Out of the ashes

Craig and Marti Lundberg. Photo: Stephen Brashear Craig and Marti Lundberg. Photo: Stephen Brashear

Marti and Craig Lundberg’s call to ministry was no false alarm

The call came in the pre-dawn hours. A fire alarm was going off at Marti and Craig Lundberg’s Lynnwood business. Probably a false alarm, the monitoring company said, but someone had to go down, reset the system and call off the fire department.

So the Lundbergs groggily dressed and made the 20-minute drive down I-5, bantering about whether they’d have time to sleep some more that morning or if they’d be caffeinating themselves for the day ahead.

As they neared their business, HMC Industries, the couple spotted a 100-foot plume of smoke. One of their warehouses was ablaze, and once they arrived at the scene, all they could do was sit on nearby railroad ties and watch as firefighters worked to put out the flames.

The Feb. 20, 2008, fire came at the same time the Lundbergs were contemplating their next life steps. Both of their children were grown, Marti was studying in the Archdiocese of Seattle’s Christifideles program to become a certified lay ecclesial minister, and Craig had begun applying to the archdiocese’s permanent deacon program. The active St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Bothell, parishioners decided on a seven-year plan of transitioning from running the family business into full-time parish ministry.

The fire, which was started by teens smoking near the warehouses, came at about week two into that seven-year plan, Marti said. She and Craig decided that God might be trying to tell them something, albeit in a rather dramatic way.

“It was sort of this leap of faith, like we don’t know what’s going to happen with the diaconate but this is what we think we should do,” Marti said.

So began a multiyear process of closing HMC Industries and renting out the property while trying to sell it. Marti finished the Christifideles program, earning her master’s degree in pastoral studies and finding a full-time job as pastoral assistant for administration at her childhood parish, Christ the King in Seattle.

Craig began diaconate formation. “It seemed like a gift that we had closed the business, and it really allowed me then to dedicate more time to formation and service,” he said. The property sold around the time of his October 2012 ordination.

Marti said the entire experience was a lesson “in the school of the Holy Spirit,” one of many faith lessons that have added up over the years for the cradle Catholics.

Marti Lundberg talks to school stafferAs Christ the King’s pastoral coordinator, Marti Lundberg’s workday can include administrative tasks, budgeting, meetings, overseeing liturgical arrangements, visits to parishioners and parish school responsibilities. Photo: Stephen Brashear

Ministering together

When Spokane-born Craig was 9, his family moved to the Seattle area and became parishioners at St. Mark Parish in Shoreline. In high school, he started working at HMC Industries, his family’s commercial store fixture business. Marti grew up attending Christ the King Parish and went to school there. Her family later moved and started going to Holy Rosary Parish in Edmonds.

Marti and Craig met when they were in their mid-20s, introduced by their sisters. Both said that from the first date they saw the mutual values and life goals they were looking for in a spouse. Within five months, Marti and Craig married at Christ the King. They have two children, J.C., 30, and Katie, 28.

The Lundbergs were active at their parishes of St. Luke in Shoreline and, after a move to the Mill Creek area, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. The couple served as RCIA sponsors, teachers in their kids’ catechism classes, pastoral council members, extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, lectors and more.

When their daughter Katie was in high school, she complained that there didn’t seem to be a place for her in the parish. She wanted to join a youth group somewhere else. The Lundbergs told her, “You have to try and make it better before you can just leave.”

So Katie, Marti, Craig and several other parishioners talked to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s then-pastor and now-Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo and started a Life Teen program at the parish that quickly became popular.

Marti still remembers Bishop Elizondo’s words to her when she was struggling with a particular parish issue. “Who told you this was going to be easy?” he said when Marti complained that she didn’t think church ministry should be so difficult. “Have you ever read the New Testament?”

Both Marti and Craig continued to be engaged in church work. Through her Life Teen involvement, Marti said she found a calling to start more parish adult faith formation programs. That led her to the Christifideles program, a master’s degree certification for lay ministers through Seattle University that the Archdiocese of Seattle started in 2004.

Hard to define

There has long been a strong tradition of lay ministry in the archdiocese, according to Mary Cross, its director of Catholic faith formation. It dates back to the Second Vatican Council’s call for lay involvement in parish life. It continued with Archbishop Thomas A. Connolly’s establishment of parish religious education classes taught by lay ministers and the rise of pastoral councils in the 1980s, she said.

But it can be hard to define who exactly a lay minister is. Cross described that role as “someone who substantially supports and assists the church in its mission and ministry and who has qualifications that are recognized by a pastor or the archbishop.”

She said that while there are probably 50–60 “certified” lay ministers in the archdiocese, there are closer to 700–900 lay ministers in substantial parish ministry roles.

Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain prefers a broad definition of the term as well, Cross said, and this month’s May 1 “Pentecost: A Celebration of Ministry” archdiocesan gathering invites a gamut of parish volunteers and employees plus clergy together for formation.

Lay ministry continues to grow nationally. A 2014 Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate survey showed 39,651 U.S. lay ecclesial ministers, or “professional and trained lay persons involved in paid parish ministry for at least 20 hours a week,” including vowed religious. That’s about 9,000 more lay ecclesial ministers than in 2005.

CARA reported that the majority of lay ministers are female and have a median age of 55, with far fewer women religious in that number than in decades past. That is reflected in the Seattle Archdiocese, where there were 551 lay ministers and 19 religious sisters in paid ministry roles as of October 2014.

Craig Lundberg doing carpentry workDeacon Craig Lundberg still gets to use some of his carpentry and building skills in church ministry, such as a recent project building an altar platform. Photo: Stephen Brashear

Baptismal call

Lay ministry is “what each of us are called to through our own baptism,” said Jerry Kuntz, who recently retired from 40-plus years working in Catholic ministry, most recently as pastoral assistant for administration at St. Jude Parish in Redmond.

“It’s really a broad circle of leadership that involves people in the pew along with people who happen to be in the office,” he said. “You do ministry in part by walking around and being open to what God puts in front of you.”

“Laypeople complement the pastoral work in many ways that priests cannot,” Bishop Elizondo said. “And if they are as committed as Marti and Craig are with the church, you really trust in that, because they are both knowledgeable and at the same time have a lot of love for the church.”

As a deacon, Craig now works full time at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, where he heads up faith formation along with his sacramental duties and other roles, including the occasional carpentry job that makes use of his HMC Industries skills.

And last fall, Marti found herself as interim pastoral coordinator at Christ the King after its pastor went on sabbatical. She oversees the parish while Father Stephen Rowan fills in for sacramental duties until a new pastor can be appointed. Her days can include many administrative tasks, budgeting, meetings, overseeing liturgical arrangements, visits to parishioners and responsibilities with Christ the King’s parish school.

“There was a time when we could rely on the priests to do everything. I don’t think that that is the reality anymore,” Marti said. “And if there’s a way that laypeople and the clergy can collaborate together, then we all win.”

Bishop Elizondo, who lives at Christ the King, has spotted Marti at the office very early in the morning and very late at night. He commends her energy, humor and people skills, and says that Craig is equally approachable though more reserved — a good balance to Marti.

“I admire them as a couple because both of them are really committed with the Lord and very united with each other in that faith,” he said.

Creative calendaring

Working at two separate parishes in two full-time roles requires a lot of “creative calendar” work, the Lundbergs said. With each being present at almost every Mass at their parishes on weekends, sometimes the couple likes to head to a parish “where no one knows us,” Marti chuckled, for a separate Mass that allows them time for their own spiritual enrichment.

And while they may not be working together like they did at HMC Industries, they still consult and support each other on this parish matter or that.

“We’ve always encouraged each other to remember why we’re doing what we’re doing and then find the joy and the grace of it rather than be weighed down by the troubles and complaints and some of the more negative things that we might be encountering in our work,” Marti said.

Craig is good at asking her, “What was the best part of your day?”

“And sometimes the most difficult things are also the best,” Craig said, like being present to help parishioners struggling with a health issue or other serious challenges. “Being invited into their lives is such a gift.”

“It’s sharing people’s lives, and that is sacred,” Marti added.

While Marti doesn’t know what her new role at Christ the King will be after the parish gets a new pastor, she said that, as with the rest of the couple’s life in ministry, “We’re all in, and we just keep praying and discerning what’s next.”

“It feels like where God wants us to be at this point in time,” Craig said. “There are certainly challenges to both of our jobs, but there’s also great joy that comes from it.”

And there are no more seven-year plans for them, Craig added. “We’ve learned about that whole planning thing.”

Northwest Catholic - May 2015

Anna Weaver

Anna Weaver was the multimedia, online and social media editor, and writer for Northwest Catholic from 2013-2018.

Website: annapweaver.com