by Kirby Lindsay, posted 15 August 2014
While not physically located in Fremont, the parish of St. Benedict’s Catholic Church includes our community. According to Deacon Roy Harrington, the parish of the church (which is physically located in Wallingford,) is shaped a bit like the state of Idaho, seen in a mirror, with a wide bottom that includes Fremont over to the U-District, narrowing going north until it reaches N 100th Street.
“I’m still getting to know the geography,” Deacon Harrington admitted, and the character of the neighborhoods, although he is a Seattle local – and a long-time parishioner at Our Lady Of The Lake, in Wedgewood. As Interim Pastoral Coordinator at St. Ben’s he intends to learn about who the parish serves.
“We’ve been here for more than 100 years,” Deacon Harrington observed about St. Ben’s, “and we’re going to be here for another.” He wants to carry that welcome, and the history behind it, forward. “The door is always open – everyone is welcome – to take Pope Francis’ advice,” he said, smiling, “Come check out the new leadership team. The homilies aren’t long…”
Leadership, And History
St. Benedict’s has a priest, in Father Bill Cleary, CSsR, who serves as the primary spiritual advisor to the parish. A Redemptorist priest, and “78-years-young,” according to Deacon Harrington, Fr. Cleary has spent a career as a missionary (all over the States, and 21-years in Nigeria.) Now he will tend to the priestly functions of the St. Ben’s parishioners, but not the pastoral.
St. Benedict’s School, which is Pre to 8th and has approximately 210 children enrolled, is ably led by Principal Brian Anderson. Deacon Harrington has known Anderson’s parents for 30 years (the benefit of a long, local history,) and knows that in the school principal, they have a “great guy, and a great principal.”
So, as Interim Pastoral Coordinator, Deacon Harrington will spend the time he has at St. Ben’s focused entirely on pastoral matters, and the 650 families currently enrolled in the parish. St. Benedict’s has a long history, having been formed in 1907 by Benedictine Priests. The original priest died young, of spinal meningitis, and so the order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) took over running the parish in 1910.
The OMI ran St. Ben’s until 2002, when the Archdiocese took it over from them, and began to assign Pastors, and now a Priest and a Pastoral Coordinator, to the church. “This is just one alternative,” Deacon Harrington explained, “when we are short on priests that can be pastors.”
Fr. Cleary will to the spiritual needs of the parishioners, but as a permanent deacon (Harrington was ordained 7 years ago,) he can help there too. “I assist at mass,” the Deacon explained, “I can also preach. I do weddings, baptisms and funerals, and visit the sick and elderly.”
As Pastoral Coordinator, his responsibilities expand even further. “I’m responsible for the leadership, management and administration of the Parish,” the Deacon explained. St. Benedict’s already has amazing resources, including a school building, a rectory (where the priests live,) the former convent (where the Parish Offices are now located,) Scholastica House (which the parish currently has for student teachers,) and the church. Deacon Harrington will oversee management of all these facilities.
St. Ben’s also serves, “as part of the cultural climate of the neighborhood,” and the parish parking lot gets a local use as well. The Wallingford Wurst Fest, which is a fundraiser for St. Ben’s school, this year on September 19th & 20th, has also become a central community event as well.
The St. Vincent De Paul conference at St. Benedict’s also does outreach and service to families in need in our area. Homeless and low income people who contact St. Vincent’s for help, and are physically located in this parish, get that help through our Catholic Church.
“It’s a normal, healthy parish,” Deacon Harrington said, “The parish is doing fine financially.” At the church, they offer three Catholic Masses on weekends, and daily mass Tuesday – Friday. There is talk of future plans for a gymnasium, and upgrades for the school, but the Deacon has no plans for any kinds of shake-ups or reinventions at St. Ben’s. “I started on July 1st,” he explained, “I don’t know when a viable candidate for Pastor will be assigned.” The Archdiocese posts assignments in June each year. If, in 2015, Deacon Harrington is replaced by a permanent Pastoral Coordinator, “I hope to say on as the deacon.”
A Permanent Deacon
Meanwhile, Deacon Harrington also serves the Archdiocese as the Director of Deacons. “There are married clerics in the Archdioceses called ‘permanent deacons’,” he explained. There are 36,000 of these Permanent Deacons in the Catholic Church world-wide, with half serving in North America.
Deacon Harrington has been married for 36 years, with three kids and three grandchildren (so far.) He’s got a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Washington, and a Masters of Public Administration from Seattle University, and has retired after 32-years spent working in public transit, and 30 years serving in the Army Reserve.
Personally, he’s particularly interested in helping wounded warriors, and plans to continue that service while at St. Ben’s, along with the other ministries of charity done by Deacons – service to the poor, prison ministry, and helping feeding programs.
Much of Deacon Harrington’s work at St. Ben’s will be purely administrative, but he does hope to get out and meet our community – and that our community will find its way to St. Benedict’s to meet him. If you do find yourself at St. Ben’s – either for mass or just for the delicious Wallingford Wurst Fest – make sure to say hello, and welcome to Fremont!
- Shepherding A Fremont Flock
- by Kirby Lindsay, December 27, 2007 in the North Seattle Herald-Outlook
- Hallows Church Gathers In Fremont
- by Kirby Lindsay, January 11, 2012
- A Bridge For the Community To Take Back
- by Kirby Lindsay, October 1, 2010
- East Meets Fremont
- by Kirby Lindsay, November 3, 2004 in the North Seattle Herald-Outlook
©2014 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.