Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Unsung Heroes Make a Parish Thrive

While in seminary, there’s a lot of focus on the content of the faith. This is understandably important as you need to know what you are talking about, and articulate what the Church teaches if you are going to help people. And this is ongoing too, as the Holy Spirit continually guides the Church as we understand God’s revelation to us anew as the years go by. The academics help you understand how to hear confessions, give spiritual counsel, preach and interpret, and also formulate theological opinions too with respect to the content of the faith. But that’s just part of it.

Knowing what the Church teaches matters, but the “how” is what goes on in the parish every day. How people understand how it’s all wrapped up in loving God with your whole heart, mind and soul and loving your neighbor as yourself, that’s a lot more than hearing confessions and preaching. The priest is merely part of the whole equation, it takes a team for someone to truly become closer to God. And that’s why I think of parish work as ministry, rather than “jobs.”

One of the first people I met when I found out I was going to Saint Joe’s was Patty Stibal. Fr. Paul Jarvis was giving me a tour, telling me about the parish, and it was at a point where I knew I’d be moving on from my prior assignment. I was a little nervous about what lied ahead, but just seeing the people here and the parish filled me with a calm. Patty had this great demeanor and joy about her when I first met her, and that continued when I officially started in July of 2015. Not knowing much at all about the parish, she quickly filled me in on who’s who, on the office, helped me get settled, and helped me to build bridges between parishioners.

But then I also got to see her in action day to day. She’s amazing. She makes people feel welcome. She greets everyone with a smile. She looks people in the eye and listens to them. She makes you feel like family. She goes out of her way to help others both on staff and in the parish. She truly sees her work as ministry, far from just punching a clock. I can honestly say she has helped me on my own faith journey, and made me a better priest. Yes, she is truly one of our unsung heroes.

A couple of weeks ago, Patty met with Randy Haney, our parish administrator, and me, and gave us some difficult news, that she had discerned that now was the time for her to move on from Saint Joe’s. She has been here now for 17 years, and feels called to serve elsewhere. After prayer and discernment, she’ll be taking a position managing the office at Saint Michael’s parish, which is in her hometown in Farmington.

Saint Michael’s gain is our loss, but I know that Patty will do great in her new position. She’ll bring a lot of gifts to our neighboring parish, and God has new chapters now to be written in her life. While she’ll be very hard to replace, we do have her position listed with the archdiocese, and have received a number of applicants. She’ll also be able to help our new person transition and learn the ropes, and when we do have a person in place we’ll be sure to let you know who that is right away. I am confident they’ll feel welcomed here too much as I have been. Saint Joe’s is a really special place.

Patty’s last day will be this Friday, September 29th. We’ll miss you, Patty! Thank you for helping our parish to thrive and grow, and for the joy you have brought to our faith community. People like Patty truly exemplify the words “thy kingdom come,” for we see God’s love in this world more clearly through people like her.

As I preached on last weekend, God calls us all on an adventure, and it’s up to us to follow His plan. I’m so honored Patty followed His call to be with us at Saint Joe’s, and wish her the best as He has now called her to serve Saint Michael’s. God bless you Patty, and may the road ahead be filled with many more joys and blessings.

Have a wonderful week, 

Fr. Paul