After quick introductions and an invitation to have a seat, along with a promise to be with me in a minute, I quickly realized the concept of time evaporates in this small but busy office. I was sure it really didn't matter that I was late because there were plenty of phone calls, walk-ins, and beckons for help from Father in the next office that distract Heidi from watching any clock. I was perfectly content to sit and absorb the frenzied activity and demure surroundings while waiting my turn for Heidi's attention. After all, I was here to meet the new parish secretary and learn a little bit about her so that I could introduce her to my fellow parishioners, compliments of the new parish blog.
I smiled at the cute artwork obviously created by preschoolers that was tacked onto the wall, hanging next to multiple multi-colored Post-it notes, reminders of things to be done and deadlines to be met. I listened, trying not to eavesdrop through the thin walls, to the conversations in the neighboring offices occupied by Father Fabian and the new bookkeeper, Scott. The doorbell rang once again, this time by a mother with two daughters in tow, coming to sign up for Faith Formation classes. I listened again – intently this time – as I tried to pick out a few familiar words while Heidi conversed fluently in the legato intonations of the Spanish language as she explained the papers and process to a mom who was obviously happy to be able to sign her daughter up for classes to prepare for her precious First Holy Communion. Then I smiled inside as Heidi escorted Mom and daughters out with obvious playful and kind words to the girls, pulled up her chair to her desk, and warmly offered her valuable time to me.
I peppered her with the perfunctory questions, though I knew I had already observed nearly as much as she could tell me about the heart of the matter.
But lest I get ahead of myself, let me properly introduce you to Heidi Emanuel, the new secretary at Corpus Christi Parish.
Heidi grew up in Lincoln and graduated college from the former Dana College in Blair, Nebraska, where she met her husband of six years, Nick, who is a software developer for a company in Bellevue. Heidi has work experience as a Spanish teacher at the now-closed St. Peter Claver Christo Rey School in Omaha; as a Spanish language translator for the Archdiocese of Omaha; and as a stay-at-home mom to her five-year-old daughter, Maria, and two-and-a-half-year-old son, John.
So what kind of person can walk into a church office in the midst of such upheaval? A very special person is needed, and Heidi is the right kind. She is one who, in a nine-to-five day, has to work smarter, not harder; one who is an organizer – a self-described addict to Post-its – who can also cajole a priest and bookkeeper into hauling file cabinets from the basement to accommodate the new files she has to create to replace the 30 years of institutional knowledge that were lost when long-time staff retired; one who has the fresh eyes to evaluate how things "have always been done" and see whether or not there is a good reason for change; one who sees the heart of her job as being the welcoming face of the church; who can "connect the dots" of priests, committees, and agencies in order to connect the people to their needed services; and one who has a soft heart for the real heart of this job: ministering the love of Jesus to all who call or walk through the door.
It is immediately apparent when you meet Heidi that she knows the work of a parish secretary is holy work; that aside from assembling bulletins, ordering hosts, or organizing files, her job is to be the kind and patient voice on the telephone, the connection to a part of the community who can feel unconnected due to a language barrier, the smile greeting each person at the locked parish office door, and the hospitable heart saying, "Welcome to Corpus Christi, where we are the Body of Christ."
After having had contact with Heidi a few times, I am confident in saying that Corpus Christi is blessed to have her as our new parish secretary. I hope you'll join me in welcoming her!
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AUTHOR: SUE DEVETTER
Sue works as a court reporter in Omaha. She has attended Corpus Christi Parish since February 2011. She is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, serves on the Digital Outreach Committee, and loves Bible and book studies. She and her husband, Chuck, live on an acreage near Council Bluffs. They have three grown children and the world’s five most beautiful grandchildren.