Forty-eight years, two parishes, 11 pastors.
That’s the short version of Anne McAndrew’s “story” as full-time parish secretary at Divine Redeemer Parish in Mount Carmel.
The long version is: Providing dedicated, professional and loving service day after day to the parish, its people and the Diocese of Harrisburg for almost five decades.
Anne’s full-time career ended Sept. 29 of this year. It began in late spring 1969, shortly after she graduated from Our Lady of Lourdes Regional High School in Coal Township, when Father Andrew Marinak, her pastor at Holy Cross Parish, asked if she would volunteer to help out in the parish office with some typing. A permanent job was not necessarily on Anne’s mind, but “one thing led to another,” and in August 1969, she was offered the position of parish secretary.
She stayed at Holy Cross until 1995 when, as part of the diocesan-wide Parish Consultation Process, Holy Cross became one of five parishes in the Mount Carmel area to join together to form a new parish, Divine Redeemer. She was asked to stay on in the church office of the newly-merged parish.
Anne worked for diocesan priests and, for much of the time at Holy Cross, with priests from the Oblates of St. Frances de Sales.
As she reflected on these priests and their very different personalities, Anne expressed appreciation for the unique gifts each of them brought to the job. Some were very hands-on, not afraid to get their hands dirty as they pitched in with building and cemetery projects. Some encouraged a new emphasis on spiritual growth, just when the parish needed it most. Others had a particular talent for connecting with people in all situations, happy or sad, or possessed the creativity and drive to envision new parish initiatives and move them forward. She pointed out that it was her job to adjust to the priests’ unique personalities and support them in their parish efforts.
Father Martin Moran, current pastor of Divine Redeemer, said Anne has been one of the best people at the parish level with whom he has ever worked.
“She is truly outstanding because she has always been able to manage everything so well and her incredible ability to multi-task,” he remarked. “She carries out all tasks, whether they are routine or unexpected, to the best of her ability.” More than a parish secretary, he added, she has been an office manager, a friend to fellow staff members and a valued and trusted adviser.
In the Divine Redeemer office, Anne was the first point of contact for anyone who called or visited on parish business. These contacts ranged from a need to notify the pastor about a family illness or speak to him about a pressing spiritual problem, questions from parish volunteers or about parish activities, inquiries from out-of-town callers about cemetery records, requests for Mass cards or memorial contributions, and countless other reasons.
“She handled each call or visit with professionalism and friendliness and, if needed, the utmost tact,” Father Moran said. “Everyone in the parish thinks very highly of her.” He added that she exemplified the Gospel by always carrying out her daily workplace duties to the best of her ability.
It was an adjustment for her to move from a small parish (26 years at Holy Cross) to a merged parish with more parishioners and a faster pace, but Anne took it all in stride. What amazes her is all the changes in technology that affected the performance of even the most routine duties.
“When I started at Holy Cross, I used a manual typewriter and, to make copies, the office had a hand-cranked stencil machine,” she recalled. Then there were electric typewriters and as the office transitioned to the computer age, she worked on a DOS-based system and used a matrix printer. At Holy Cross, there was a single phone line with a buzzer system in the building to notify the pastor when a call was for him. In recent years, she has mastered not only multiple extensions but voicemail and call forwarding.
For Anne, retirement couldn’t come at a better time. Her only child, Megan, and Megan’s husband, Matt Filarski, are expecting their first child in December. Anne and her husband, Walter, will now have plenty of time to spend with their grandchild.
Anne won’t be a stranger to her friends in the parish office, nor will all that institutional knowledge be lost. She has agreed to work part-time in the office two mornings a week.
Her outstanding service to the priests and people of the parish will be remembered and celebrated through the creation of the Anne McAndrew Service Award. The award will be presented annually to a senior from Divine Redeemer graduating from Our Lady of Lourdes Regional High School for demonstrating selfless dedication and service to the parish community. Bishop Ronald W. Gainer, while visiting the parish in September for the annual Eucharistic Devotions, joined Father Moran in commending Anne for her years of devoted service of almost a half-century to the priests and people of the parish.
(Jake Betz is the Director of the Mother Maria Kaupas Center in Mount Carmel.)
By Jake Betz, Special to The Witness