My wife's sister, Monica is an officer at our Gig Harbor Elks Club where her husband Richard is Exalted Ruler. At the last meeting she got talking with a retired Gig Harbor purse seine fisherman Nick Markovich and his wife. She learned they knew my parents because they bought groceries at our family grocery store in Anacortes while running a salmon fishing boat in the summer. He also thought he remembered I had fished on a local seine boat Victory. She told me about the conversation which certainly brought memories back of my early years of commerical salmon fishing. I told her about my experience the year I fished on the Victory. I thought you might find the story of interest. Here it is.

I fished in Alaska on purse seine boats to helped pay for college. When I was in the 9th grade I began Seine fishing fishing on purse seine boats that would travel to Alaska around late May and return to fish the Sound until September. I fished on a lot of boats including some from Gig Harbor. One was the vessel  Welcome whose captain was John Stanich. I also fished on a boat Don't Worry  and another boat either from Vashon Island  or Gig Harbor named Victory. The Don't Worrywas given that name by owner Dick Suryan because he had borrowed the money from the bank to build it. My memory is that the sister ship built at the same time was The Travelerwhich later was owned and operated by my life long friend Nick Petrish's father.

I was working in the Skiff for the Don't Worry in the early 1950's one summer. The boat was skippered by a man from Gig Harbor, as I  recall. One day I had a near death experience. We set the seine  net off of Cypress Island near Anacortes. The net was strung out in huge U shape with the boat towing one end and the skiff towing the other. I was running the skiff with another crew member helping. The net became caught on an underwater snag or rock while we were towing it. The tide was running strong and it pushed  the skiff away from where the net was caught under water straining the skiff against the net. The end of the net was attached to the skiff and the force of the tide pulled the net under water.

I saw the corks that held the net up begin sinking. The corks began to pop under the water and it was moving rapidly toward our skiff. The usual long line of corks floating in the water between us and the Don't Worry were quickly disappearing. I didn't know what was going on and just stared at this. When the corks disappeared right at the stern of our skiff the force of the tide began pulling the stern of the skiff where the net was tied down under the water. Very quickly the skiff was jerking down lower and lower until it just disappeared from under us. 

The other young crew member and I were suddenly both in the water with nothing to hang on to. The skiff was gone and the net disappeared below the water with it. The other fellow with me couldn't swim. The skiff had  just disappeared below the water leaving the two of us in the water with boots, rubber fishing aprons and heavy fishing clothes on. He was thrashing around. I was able to keep him afloat with difficulty as he was terrified and I wasn't too calm myself but I could swim. In the meantime the skipper of the Don't Worry had seen what was happening and realized our skiff was in danger of sinking. He dropped their the end of the fishing net and steamed full speed to rescue us. But, full speed on this old boat was about 6 knots and it took time to disconnect their end of the net before they could steam full speed towards us. In the meantime I'm fighting the other guy in the water to keep him afloat as he is in a panic. The boat got to us in time and we both were pulled aboard OK.

Afterwards, we then went about trying to retrieve what was left of the net and to pull the sunken skiff up. We got back lead line, cork line and I think the skiff but it was a a disaster and the end of fishing. The skipper asked if any of us would help make a new net. There was no pay for this but I had nothing better to do so I agreed while I think some of the others looked for another boat. Besides I really liked the skipper and I liked fishing with him. Anyway, we sailed from Anacortes to Vashon I think, not Gig Harbor, but it could have been Gig Harbor. The skipper had a net shed. When we finally got there after a long trip we hauled the torn net off the boat and began making a new net. It took a week, as I recall, because the net was in such bad shape. The season was over for that boat and I went back to Anacortes to look for a job on another purse seine boat. I got one on the Victory working in the skiff. It was late in the season and fishing wasn't good. I think by the time that season was over I made $200 or maybe I even  owed that much. All I know it was a disastrous summer for me financially.

Life has strange coincidences. Years later I had left the U of W for St Martin's college near Olympia because I was trying to figure out what to do with my life. While there I happened to run into my old fishing mate from the skiff adventure. He told me that he was going to Gonzaga law school night law school. I decided that since I had no clue what to do with my life I'd give law school a try and drove to Spokane to find out if I could get in. They accepted me and that Fall I showed up. There was large crowd for the first year class. My friend was there. By the end of the year, however, most of the class had failed to get the grades required to stay in law school. By the start of the second year only a small group were left and by the  time I graduated there were only about thirteen of us in the class. My fishing friend was gone the first year.


  1. I am a Catholic convert since 2002 (husband is a cradle catholic)and I think you are right on target. Mass is dry, dull, boring and will suck the spiritual life right out of you. Our church has lost and continues to lose many members to the thriving nondenominational church down the road. Yes, I agree, that God’s word does not change but its method of delivery does as does its application to modern life. If Catholics don’t come into the 21st century, they will continue to lose membership. Many people stay because of some prideful, cultural identity, parental pressure etc. but surely no one can honestly claim they benefit from irrelevant homilies, offkey singing, and nonengaged repetitive readings week after week. Nine years is enough for me. I am looking for a new spiritual home.

  2. Kim

    Thank you for your note. I would feel bad if I were the tipping point for anyone to make that decision. My attachment is the sacraments, primarily the Eucharist, but the liturgy surrounding it in my parish and others is simply uninspiring. I know it doesn't have to be that way because I find pockets of Mass that are very inspiring. My complaint is parish priests in most of my experiences do not prepare for the homily, are themselves spiritually burned out and lack the passion that we expect from a spiritual leader of a congregation. Worse they appear to live in ivory towers unconnected to what is happening to ordinary people worrying about paying their bills, trying to understand their children and attempting to maintain a relationship with a spouse. My argument is that the liturgy doesn't have to be the way it is. It can be made a whole lot better.

    Best regards

    Paul N. Luvera
    701 5th Ave Ste 6700
    Seattle, WA 98104
    Office (206) 467-6090
    Cell     (206) 930-6000

  3. Mr. Luvera’s original entry complained about the Mass as being boring and needing change. This week, he cites an article by Fr. Reese as echoing his own conclusions. Even so, the Pew Study statistics as presented in the article by Fr. Reese, are anything but clear. Fr. Reese notes that “half of those who became Protestants say they left because they stopped believing in Catholic teaching.” In addition, the Pew Study itself states that at least 44% of Americans change the religious affiliation from the one they grew up with, more if you count changes in affiliations among denominations (e.g., American Baptist to Southern Baptist). See, Pew Study, p. 22. Seventy percent of those folks that left the Catholic Church may have indeed also found the Mass to be boring, weren’t having their spiritual needs met, etc and eighty percent may have joined their new church because they enjoyed the style of worship (this would be expected among those who stop believing in Catholic teaching). Nevertheless, if 44% of the religious population are going to change anyway, that speaks much more against changing anything in any denomination than it does for it.

    In any event, Fr. Reese’s point seems to be that people are not learning the Bible and having their spiritual needs met and, ergo, the Mass needs to be changed. He engages in a non sequitur.

    The Mass and its focus comes straight from the Bible, including the Last Supper and Jesus walk, and meal, with Clopas, on the road to Emmaus. The Real Presence was set forth by Jesus Himself in the 6th Chapter of John (v.55-56): “For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him.” His followers at that time found this language “intolerable” and many of his disciples left Him (vv. 60 and 66). Yet, Jesus did not change His language, even to go retrieve one of the sheep that left Him.

    Do Catholics generally need more Bible teaching. I don’t know anyone who would disagree with that. But Mass is not the place for it. Sunday School or a mid-week Bible study program is the proper forum for delving into the Bible. My assumption would be that Fr. Reese has a good Sunday School Bible program at his Church as he recognizes the problem.

    As for Mass and the Bible, a Catholic Mass has more Bible reading than any Protestant Church. Protestant Church services typically focus on one passage from the Bible. At Mass, there are readings from four parts of the Bible. The First Reading is typically, but not always, from the Old Testament. Then Psalms are read or sung. The Second Reading is from the letters, followed by the Gospel.

    Can we use better homilists? Of course, always. But getting better homilists is a function of training, not changing the Mass. Even so, a homily is only 10 to 15 minutes of the Mass, which highlights the difference between a Mass, which is designed to be a worship service of the Eucharist, and a Protestant service, where the homily is 30 minutes or more and is designed to be more of a Bible teaching service.

    The Catholic Church believes that the bread and wine are transformed (transubstantiated) into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus in the Mass. Put plainly, Jesus is not only spiritually present at each Mass, He is physically present and we receive Him physically when we take communion (just as Jesus said in the sixth chapter of John). That is what sets the Catholic Church apart. Even a Protestant who does not believe this has to admit that, if one assumes it true that Jesus is physically present in the Eucharist, then that is a significant matter.

    If a person truly believes in this Real Presence, then it becomes impossible to leave the Catholic Church except, perhaps, for the Anglican Church, or Lutheran Church (some synods), which believe similarly, though there are differences. Regardless, the Catholic Church is not losing members to the Anglican or Lutheran Church.

    Those that have left the Catholic Church for other more entertaining Churches cannot believe in their hearts that the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Jesus, regardless of what they may say they believe. To do so would be to leave a Church where they know Jesus is physically present and they receive Him, for a Church that does not believe Jesus is physically present.

    Historically, it is important to note that the Protestant Reformation did not immediately reject this Catholic belief. That has occurred over time. Protestant Churches, from their origins, changed their style of service away from the Mass and lost the most important thing – the physical presence of Jesus.

    Mr. Luvera concludes with Fr. Reese’s observation that the “Catholic Church is hemorrhaging members. It needs to acknowledge this and do more to understand why. Only if we acknowledged the Exodus and explain it will we be in a position to do something about it.” Nothing wrong with these words, but they do not lead to the inexorable and exclusive conclusion that the Mass needs to be changed.

    The Vatican and Bishops have lead the Church for 2000 years, a remarkable existence in and of itself which can only be by Divine guidance. We must rely on “the hierarchy” for truth and doctrines, including the structure of the Mass, so that we do not lose the truth. We should not have to rely on Bishops to tell us what programs, outside of Mass, we need or how to run them. To that end, the Church I attend has great Sunday School programs for children and adults, an active men’s group, altar guild, young adult group, etc and is growing like topsy. As Fr. Reese has recognized the Exodus, he should next post an article about programs he has instituted at his Church, along with what has succeeded and what has not.

    If a person finds the Mass dull and uninspiring, I cannot argue away that emotion. That doesn’t per se make someone “bad” or “ignorant” about their faith. Sometimes, however, deeper knowledge helps. Other times, reading someone who has dealt with the same struggle helps (e.g., Jeff Cavins book, I Am Not Being Fed). But, Jesus did not change His teaching, and in the face of a 2000 year existence, the fact that one or many find the Mass boring today cannot serve as the basis for changing the Mass.

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