When the Rev. Tom McMichael arrived at St. Mary Catholic Church in January, he had already introduced himself in a “Pastor’s Page” letter on the parish website. In his note, he wrote of looking forward “with joy and hope” to serving at the church. And he added a surprising detail: “I am a Catholic priest and I am married.” In his office at the Marysville parish, the 55-year-old McMichael talked Thursday about his journey, from serving 17 years as a Lutheran pastor to a time of deep spiritual discernment. That led him, along with his Lutheran wife, Karin McMichael, to convert to Roman Catholicism. On Jan. 10, 2009, he wasordained as a Catholic priest at St. James Cathedral in Seattle. “I attribute it to the Holy Spirit,” McMichael said. “I truly felt a call to the priesthood.” …What caused McMichael to leave the church where he was raised and to become Catholic? He said he began to move toward the change after the 1987 merger of three Lutheran churches, which created the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. While he said Lutheran worship is closest of any Reformation church to Catholicism, after the 1987 merger he began seeing changes that made him less comfortable. “The Lutheran Church became more Protestant,” he said. Rather than move to a breakaway Lutheran church, he gravitated to the more sacramental Catholic faith. In his letter to St. Mary’s parishioners, McMichael wrote that before he was ordained as a Catholic priest, then-Seattle Archbishop Alexander Brunett petitioned Pope Benedict XVI for a dispensation from the norm of celibacy. McMichael also spent time at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon. He commutes from La Conner, where he and his wife live. Karin McMichael is an estate-planning attorney who works in Bellingham. She attends Sunday Mass in Marysville. “Everyone is very warm and ready to welcome us. This is a whole new world, with incredible diversity,” she said. Before her husband’s ordination as a Catholic priest, Karin McMichael met with the Seattle archbishop and signed a consent form. “It was similar to what a deacon’s wife is asked to do,” she said.
Photo: Kevin Clark / The Herald