weekend Mass & confession schedule changes
    • We have multiple Masses that are at the same time, as well as Masses scheduled based on the current practice of the same priest at a particular location – often with that priest living on-site. Knowing that these two practices will NOT be continued after July 1, what changes must be made to the current weekend Mass schedule?
  • Decision #3 – Weekday Mass schedule
    • The challenges of the weekend Masses are shared by our weekday Mass schedule. What changes must be made to the current weekday Mass schedule?

There are other logistical (ie, baptism, funeral, quinceaƱera, and wedding scheduling, etc) and administrative (ie, shared expenses, office hours, communications, etc), but these three are – to my mind, at least! – the most pressing and widely affecting decisions to be discerned and made.

Care for parishes, care for priests

In order to effectively discern the best decisions, it will be necessary to have clear common principles that guide us. While there are many that we can (and ought to) name, they can be summarized simply: offering meaningful pastoral care and safeguarding priest sanity. We must balance the essentials of the life of faith and the health & well-being of our very-human priests!

As we enter into the penultimate month before this next phase, let us prayerfully consider both the reality of the current practices and how we will adapt to meet the new circumstances of being a parish family. To assist us, I have included a map of the territories of Parish Family 49 and the existing schedule of confessions & Masses (below).

Though it will be tempting to resist – or resent! – making changes, change we must. As Catholics we are called to pray daily, but spending time with the Lord in prayer is all the more important as we discern not our own will but His. Let us together consider how the Lord calling is and guiding us in these decisions. If we entrust ourselves to His care, we can rest confident that He will illuminate the way we should go.

Parish Family 49 – a birds-eye view of the territory and schedules

A map of the Catholic communities of the Olympic National Park region

Click here to explore this map directly on Google maps

Current confession & Mass schedule of the Olympic National Park communities

West side rotation
Central rotation
East side rotation
Saint AnneSaint ThomasQueen of AngelsSaint JosephSaint Mary Star of the Sea
4:30pm - 5:30 pm (Sat)
10:30 - 11 am (Sun)
8 - 8:45 am (Sun)
3 - 3:45 pm (Sat)
3:45 - 4:15 pm (Sat)
6 pm (Spanish)
7 pm
4 pm
4:30 pm
Sunday (early)
8:30 am
9 am
8:30 am (Spanish)
Sunday (mid)
11 am
11:30 am
11 am


  • all mid-morning Sunday Masses are at the same time
  • all parishes have a vigil Mass
  • all locations have at least one English Sunday Mass
  • confessions are offered at every location each weekend


  • morning confession schedule (Saint Thomas & Queen of Angels) prevents priest pastoral presence & prayer before Mass
  • evening confession schedule (Saint Joseph & Saint Mary) prevents priest pastoral presence & prayer before Mass
  • confession schedules are minimal (less than 1 hour per week per parish)
  • vigil Masses are each at a different time
  • half of the vigil Masses are late evening Masses
  • there are too many vigil Masses (4x) for three priests
  • Queen of Angeles early morning Mass is inconsistently scheduled versus other locations
  • Saint Joseph mid-morning Mass is inconsistently scheduled versus other locations
  • Central rotation is unsustainably heavy on both Saturday & Sunday
  • Current living arrangements & rotation between west & central mean that Forks priest makes a 1.5 hour trip four times (there & back twice) in a single weekend, albeit once a month

3 thoughts on “First things first: decisions needing made before July 1 at Parish Family 49”

  1. St Joseph Women’s Prayer Group chose last week’s focus on priest/parish transition. God bless you & all involved in the decisions to be made for our family of parishes.

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