Large crowd welcomes Archbishop Etienne as coadjutor at Mass of Reception

  • Written by Brian LeBlanc
  • Published in Local
Archbishop Paul Etienne processes into St. James Cathedral for his Mass of Reception as coadjutor archbishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle on June 7, 2019. Photo: Stephen Brashear Archbishop Paul Etienne processes into St. James Cathedral for his Mass of Reception as coadjutor archbishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle on June 7, 2019. Photo: Stephen Brashear

SEATTLE – With his family and an estimated 1,000 people present, Archbishop Paul D. Etienne became coadjutor archbishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle during a June 7 Mass of Reception at St. James Cathedral.

“I pledge to love you to the best of my ability with the love of Jesus as a demonstration of my love for the Lord,” said Archbishop Etienne, who has been a priest for nearly 27 years and a bishop for 10.

Archbishop Etienne (pronounced AY-chin) will officially succeed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain upon his retirement, expected later this year. Archbishop Sartain asked Pope Francis to appoint a coadjutor due to spinal issues that have required several surgeries.

The Mass of Reception began with Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, welcoming Archbishop Etienne and praising Archbishop Sartain for requesting a coadjutor. “It takes a lot of courage to ask for help,” Archbishop Pierre said.

He read the text of the apostolic mandate (also known as a papal bull), a handwritten letter from Pope Francis testifying to his choice of Archbishop Etienne as Seattle’s coadjutor archbishop. Afterward, Archbishop Pierre handed the document to Archbishop Etienne, who showed it first to Archbishop Sartain — sparking some laughter among the congregation — then to priests, deacons and the rest of those gathered. Then Archbishop Etienne was handed a crosier similar to Archbishop Sartain’s.

Coadjutor Archbishop Paul Etienne displays the apostolic mandate declaring his appointment to Archbishop J. Peter Sartain. Photo: Stephen Brashear

‘Missionaries of mercy’

As the sun shone through the cathedral’s oculus, washing the sanctuary in light, Archbishop Etienne gave the homily. He first thanked his family, including his father, Paul Sr., and siblings Bernie, Zack, Rick, Tommy and Nicolette (all present) and Angie, who couldn’t be there.

He preached on the day’s Gospel reading, John 21:15–19, where the risen Jesus asks Peter if he loves him.

“Loving Christ is at the heart of our service of others,” Archbishop Etienne said. “Loving Christ is the first step without which we cannot keep his greatest command, to love one another. When we dedicate our lives to loving Christ, we become his missionaries of mercy for the world today. Christ is as relevant today as any date and time, as is his truth and love and mercy.”

Archbishop Etienne also made reference to the recent scandals in the church.

“We know full well Peter failed Jesus in his moment of greatest need. And in today’s church, we should let that sink in for a moment,” Archbishop Etienne said. “A failure of a successor to the apostles to be what Jesus needs him to be at a critical moment. Jesus did not allow his disappointment in Peter to cause him to abandon Peter nor to abandon his plans for Peter.”

And so, he continued, “Jesus’ love for Peter … is teaching us we cannot allow ourselves to remain in surface level of anger, disappointment or resentment about failures of leadership in the church today, nor can we simply skirt the issue. My brother bishops, we need Jesus’ healing and his grace to renew us in our relationship with him, in our ministry and for the mission and work that lies ahead.”

“Loving Christ is at the heart of our service of others,” Archbishop Etienne said in his homily. Photo: Stephen Brashear

Diversity highlighted

Unlike an installation Mass, when symbols of authority are bestowed on a new archbishop, the Mass of Reception is “quite simple in terms of a ritual but quite festive in terms of a celebration,” said Corinna Laughlin, pastoral assistant for liturgy at St. James Cathedral and a consultant to the archdiocesan Liturgy Office.

Because of intermittent rain, those in the entry procession lined up inside the cathedral. Flanked by two lanterns, the Festival Cross was carried into the cathedral, followed by a procession of representatives from each of the archdiocese’s 10 deaneries, carrying banners. They led the procession of lay ministers, deacons, priests, bishops, archbishops and a cardinal.

More than a dozen bishops from around the country, including Seattle’s Auxiliary Bishops Eusebio Elizondo and Daniel Mueggenborg, concelebrated the Mass with Archbishops Sartain and Etienne.

The Mass highlighted the archdiocese’s multicultural nature. A Samoan choir sang the prelude hymn; the second reading was proclaimed in Spanish; the prayers of the faithful were offered in Vietnamese, Polish, Tagalog and English; and the gift bearers were representatives from the Swinomish Tribe, Lummi Nation and the Pueblo of Zuni.

The gift bearers were representatives from the Swinomish Tribe, Lummi Nation and the Pueblo of Zuni. Photo: Stephen Brashear

“We serve in some way for Christ, and this is the way we know how — to sing, to praise,” said Poasa Fa’aita, chair of the St. Peter Chanel Samoan Ministry at Holy Cross Parish in Tacoma, after the Mass. “We’re very thankful and very grateful for the opportunity to be here,” he said.

Youth also had a prominent role in the occasion. An honor guard of Catholic school students welcomed the procession into the cathedral, and the first reading was read by 10-year-old Eli Riggio.

The Mass of Reception “was personally moving,” said Edwin Ferrera, the archdiocese’s director of Hispanic ministry. Ferrera expressed both his “love and appreciation” for Archbishop Sartain and his “love and joy” for the arrival of Archbishop Etienne. “It was wonderful but there are those mixed emotions,” he said.

‘My brother Paul’

After Communion, Archbishop Sartain stepped to the pulpit, where he thanked and welcomed Archbishop Etienne. Then he explained that he is continuing a tradition started when he became bishop of the Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas. His predecessor, Bishop Andrew McDonald, gave him an icon of Sts. Andrew and Peter, an image connecting the archbishops through their first names.

And so Archbishop Sartain has left an icon of Sts. Peter and Paul in Archbishop Etienne’s room at Connolly House, the archbishops’ home.

Archbishops Etienne and Sartain distribute Communion at the Mass of Reception June 7. Photo: Stephen Brashear

Archbishop Sartain noted that he and Archbishop Etienne share a devotion to St. Catherine of Siena.

“And to you, my brother Paul,” he said, “this is Catherine of Siena offering her advice on the day of your welcome to the Archdiocese of Seattle: ‘Whatever you do, do it bravely, and banish darkness, and establish light without considering your own weakness. Believe there is nothing you cannot master, when you rely on Christ crucified.’”

As Archbishop Sartain stepped down from the pulpit, Archbishop Etienne met him and they embraced, to warm applause from the faithful.