Hunger, inadequate prenatal care, and homelessness are the three most significant needs identified in Snohomish County’s 2022 Community Health Assessment.

This comes as no surprise to the outreach volunteers at St. Pius X Parish in Mountlake Terrace. After all, from 2019 to 2022, nearly 20,000 people in need turned to their CCS PREPARES (Pregnancy and Parenting Support) and St. Vincent de Paul Conference ministries.

These two volunteer services are the backbone of the new Mercy House, a multi-service center on the parish campus. Plans are underway to add a part-time YWCA navigator to help families with healthcare referrals.

After a period of discernment about how best to use parish resources to serve neighbors in need, Father Cal Christiansen, pastor of St. Pius Parish, invited Catholic Community Services of Western Washington to help the parish move forward.

Mary Wahl, a CCS Regional Network Builder, facilitated further discernment, fundraising, and a grant-writing process that led to an ambitious $800,000 renovation of the former parish rectory. Welcome new amenities include ample storage space, two bathrooms, a laundry room, a community room, and a kitchen.  

In a recent interview with Northwest Catholic, Mary Wahl said Mercy House was “the perfect pilot” in showing how a CCS network builder can offer expertise a parish doesn’t have to help it complete an outreach project. St. Pius parish administrative associate Aimee Do says, “My experience with CCS was wonderful. Mary is truly a network builder! She worked with me step-by-step, guiding me through grant writing and permitting with the county. Now she is finding us a part-time healthcare navigator.”

“It really was the role coming alive and truly working side-by-side with a pastor like Father Cal and his staff,” Wahl said. “It was my honor as a network builder to have this as my first project, to see it blessed and dedicated.”

Marisela Ortiz, a dedicated ten-year advocate for PREPARES, is one of the welcoming Mercy House volunteers serving pregnant mothers and families with small children.

According to Marisela Ortiz, a volunteer with PREPARES for ten years, families used to have to root through containers in a spare parish office room to find clothes. With her husband’s help, she led the effort to create a beautiful, child-friendly milieu for families to make their selections. Now, pregnant mothers and families with children visit the PREPARES boutique to obtain diapers, clothing, formula, and other essentials.

Parish volunteers continue to provide a steady supply of baby quilts and layettes of handmade items, including adorable hand-knit dolls. A separate private office comes in handy when a family in need wishes to discuss more complex needs privately.

Private office space is vital at a time when homelessness is increasingly a feature of poverty. Traditionally, pairs of Vincentian volunteers respond to neighbors in need by hearing their stories, bringing the needed assistance to their homes, and holistically attending to their needs.  When there is no home, they are forced to have these confidential conversations in gas stations and other “third places” where privacy is hard to find. Bridget and other volunteers can now offer a secure place to listen, respond, and make referrals if possible.

In 2023, St. Vincent de Paul volunteers at Mercy House helped more than 700 low-income households with food, rent, utilities, groceries, gas, and other urgent needs.  

“If it were not for Mary Wahl’s organization and kindness, this new center could not be here at all,” affirms Bridget Rosen, president of the parish St. Vincent de Paul conference. She says the new building has boosted parish support of the new conference, which had previously operated out of a windowless storage shed. Volunteers maintain a steady inventory of foods, many designed for people with no access to kitchens, in their well-stocked storeroom.

Mercy House is just one example of how CCS Network Builders helps pastors and parish outreach ministries work with those in need in their local communities. Read more about the role of CCS Network Builder and the 2023 opening of Mercy House center here:  Archbishop blesses Mercy House, St. Pius X Parish’s outreach to those in need – Northwest Catholic: Read Catholic News & Stories (

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