Parish Secretaries Can Help Keep the Doors Open

Parish Secretaries Can Help Keep the Doors Open

Parish Secretaries Can Help Keep the Doors Open

I have been enjoying our Holy Father’s daily homilies. He gives such down to earth advice and teachings. Many of his words nourish me.

So you could have knocked me over with a feather when last Saturday he started talking about parish secretaries!

Really? Why was he talking about us?

The gospel reading was a favorite of mine from Mark: Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (Mk 10:14)

Pope Francis was talking about people who approach the Church should find the doors open. He said so many people want to get closer to Jesus and “… we think of so many Christians of goodwill who are wrong and that instead of opening a door they close the door of goodwill.”

Then he mentioned parish secretaries … twice!

“Think of the good Christians, with good will, we think about the parish secretary, a secretary of the parish…”

And he gave two examples of parish secretaries closing the door. He gives an example “of a single mother who goes to church, in the parish and to the secretary she says: ‘I want my child baptized’. And then this Christian, this Christian says: ‘No, you cannot because you’re not married!'”

And another example of people wanting to get married and the parish secretary says ‘Oh, well, have a seat. If you want the Mass, it costs a lot…”

Oh dear. We parish secretaries do have a reputation, don’t we?

So how do I respond? The last thing I want to do is come off as being defensive. After all he did call us “good Christians, with good will.”

The truth is that I absolutely agree with our Holy Father about welcoming all who wish to find Jesus and keeping open the doors of faith. After all, I am a Benedictine oblate. Hospitality to others is an important part of Benedictine spirituality.

St. Benedict had a lot to say in his rule about how to live in community. Some of his (paraphrased) instructions include:

Show equal love to everyone.

Do not act in anger or nurse a grudge.

Express opinions with humility.

Welcome all guests as Christ.

Ahh. There it is. Welcome all guests as Christ.

I do my best. I have never said those things that Pope Francis talked about, but I also know that I am not perfect. I know I fall short some days in the welcoming department.

And I know I cannot possibly do my job without praying. A lot. Every day.

So I turn to Jesus over and over and over. St. Benedict wrote in his Rule that the disciple should “prefer nothing to the love of Christ.”

Sounds like something Pope Francis would say.

Copyright 2013 Colleen Spiro


About Author

Colleen Spiro is a Catholic mother, grandmother and a deacon’s wife. A certified spiritual director, Colleen loves to share her faith and encourage others through her retreats and writings. You can read her reflections at her website, Catholic Prayer Life and read or listen to her podcast at Finding God in the Everyday.


  1. sheri wohlfert on

    Thanks for the lovely reminder Colleen. All of us working in ministry need to be more like Benedict and Francis don’t we. Good nudge! Blessings on your day.

  2. I have a wonderful parish secretary now. She is just darling! But years ago, at a different parish, I did not. In fact I was just reliving this memory with friends last night.

    It started because we were moving. I was told our new house (which was 5 miles down the road) was “not in our parish jurisdiction. You have to go to one of those other churches.” I didn’t quite understand this because other neighbors and family members went to church wherever they wanted; there was no talk of jurisdiction. How could she say I couldn’t attend that church anymore?

    Fast forward 7 years: we move back into the “jurisdiction” of that old parish, but I called up our current parish and asked the secretary if we had to move to another church. “You can if you want, but we would LOVE to keep you!” was her response. So, we stayed put.

    Parish secretaries are like nurses: they are the middle person between the public and doctors/priests. They do a lot of the nudging and guidance and take some of the “fear” out of whoever holds the “higher authority.”

    • Cathleen,
      You are right. We are like nurses. Did I say I am a former RN? I am. 🙂
      Parish secretaries are often the first person people talk to when they need to talk to a priest. We always need to remember that.
      And, all are welcome at our parish, no matter where they live!
      Thanks for your comment. God bless.

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