Archbishop Etienne: ‘Make faith a priority’

Archbishop Paul D. Etienne. Photo: CNS/Paul Haring Archbishop Paul D. Etienne. Photo: CNS/Paul Haring

SEATTLE – On his first day as the leader of the Archdiocese of Seattle, Archbishop Paul D. Etienne sat down with Northwest Catholic to talk about his own faith and ministry, his first impressions of Western Washington and his vision for the Archdiocese of Seattle.

He began by expressing his gratitude for his predecessor, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain.

“He’s just been incredibly warm and welcoming and has certainly downloaded a lot of information already,” he said, “and I’m sure he and I will continue to remain in close contact, because there’s still a whole lot for me to learn.”

Archbishop Etienne acknowledged feeling “a little naive about the vast responsibility that is descending upon me this morning.”

“But I’m very much at peace,” he said. “I know that when holy mother church calls any of us to service, the good Lord provides the grace to fulfill the work. And I’m begging for that grace this morning.”

Living the life of Christ

Archbishop Etienne said he begins and ends each day in the Blessed Sacrament chapel in his residence.

“I have a very strong devotion to the Eucharist, and it’s before that Blessed Sacrament and with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament that I keep my promise as a priest to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, to read the Scriptures of the day from the Mass, to celebrate the Mass faithfully.”

On this morning, he said, he prayed about his role as an archbishop.

“It’s ultimately to be another good shepherd,” he said.

Within the church and in the broader culture, “we’ve gotten too comfortable looking at the church, looking at priests, looking at bishops simply through a worldly lens,” he said, but “the office of the bishop is something far greater than that.”

“I am to live the life of Christ in the midst of God’s people,” he said. “I am called to challenge everyone to live their baptismal life in Christ as fully as they possibly can so that, together, those of us who have been baptized can bring more people into God’s family. That’s how we advance God’s kingdom.”

Archbishop Etienne said he has a great devotion to the communion of saints, especially St. Catherine of Siena, St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Benedict.

“Today is the feast of Pope St. Gregory the Great, and he was known for strengthening the faith,” the archbishop said. “And that’s what I want my legacy to be. I want to strengthen the faith, I want to spread the faith, and I need all hands on deck to do that.”

Evangelization and strategic planning

Evangelization will be Archbishop Etienne’s top priority in the Archdiocese of Seattle, he said.

“I think the great challenge in the Western world is to reclaim our faith. And I think one of the easiest things we have to do is to find a way to be positive about our life in Christ, to be positive about our life in the church, positive about proclaiming the good news. There’s so much opportunity.”

Western Washington is “pretty highly secularized,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean we’re to retreat. This is the culture that we are called to go into to proclaim Jesus Christ.”

He challenged all Catholics in the archdiocese to “make faith a priority.”

“The first requirement of every Catholic is to go to Sunday Mass — and not just in body, not just out of an obligation, but to … celebrate this gift of life that Jesus extends to us through the Eucharist.”

Archbishop Etienne will also focus on developing a strategic plan for the archdiocese, “in terms of being clear about what our mission is, what our vision is, and what our main priorities as church are,” he said, adding that he will take a “very broad, collaborative approach” to that process.

As soon as possible, he plans to visit each of the archdiocese’s 10 geographic deaneries to celebrate Mass.

“I want to be accessible to the people,” he said, “but I also want to say in practice [that] celebrating the Eucharist together is the most important thing that we do.”

Archbishop Etienne concluded the interview by speaking directly to the people of the Archdiocese of Seattle: “I am very glad to be your shepherd, and I humbly ask for your prayers, for your patience,” he said.

“And I just ask everybody: Live your faith. Live it humbly, but live it with courage. Persevere in the faith, and ask the Lord every day to give you what you need to live your faith where you are — in your home, in your work, in your school, in your recreation. I just invite everybody to integrate your faith in Christ into every aspect of your life, and together we will advance God’s kingdom here in the Archdiocese of Seattle.”

Kevin Birnbaum

Kevin Birnbaum is the editor/associate publisher of Northwest Catholic and a member of Seattle’s Blessed Sacrament Parish. Contact him at Kevin.Birnbaum@seattlearch.org.