About Our Parish

History of SJV Parish

St John Mary Vianney Parish opened its doors in October, 1971 Approximately 450 families were assigned from the parishes of St Mark, St. Brendan, and Holy Family to form the new parish on the east side of Lake Washington. There was great excitement from the new members. They were pioneers in a new venture (the first of many firsts) – the establishment of a parish within a seminary. It was also the first time that the Sulpician Society had been put in charge of a parish in the United States.

The first pastor, Fr. Edward Hogan, SS, was rector of St. Thomas the Apostle Major Seminary. He had dreamed of combining seminary life with the reality of a parish. However, there was the unspoken realization that this was to be only a temporary home for the parishioners. It was a unique beginning for St. John Mary Vianney Parish. Fr. Hogan welcomed the St. Vincent De Paul Society as outreach for the parish and established several parish groups including Hogan’s Heroines (the women’s guild renowned for its bazaars).

In 1975 Fr. Robert Turner, SS became pastor. During his tenure the Sulpicians generated a study concerning the education and formation of seminarians. The results led to the closing of the seminary in 1977, but St. John Vianney Parish remained under the pastoral care of the Sulplcian Society and continued as the main user of the seminary facility. During this period strong liturgies were produced and the parish had a reputation for being on the cutting edge of Vatican II. Archbishop Hunthausen was a member of the parish (he lived in the old convent in the basement) and on occasion could be seen sitting in the back of the church during Saturday vigil or rehearsals for special liturgies, RCIA, Marriage Encounter, Early Childhood Education, Channel (an Archdiocesan youth group) and the office of Marriage Advocate were established in the parish. The Archbishop was directly Involved at St. John Vianney Parish in the Sanctuary Program for troubled youth. The Pastoral Council, consisting of chairpersons of the various working committees, became a strong factor In the life of the Parish.

In 1981, based on the vote of the parish, an understanding was reached with the Archdiocese for the parish to assume management of the St. Thomas facility as the St Thomas Conference Center. It operated as a non-profit organization dealing with non-profit clientele. This would be the first time that a Catholic parish in the United States would manage a conference center. At this time the parish was turned over to the Archdiocese, which became responsible for the pastoring of the parish. The parish and the center grew in volume and scope, both needing the facility for activities. Subsequently, because of the needs of the center, it became increasingly difficult for the parish to find space for its own programs and activities.

In 1984 the Archdiocese requested the parish to discern the need to continue operating the center and parish together in the same facility. There was a prolonged study. Fr. Theodore Marmo replaced Fr. Turner as pastor. In 1985 the decision was made to build a new parish facility at a different site. In March 1987 twelve volunteers met with Fr. Marmo and were formally charged to discern the needs of the parish, develop a design, conduct a capital campaign, construct the new parish home and facilitate the move to the new facilities. Originally a commitment of three years, the project lasted six and a half years!!

In 1989 the Finance Council was formed for the second time, the Archdiocese and the parish sponsored an International Design Competition (the first of its kind for a Pacific NW Catholic parish) to select an architect for its new church facility. Based on the 1988 Discernment Report, 33 designs were submitted and the architect was chosen in October 1989 by a panel of three nationally known architects, a prominent artist, a representative of the Archdiocese, Fr. Marmo and members of the Building Commission. The first capital funding drive for the building took place in 1989. The completed project cost $43 million, but the Archdiocese would help with the funding in appreciation for the years the parish managed the St. Thomas Conference Center. We broke ground 1991 and construction began in 1992. In 1991 the Pastoral Council was formed for the second time with members elected by the parish.

In 1992 Fr. Jay DeFolco was named pastor. In the fall of 1992 a second capital funding drive was completed successfully. The parish community now numbered 840. During construction over 100 parishioners were directly involved in various phases of the project: a Christmas caroling party to serenade our new neighbors; two open house events – the last one combined with a parish picnic on the new grounds which attracted 600 people; a security group to guard the site from vandals during off hours; a shower for the new kitchen and social hall; the moving of church belongings to the new building; landscaping the new grounds (still going on); of banners; designing the dedication liturgies; planning the music; planning and executing the breakfast, luncheon and dinners for the event. The first Mass was held on October 916 1993 at 5:00 PM. The building still did not have the main outside doors. We opened with 1,008 families. The church was dedicated on the weekend of October 30-31, 1993, with Archbishop Thomas Murphy presiding. We had doors. Within the first 5 months the parish grew to 1,100 families.

In 1993 the Parish Life Commission was formed to welcome new parishioners, plan the social events of the parish and be responsible for the Social Hall. The parish became known for its warmth and hospitality. In 1994, attracted by the big kitchen, Sack Lunch moved to the parish. Started by Bev Graham, the program made 40 sack lunches once a week for the homeless on-the-street people in Seattle. Today the program makes over 2,000 meals per month. Many volunteers help make the lunches, provide sleeping bags, hats and many other articles for the homeless. It continues to depend on the community of St. John Vianney for support. The parish became the home of the Columbia Boys and Girls Choirs for several years. We also welcomed a Boy Scout troop and a Girl Scout troop. During this period our Filipino community grew and became very visible, the Knights of Columbus arrived, Sonshine Ministry was originated to help parish members who had a special need and the Prayer Line was established. Liturgical ministrIes, Stephen Ministry and funeral receptions were important ministries. Our RCIA program continued to grow, the children’s programs greatly expanded, the nursery program became a reality and the first Mom’s group was formed. Mission Trek included Jr. and Sr. High schoolers on missions to Eastern/Western WA and Mexico. The trekkers began their long association with St. Vincent De Paul Society’s annual Christmas Basket program and the Christmas giving tree.

In 1997 Fr. William Heric replaced Fr. DeFolco, followed in 1998 by Fr. Frank Walsh, SJ as interim administrator and Fr. John Ludvik as Priest Administrator. In 1999 the parish hosted the Bridge Ministry (for persons with disabilities) Christmas Party. Trekkers now attending university formed the College Mission Trek for an annual mission to Mexico. We began to have brick, block and beam sales to aid the treks. We continued long time events: baby Jesus showers, garage sales, Mother’s/Father’s Days breakfasts sponsored by the youth of the parish, Knights of Columbus pancake breakfasts, Lenten Soup Nights to aid Rice Bowl, Filipino dinner dance to aid the parish, Winter bazaars, Annual Spring Auction, Vacation Bible Camp, Prayer Groups, Bible Study, Annual Picnic.

Fr. Kevin Duggan became our pastor in June 2000. Sung Masses have returned. A Parish Convocation and series of community listening brunches/lunches were inaugurated to determine the future work and goals of the parish. The main chapel was modified to allow for a proper eucharistic procession at weekend Masses. Many projects are in the works with established timelines which will maintain and enhance our lovely facility and enrich the lives of our parishioners.

We began celebrating 30 years as a parish with a picnic on October 14, 2001, continuing with a Valentine’s Day Dance in February 2002, a pilgrimage procession from the seminary to the parish home in honor of St. John Vianney’s feast day on August 3, 2002 and the annual picnic on September 15, 2002. The anniversary year ended with a Mass followed by a come-as-your-favorite-saint family costume party on November 1, 2002 – All Saints Day.

As we look back over the 30 years we have watched our parish community grow from the 450 families to our present population of 1,041 families. The many projects and committees originated to further the Lord’s presence in our community and to serve each other are in response to our parish misslon statement. We have had sad times and joyous times over the years. The Vatican II directives were not always easy for some and still may not be. But we are a loving parish community that is constantly changing and growing together and we still maintain a core of the original members. We are a diverse group looking forward to an increase in our community as the area grows and we continue to strive to fulfill our mission and goals.

Our Parish’s Patron Saint

Ever worry that you’re not smart enough? Or influential enough? Or important enough? Ever wonder if the life of a very average person can be a life of real meaning and impact? Then look no further for inspiration than our parish’s patron saint.

Jean-Marie Vianney was born into a farming family in eastern France in 1786. As a young man, his fervent desire was to become a priest, but his own intellectual shortcomings made that dream nearly impossible. He had a poor memory, little ability for abstract thought, and he simply could not grasp the fundamentals of such subjects as Latin and theology. Although his piety was recognized, he flunked out of the seminary.

That would have been the end of the story, but for the kindness of another priest, Father Balley, who tutored Jean-Marie and interceded for him with the diocesan examiner of candidates for ordination. The examiner saw Jean-Marie’s academic deficiencies, but also saw his holiness and suitability for the priesthood. Father Vianney was eventually ordained in 1815, assigned to assist Father Balley until Balley’s death in 1817.

In 1818 Father Vianney received his first independent assignment, to a parish in a small, obscure village called Ars. Ars had only about 230 inhabitants, and very few of these were outstanding for their faith. For most, religion was a mere formality, ignored except for weekly Mass attendance. Not a very promising first assignment for newly-ordained Father Vianney!

Father Vianney began his ministry by house-to-house visits in the parish, catechism classes for children, and most important of all, by personally living a life of humility and holiness that was a model for his parishioners. Slowly but surely, things began to change in Ars. The taverns closed, the church became crowded even on weekdays, and the line to the confessional grew always longer. In the confessional, Father Vianney discovered that he had a real gift for seeing into the depths of his parishioners’ souls and for giving them absolution with a few compassionate words that often changed the whole course of their lives.

In time, the world came to Ars, as word spread about this extraordinary priest. From 1830 on, Father Vianney averaged 12-16 hours a day in the confessional, in addition to his regular pastoral duties, so sought-after was this humble, modest priest.

Father Vianney died in 1859, by which time Ars had already become a place of pilgrimage. Pope Pius XI canonized him in 1925, and in 1929 named him, very appropriately, the patron saint of parish priests.

St. Jean-Marie Vianney could also be considered a patron saint of all of those who worry about their shortcomings, their failures, their mediocrity.
If there’s one lesson we can learn from St. John Vianney’s life, it’s that God has given each of us all of the talents and gifts we need, and even the most unpromising of assignments has the potential for greatness.

And there’s a second story here, as well. Remember Father Balley, the kindly priest who mentored Jean-Marie and helped him become ordained?
Father Balley died two years later, so he never knew how much good resulted from his helping Father Vianney achieve his vocation. It’s a reminder to all of us that opportunities for greatness, and for setting positive things in motion, present themselves to us every day.

It’s in the smallest of ways, by living genuinely good lives and extending ourselves in kindness to others, that each of us, like St. John Vianney, achieve lives of true impact and importance.