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Heavenly waters bless event

SUQUAMISH — Thunderstorms and much-needed rain may have drenched the peninsula Saturday, but they didn’t drown the spirits of a dedicated group gathered for an historic celebration that had been 150 years in the making.

The large crowd, which included members of St. Peter’s Mission Church in Suquamish and St. Olaf’s Parish in Poulsbo, joined Archbishop of Seattle Alexander J. Brunett of the Archdiocese of Seattle to commemorate the 150th anniversary of St. Peter’s Mission July 9.

Day-long festivities began with Archbishop Brunett paddling with the Raven Canoe Society from Old Man House State Park to downtown Suquamish, arriving ashore to join several hundred onlookers.

Suquamish tribal elder and Raven Canoe Society Captain Marilyn Wandrey said it was an honor to have the Archbishop aboard her vessel.

“He was such a good sport,” Wandrey said with a chuckle.

Father David Mayovsky of St. Olaf’s was also part of Wandrey’s crew and said he was taken aback by the feeling of being involved with such an experience.

“It was very much a spiritual experience paddling in the canoe, I wish we could have gone farther,” he said. “As we were paddling ashore, they were waiting for us, waiting to welcome us. It was humbling. It was awesome.”

Following the canoe journey, Archbishop Brunett and Wandrey led the crowd to Chief Seattle’s gravesite for a wreath blessing ceremony and then to St. Peter’s for Mass.

Following the special Mass, a gift exchange between religious and community leaders was held. However, dark, threatening clouds moved toward Suquamish during the ceremony and held off their rains until a large salmon dinner was served downtown.

Those who stayed for the meal didn’t seem to mind huddling under make-shift shelters, where they ate and conversed with whomever was nearby.

“It’s a blessing from heaven,” St. Peter’s parishioner Noel Leary said of the rain, noting that if it had been sunny, most in attendance probably would have sat down with friends and family, rather than sharing a dry spot with strangers and getting to know one another.

Even before attending the morning service, she and her husband Jim Leary, who are regulars at St. Peter’s, understood the importance of the historic building — the day’s event just added to that significance.

“It’s just such a great feeling to be in that church. You can just feel the history,” Jim Leary said.

“We’re really excited by the reconnection,” Noel Leary added. “We are surrounded by the Native American population and yet we’re not necessarily worshiping together. I see this as a good first step, a good chance to reconnect — be one.”

Mayovsky, who invited the Archbishop to the community for the celebration, agreed that the event was a big stepping stone toward recreating a friendship between the parish and the tribe — something that he said he felt has been missing for the past several decades.

“It was just an incredible event, a time for healing, rekindling friendships, building bridges,” he said.

Marty Franklin of Poulsbo, whose family normally attends St. Olaf’s, brought her family to the celebration at her 5-year-old daughter’s request.

“We had never been and my daughter has been wanting to come because it was mentioned in the other Masses,” Franklin said. “We wanted to come to learn more about the history of the Suquamish Tribe and the mission.”

And sure enough, they walked away with more than they bargained for.

“(I have) a better understanding of why the mission was put here,” she explained. “The fact the tribal people accepted the Christian faith with open arms. The beautiful culture they have and (they) pass that on to our children. The Suquamish Tribe is a very vital part of our community. And the salmon is excellent.”

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