Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
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Cathedral’s secretary: ‘It’s amazing to work someplace where the other people are like your family’
Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the Feb. 28, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
Rachel Gordon-Martin has been the secretary for the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in downtown Spokane since August 2005. (IR photo)
When Rachel Gordon-Martin arrives for work as secretary at Spokane’s Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes – which she has been doing since Aug. 1, 2005 – she plans on having a ball. Not only does she enjoy her job so much that she plans to make it her career, but instead of occupying a desk chair she uses a large inflated fitness ball to sit on. “It’s good for the abs and for your posture,” she says happily.
Growing up Catholic in the rural community of Paulding, in northwest Ohio, she graduated from Wayne Trace High School and then joined the U. S. Air Force. After 17 months, however, she was discharged from the Air Force in order to return home to care for her ailing mother, who subsequently passed away.
Rachel moved to Spokane in 2001. At least one reason to move here from Ohio has to do with winter.
“I like to snowboard, that’s something you can’t do in Ohio because it’s so flat. In the summer I like mountain biking. I’m going to take up kayaking this summer – lake kayaking, not white water kayaking. I like a lot of outdoor activities. That’s why I like Spokane so much.”
Before becoming secretary for the Cathedral Parish, Rachel worked for Catholic Charities, first as a secretary for the administrative offices, then as a program assistant at Senior Services and Volunteer Chore Services. At the Cathedral rectory, however, Rachel hasn’t left charitable activities entirely behind.
“I still work with the homeless through our sandwich program,” she said. “We have some awesome volunteers who come in each morning to make baloney and mustard sandwiches, then they freeze them, and I take them out to thaw before I give them out later in the day.” Rachel estimates that this winter she gives away “about 900” sandwiches each month. “We give two per person,” she said, “and they can come to get sandwiches up to twice a day, 11 a.m.-noon and 4-5 p.m.”
Rachel summarizes her fulltime job description thus: “Basically, it’s a lot of answering the phones, answering the doors. I’m moving more into the bookkeeping and accounting areas right now. I used to do the bulletins, but I have an office assistant now who helps me with that. She also does the donations, and I do the (bankruptcy) settlement campaign donations. I help with creating programs for different events that we have at the Cathedral.”
Rachel has family connections to the church, as well. Her brother, older by four years, is a priest of the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio.
When asked to identify what she likes best about her job, Rachel replies immediately, “I would say it’s the people I get to work with, the staff and the parishioners. It’s amazing to work someplace where the other people are like your family. I feel really comfortable with everybody I work with, and I feel really supported.”
That coin has a flip side, of course. Rachel says that what she likes least about her job is “how sometimes it will be really quiet for a long time, then the phone will ring, and the doorbell will ring, and all of a sudden, at the same time, there will be somebody waiting in the office for something.”
Rachel finds that sometimes when she is with people from outside the parish, Catholic or otherwise, and they learn that she is a parish secretary, that can be a conversation starter. “I get a lot of questions about the bankruptcy,” she says, “and people assume that since I work at the cathedral I’m the bishop’s secretary, which I’m not. But because I work here I’m better informed, and I can pass along accurate information, and it’s nice to be able to do that, to correct misinformation that’s out there.”
Working as a parish secretary, Rachel says, has had a definite impact on her own faith and spirituality. “I work with priests, and Sisters, and deacons, and often the bishop joins us for lunch, and if I ever have a question they’re very open to talking about it. If I’m struggling with something it’s a lot different than working for some business where you can’t go to your boss and say, ‘Hey, I’m really struggling with this. What do you think?’ I’m able to do that here, and they’ve helped me out immensely. If I have a question about the church, or there’s something I don’t understand, they’ll give me a good, honest answer. If I’m struggling they’ll give me a spiritual perspective. Also, I get to go to daily Mass during my lunchtime. It’s helped immensely.”
Rachel explains that growing up, she never really knew what she wanted to do with herself, but she is enthusiastic about her life, now. “I love my job,” she said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”