The Catholic community of Seattle is learning that the Archbishop has unexpectedly announced plans to close St. Mary, Mount Virgin and St. Patrick parish churches. We see this as yet another example of the clericalism in the Church that has prevented open dialogue and serious movement toward reform. The loss of these parishes is heartbreaking to the parishioners. HOC supports the parishioners of these parishes as they seek transparency and empowerment regarding these closures.
One church scheduled to be closed is St. Mary’s in the Central District of Seattle. St. Mary’s Parish was established in 1911 and has been a deeply valued faith center to generations. The plan is for St. Mary Parish to be merged with St Therese, which is approximately 2 miles away.
St. Mary’s Parish has housed a long-term K-5 school renter and spent significant savings to remodel in preparation for a new education-based renter. After the expense of the remodel the new lease was blocked by the Archdiocese, and the parish was informed of the closure.
In the 1940s, St. Mary’s opened a food bank. Archdiocesan records show the majority of people the food bank serves aren’t St. Mary parishioners, but people from the surrounding neighborhood. This in no way makes the importance of the mission less meaningful to this historic Catholic community. Its location and its committed volunteers have grown the food bank into the second largest in Seattle. President and Board Chair for the Food Bank at St. Mary’s and a member of the Stakeholder’s Committee Ed Hill says that St. Mary’s food bank distributes close to three million pounds of food a year to families in need in central Seattle. While Archdiocesan officials say that the food bank will remain open in the near term, its long term status is unclear and its forced separation from its founding parish and supporters is troubling.
Mount Virgin and St. Patrick are equally important to their respective communities. Since their inception, all three have promoted social justice and have offered spiritual refuge to the various immigrant groups in our city, to gay Catholics and to other marginalized groups. The efforts to support these parishes demonstrated the commitment of many individuals who value their presence in their neighborhoods. It is sad that parishioners were informed of the closure decision, not involved in the decision making, and many are concerned that the value of the real estate and/or political considerations are motivating the closures.
See the following news reports for more background.