September 16, 2010 // Uncategorized

Seattle's new archbishop says he is a priest who 'loves being a pastor

By Terry McGuire

SEATTLE (CNS) — The Archdiocese of Seattle’s new spiritual leader introduced himself to the media Sept. 16 as a priest who “loves being a pastor” and who regularly goes through three large baskets of prayer intentions from his people.

Newly named Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, 58, who for the past four years was bishop of the Diocese of Joliet, Ill., was appointed to Seattle by Pope Benedict XVI. He succeeds Archbishop Alex J. Brunett, who is retiring after 13 years as head of the church in western Washington.

He will be installed as Seattle’s ninth bishop in the coming weeks at a date still to be determined. Seattle was established as a diocese in 1850 and made an archdiocese in 1951.

“I love being a pastor,” Archbishop Sartain told reporters gathered in a chancery meeting room, “and so I look forward to my ministry as shepherd of the church in the Archdiocese of Seattle.”

While noting that he has only visited western Washington twice before — for a meeting and to go salmon fishing — he said the “Gospel that I’m sent here to proclaim and the sacraments that I’m sent to celebrate here are the same (as in the Midwest).”

“Jesus is the same in every place; all of you are beloved to God and so all of you are also beloved to me,” he said.

A Tennessee native ordained in 1978 for the Diocese of Memphis, then-Father Sartain held numerous positions while a priest in the Diocese of Memphis. He was a pastor for eight years, then served as vocations director, moderator of the curia, vicar for clergy and clergy general. He was named bishop of the Diocese of Little Rock, Ark., in 2000 and six years later went to Joliet.

He described his leadership style as striving to listen to all points of view, and then following it with prayer. He said collaboration is important because it gives him the knowledge he needs to be able to make a decision while providing him with “the best possible input from those who are in the field, from those who have expertise in a particular area.”

Then “I do my best to submit all of that in prayer so that ultimately what the Lord wants is what I want,” he said.

During the media conference, he fielded questions about the issue of clergy sexual abuse of children, including a Sept. 16 statement from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests claiming his alleged inaction in cases of alleged predator priests in the Joliet Diocese.

Responding that he wasn’t at liberty to discuss ongoing cases, he called clergy sexual abuse of children a “heart-wrenching” tragedy, and said he has always sought to meet with victims during his time as a bishop, and to properly screen seminarians. “I’ve been very vigilant in the preparation of our priests, and likewise very open to the suffering of the victims,” he said.

Asked about his views on immigration reform, Archbishop Sartain, who speaks Spanish, said legal ways must be found to help undocumented immigrants so that enforcement doesn’t separate families caught in situations not of their doing.

“The church also recognizes … that governments have the right to protect their borders,” he said.

The new archbishop said he seeks to relate as best he can to the lives of the people he serves.

One practice he has is to invite the faithful to send him their prayer intentions. “I have three huge baskets of intentions in my chapel right now,” he said, noting it has helped him feel spiritually drawn to the people. It’s a way for him to express his love for them, he said, and also to hear about their lives..

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.