Note: This story is part of a series highlighting the 2019 Bishop’s Annual Appeal, which launches in February.
Cindy Mensen has been a parish secretary and bookkeeper at St. Joseph Parish in Grey Eagle since 2008.
She enjoys the variety of work — typing, filing, accounting, answering the phone, responding to emails and recording baptisms and marriages in the permanent books. Working with parishioners, welcoming new members, being a positive person and helping to brighten people’s days are very important to her.
Mensen feels her job is a ministry. One particular memory stands out in her mind.
“I received a phone call from a woman who was just frantic,” Mensen said. “She was in her car driving and pulled over to call.”
Mensen said the woman was pregnant, considering an abortion and called the church for help. Mensen was able to put the frightened woman in touch with the proper resources that could help her with her unplanned pregnancy.
“I felt like I was in the right place at the right time, and I was meant to help her,” Mensen said. “I will always remember that day with fond memories.”
The role of a parish secretary comes with many rewards and challenges, and Mensen appreciates the support of others. One of the ways she receives support is through technology assistance from Tim Welch, education and media technology consultant for the Diocese of St. Cloud.
Welch assists Mensen with making forms and documents more user-friendly, formatting bulletins and other technology-related concerns. Welch also created a parish secretaries email group whose members share ideas, concerns and best practices.
“Whenever any of us secretaries have an issue or a problem, we can put it out to the whole group and ask for help or recommendations,” Mensen said. “It can be as simple as looking for recommendations on who to hire to wash and wax our floors, to creating fliers or really anything. It’s been very helpful.”
Parish secretaries are the face of the local church! They are the first impression people encounter when searching for a faith community. They are that first voice on the phone for those in need. They are ministers of hospitality who are well versed in all things that make a parish go, from technology operation to parish scheduling to knowing who has the keys. The Bishop’s Annual Appeal provides them with diocesan staff who can answer their questions and facilitate a support network so they can give their best to their parish community.”
— Tim Welch, education and media technology consultant, Office of Catholic Education Ministries