Involvement in the sister parish ministry of Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Bremerton, Wash., has been a life changer for Tammi Murray.
"Over time it has become a very integral part of my life. It is with me daily," says Murray, who has helped spearhead work with Mary, Mother of the Church, Nyakishenyi Parish in southwestern Uganda since the parishes established a sister parish relationship in 2010.
Murray -- for the fourth time -- and two others will be heading back to Uganda in early January. In addition to good cheer, they will be taking along medical supplies, religious items and a microscope.
"A sister parish relationship has the capacity to help a parish live out Catholic social teaching in a very tangible way," said Murray who is voluntary chair of the ministry team. "For those of us who have had the opportunity to visit our sister parish, our eyes have been opened to some of the challenges faced by our brothers and sisters in Christ. We no longer see the Gospel in the abstract."
"It truly has been a vocational call," Murray added. "Because of this relationship, I have done things that I never thought I would do, from traveling alone on two trips, to public speaking at both parishes. The sister parish relationship has significantly impacted nearly every aspect of my life, from how I spend my time and money to learning to balance Martha and Mary, activity and prayer."
The group is also helping their Ugandan friends establish internet service, finance a substantial rainwater storage system, utilize solar power, and expand the parish health center, reports NWCatholic.org.
The Bremerton Catholic community is one of several Seattle Archdiocesan parishes that "twin" with parishes around the world.
Seattle's St. Bridget Parish, for example, has been linked with a parish in the tiny African nation of Malawi for 16 years. The major fundraiser for St. Bridget's Friends of Namitembo Committee, called the Elephant Stampede, draws hundreds to the North Seattle parish each September.
Among other sister parish relationships in the Seattle Archdiocese, Arlington's Immaculate Conception Parish and Darrington's St. John Vianney Mission have jointly worked with Christ the King Cathedral Parish in Bungoma, Kenya since 2009.
The sister-parish relationships are actively encouraged and fostered by the Seattle Archdiocese's Missions Office.
Other missions' offices throughout the country offer similar encouragement and facilitation.
The St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese's Center for Mission, for example, reports on its website that more than "40 of the archdiocese's 230 parishes have some form of relationship with an international parish or entity."
The Cincinnati Archdiocese's Mission Office notes that 38 parishes there have formed "twinning relationships."
Dr. Mike Gable, Cincinnati Mission Office director, wrote the forward for "Bridges of Faith," a solid primer on parish overseas partnerships written by Dennis P. O'Conner.
Nuts-and-bolts information on sister-parish programs is also addressed by Catholic Relief Services in its "Parish Partnership Manual."
[Dan Morris-Young is NCR's West Coast correspondent. His email is email@example.com.]
Editor's note: "The Field Hospital" is NCRonline's newest blog series, covering life in Catholic parishes across the United States. The title comes from the words of Pope Francis: "I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. ... And you have to start from the ground up."
"The Field Hospital" blog will run twice weekly on NCRonline.org along with feature stories and news reports about parish life in the U.S. If you have a story suggestion, send it to Dan Morris Young (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Peter Feuerherd (email@example.com).