June 6, 2021

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord. This feast reminds us of the centrality of the Eucharist in our lives and in the life of the Church. In last week’s column, I reflected on this time of the year as a time of transition in the lives of graduates and in the lives of folks on our parish and school staffs.

This week, as we celebrate the centrality of the Eucharist, I would like to share with you the transition of several priests here in the Southern Deanery, and some priests you may know throughout the Archdiocese of Seattle. As the priest is the one who gathers us around the Table of the Eucharist and leads us in worship, when a priest transitions, we know that it is a significant moment not only in his life, but in the life of the community he gathers and leads.

So, in this column, I hope to “catch you up on the news” of several priest transitions and invite our prayers for them and for the communities that they will be leaving and joining.

In our region, the Southern Deanery, four priests are transitioning. Fr. Brian Thompson, who is Priest Administrator at St. Philip in Woodland, St. Mary Mission in Ridgefield and St. Joseph Mission in Kalama, will be moving to Yelm to become Priest Administrator at St. Columban Parish and St. Peter Mission in Tenino. Replacing Fr. Thompson is Fr. Arulanandu David. Fr. David is from India and has ministered in the United States for several years.

Fr. Tom Belleque, Pastor at St. John the Evangelist Parish here in Vancouver, will be moving to St. Anthony Parish in Renton, and Fr. Alfredo Velazquez Ramirez, from the Archdiocese of Guadalajara in Mexico, will succeed Fr. Tom and serve as Priest Administrator at St. John. Fr. Alfredo is currently serving two parishes in Bremerton and spent several months at St. Pius X Parish in Mountlake Terrace in 2019.

Fr. Woody McCallister, Pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes here in Vancouver has been assigned to serve as Pastor of St. Therese Parish in Seattle and Immaculate Conception Parish in Seattle. Fr. Leonardo Pestano will succeed Fr. Woody and serve as Priest Administrator at Our Lady of Lourdes. Fr. Pestano is currently serving as Parish Priest at Queen of Angels Parish in Port Angeles and St. Joseph Parish in Sequim.

Fr. W. R. Harris, Pastor at the Proto-Cathedral of St. James the Greater here in Vancouver is retiring, and Fr. Martin Bourke has been appointed Pastor at St. James. Fr. Bourke is currently serving as Pastor of Visitation Parish in Tacoma.

In addition to these local assignments, Fr. Justin Ryan, who served here at St. Joseph for a summer during his year as a Transitional Deacon, has been appointed the Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese, succeeding Fr. Bryan Dolejsi, who has served in that role for ten years.

You can find all of the official assignments for the whole archdiocese at the archdiocesan website, www.archseattle.org. All of these transitions are effective July 1, 2021. Let us keep the communities of St. James, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. John’s, St. Philip, St. Mary, and St. Joseph in Kalama in our prayers, along with their pastoral leaders who are transitioning. In addition, let us pray for all those throughout our archdiocese who will be transitioning this year.

May the Lord, who gathers us and nourishes us with his very Body and Blood, strengthen all of us in the Catholic Church in Western Washington, and draw us into deeper communion with Him and with each other.

Fr. Gary Lazzeroni