April 8, 2016

Be Our Guest / Jeanne Akers

Although she is not Catholic, retiring parish secretary says she has learned so much good about the faith and its people

December of 2003. A life-changing date for me as I began my new adventure as parish secretary at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Terre Haute.

Providence Sister Mary Beth Klingel and Jerry Moorman, both pastoral associates at the parish, interviewed and hired me on their belief I would be the best person to represent the parish office. I remember informing them at the interview that I was not Catholic and did not play bingo, but regardless, they smiled and hired me.

In my time at this parish, I have learned that Catholics are tolerant, faithful and extremely patient, especially when they are training a secretary who is Baptist. But train me they did, and then some.

I have seen transitions in leadership, watched children grow older and grow in their faith, and cried with my newfound friends as others passed before us.

I have laughed, celebrated marriages, baptisms, birthdays and seasons, and have an open invitation to some of the biggest celebrations within the Filipino and Spanish communities. Best of all, I became an honorary member of this parish. Father Rick Ginther, the parish’s current pastor, calls me a Cat-Bap.

I have learned compassion, social justice and patience (after all, I do work for Fr. Rick, a.k.a. “The Blur”). I have honed and sharpened my multi-tasking abilities. I have also learned technology—and that I can’t crochet worth a hill of beans.

I have heard stories of families, histories and tunes carried through the years. I took phone calls from visitors passing through our town, telling me how they enjoyed the Mass, the music and the dancing priest—which was the late Msgr. Joseph Kern. I learned personalities, needs, desires and fears. My porches and yard are full of adopted leftover flowers from Advent and Lent. One more planter, and there will be a mutiny within my family … with me learning to walk the proverbial plank.

But here’s the most important thing I take with me as I leave as the parish secretary: I take a little bit of the spirit and joy of the Catholic faith with me on my daily walk. I have truly become Cat-Bap. And I thank everyone in the Indianapolis Archdiocese for having me.

Peace be with you all.

(Jeanne Akers is retiring as secretary at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Terre Haute.)

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