I wish to express again my gratitude for the kind word, hugs and prayers these past three and a half weeks. Since my mom's death on January 27, your care has done so much to ease the pain. I ask you to please continue those prayers for my mom, my family and me.

Our Catholic faith encourages us to not only remember our deceased loved ones, but to pray for them. Prayers for the dead have been a constant part of Christian and also Jewish tradition (see 2 Macc 12:43). They are an aspect of our belief in the Communion of Saints, that is, the spiritual unity between those in heaven, the souls in Purgatory and those here on earth who are in the state of grace.

As part of the prayers for my mom, I will be offering a one month Mass for her. I will be spending this coming week up on Camano with my brothers and sister and on February 27 we will gather for that Mass. Frs. Gallagher and Ocaņa will be saying the Masses here that weekend to enable me to have this time with my family.

Soon we will be entering a time of more intense prayer, the season of Lent. It begins quite late this year - Ash Wednesday is March 8. I have a feeling that God wishes to shower upon us special graces this Lent. Part of the reason is because of the great Jubilee Year 2000. I encourage all of you to take advantage of it by receiving well the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Fr. Ocaņa and I will be available from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. the first Thursday of March.

Having made an individual and complete confession, it is possible to receive the Holy Year Indulgence by praying for the intentions of the Holy Father and making a pilgrimage. For most of us the pilgrimage destination will be Seattle's St. James Cathedral. As the article by Fr. Jordan Vajda explained last week, "A plenary indulgence is ultimately an act of God's grace which provides for the complete healing of the temporal punishment of sin, whereby the Lord elevates and makes supernatural those free human acts which are required on our part to gain the indulgence."

On April 8 we will have a walking pilgrimage from Holy Family to St. James Cathedral, a distance of about seven or eight miles. Those participating will leave from Holy Family Church at 6 a.m. Now is the time to start getting in condition physically - and spiritually - for this Lenten pilgrimage. If you are not able to walk that distance, you may join us at 11 a.m. for the Mass at the Cathedral which will be followed by the Pilgrim Way of St. James.

The Holy Year Indulgence may be received on more than one occasion, for example on behalf of a deceased loved one. I plan on making the April 8 walking pilgrimage for the eternal rest of my mom.

At the same time I am certain my mom and other members of the Communion of Saints are interceding for us. As a parish we are in an important and exciting time. One of the things for which I am asking particular intercession is our parish building and renewal project. It is essential that we be good stewards of the facilities entrusted to us, especially that they be safe for our children and all who use them. As we approach the holy season of Lent, we use this moment to re-dedicate ourselves to Jesus and the building up of his Body, the Church of which we are privileged to be members.