By Julie Muhlstein Herald Writer
ARLINGTON — Grieving families have asked, and a Catholic priest here has answered. People who lost loved ones in the Oso mudslide will not be burdened by funeral and burial costs.
“People have drifted in here and asked for help with funeral services. None have been Catholic,” said the Rev. Timothy Sauer, pastor of Arlington’s Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and St. John Vianney Catholic Mission in Darrington. “We are providing whatever people need, whether or not they have any faith perspective,” Sauer said Wednesday.
Catholic Community Services of Western Washington, an outreach organization of the church, is asking for donations to help defray funeral expenses.
“What we are saying is that the Archdiocese of Seattle and Catholic Community Services, in conjunction with parishes in Arlington and Darrington, will be providing as much financial assistance as needed by families for the funerals and burials of their loved ones,” said Debbie Sladek, communications coordinator for Catholic Community Services of Western Washington.
Some families Sauer has helped since the disaster want to pay funeral costs themselves. “Other families can’t pay any of it,” he said. Memorial services will be provided by the church no matter the person’s faith. “We make no distinction in terms of religious affiliation, or whether they have a religious affiliation at all,” Sauer said.
Catholic Community Services posted online information late last week asking for donations to cover funeral costs for people killed in the slide. Depending on how much is raised, the agency may also financially help those who have lost homes and possessions, Sladek said.
The Arlington priest, who is working directly with families, will take the lead in deciding how the money will be allocated, she said. Sladek did not disclose Wednesday how much had been collected so far by Catholic Community Services.
The nonprofit agency has programs addressing needs for housing, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, and other services for children and families.
The National Funeral Directors Association, a trade group representing more than 10,000 funeral homes, estimated that in 2012 the national median cost of a funeral was $7,045. That didn’t include cemetery, cremation, monument, floral or obituary expenditures.
For mudslide victims, Sauer said, “a number of funeral homes and services in the area are providing discounts.”
“We’re doing everything we can to keep costs down,” said Carrie Stucky, office manager at Weller Funeral Home in Arlington. She said the business is working closely with the Catholic church.
Since the mudslide, Arlington’s Immaculate Conception Church has been used for more than prayer and services. Mental health counselors from the American Red Cross are using the church’s lower level to help “grieving and waiting families,” Sauer said. And Snohomish County’s Human Services Department has “navigators” from its staff to help people begin to rebuild their lives.
As the priest for two churches, Sauer commutes often from Arlington to Darrington for regular Masses. With Highway 530 closed, the drive takes two hours each way. Friday evening, he will join clergy from about 30 local churches at the Arlington-Oso-Darrington Prayer Event. The public event is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday in the gym of Arlington’s Haller Middle School.
“The Lord will renew our strength in spite of horrible things we have to face,” Sauer said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catholic Community Services of Western Washington is accepting donations to pay for funerals and provide other help for families who lost loved ones in the Oso mudslide. Donations will be sent to the Rev. Timothy Sauer, pastor of Arlington’s Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and St. John Vianney Catholic Mission in Darrington. Donate online at www.ccsww.org/site/PageServer,
Or mail checks, payable to Catholic Community Services with an “Oso Mudslide” notation, to: Catholic Community Services, attn: Oso Mudslide, 100 23rd Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98144-2312.
Contact Arlington’s Immaculate Conception Catholic Church at 360-435-8565.
Arlington-Oso-Darrington Prayer Event, a public service sponsored by the Arlington Ministerial Association, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday in the Haller Middle School gym, 600 E. First St., Arlington.