Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
At St. Anthony Parish, the best part of the job is ‘knowing that I can be part ... of some of the most important events in the lives of our parishioners’
by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the June 12, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
Linda Peterson is the secretary-slash-office-manager for St. Anthony Parish, Spokane. (IR photo from St. Anthony Parish)
“I call myself the secretary. Father Jo (Hiên, pastor) says it should be Office Manager.”
Thus spake Linda Peterson, who has been on the staff of Spokane’s St. Anthony Parish since 2004.
Peterson attended Our Lady of the Lake School and Bishop Blanchet High School, in Seattle, then attended the University of Washington for four years, majoring in business.
“My parents were still putting all of my five younger brothers and sisters through Catholic schools,” she said, “so I paid my own college expenses and couldn’t afford Seattle University. My first year I worked in a dress shop near the campus, and after that I worked fulltime for a direct mail business, while going to school at the same time.”
St. Anthony Parish’s secretary / office manager declares that she has always been “as active as possible in parishes to which I have belonged,” but this is the first time she has ever held a paid position in a parish.
“I’m a retired Customer Automation Specialist (field tech) from Airborne Express. Before Airborne Express, I worked 20 years in the insurance industry in Seattle. I’ve had secretaries, but I’ve never been one before. I’ve tried to focus on ‘the big picture’ while attending to the details. I’ve learned that this is harder than it sounds.”
When Edith Coffey, Peter-son’s predecessor at St. Anthony, decided to retire after 17 years on the job, Peterson approached her and asked about the position. “She said that she thought I could do a good job,” said Peterson, “but that we would have to convince Father Jo in case he had someone else in mind. I asked Father Jo, and he said that he thought I could do a good job, but that we would have to convince Edith in case she had someone else in mind for the job. I was satisfied with that.”
She sums up her work at St. Anthony Parish thus: “My job description includes, of course, visitor-greeting and phone-answering. I also edit the bulletin, schedule the church, the parish hall, weddings, funerals, and visits with Father Jo. I do bookkeeping, filing, tidying (I’m not very good at that one), and referring callers to our very active St. Vincent de Paul Conference, Catholic Charities, Women’s Hearth, Our Place Ministries, and other available resources.” She also does the bookkeeping.
And works just part-time – weekday mornings only.
St. Anthony’s front-line person declares that what she likes most about her work is “knowing that I can be part (even just vicariously) of some of the most important events in the lives of our parishioners – sacraments and other celebrations.”
At the same time, however, she admits that “there doesn’t seem to be enough time to finish all that needs to be done. Just as I get involved in a project, the phone rings or there’s a knock at the door. I am fortunate to have some very good volunteers. I wish we could pay them all. I also wish I could learn to bi-locate. I am not directly involved in the school (i.e. Trinity Catholic School), but I know many of the students and their families. It is really amazing to watch the children mature into young adults and reverent Catholics.”
Father Hiên said, “Like her predecessor, Linda Peterson … is ‘everything’ a pastor asks for in a part-time secretary and more…. Like many other parish secretaries, Linda always puts in thousands and thousands of extra miles for the parish’s needs and loyally assists the pastor in his daily work. I am grateful to Linda, to her predecessors, and to all the parish secretaries with whom I have had a chance to work in many parishes in Spokane. I believe that if St. Peter had a parish of his own, he would not run it smoothly without the many skillful and dedicated secretaries that we have here in our diocese. There must be a special place for them all in heaven!”
As with many parish secretaries, Peterson’s position tends to draw her spouse into parish involvements, as well. She and her husband, Alan, recently celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary. “We have four grown children,” she said. “We also have three grandchildren. Alan handles the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program at St. Anthony. I help him out with that. It’s very rewarding.”