Story and photos By Renée Smith
In our archdiocese there are hundreds of dedicated Church members contributing to the administration of our parishes and churches. Some are paid, others voluntary, and it could feel like the life of our churches would fall apart without them.
This is how the parish of Santa Rosa initially felt when they heard the presbytery’s housekeeper and cook Cordilla Watson, and parish administrator Carrol Cachie were retiring.
Watson, 68, fondly called ‘Aunty Merle’ gave 11 years of service to the Santa Rosa parish. She told the Catholic News her role as housekeeper has always been a “comfortable one” and she never felt intimidated by priests.
“I tried my best to respect their wishes and learn along the way their likes and dislikes.” Jokingly, she said one challenge for her was finding a way to satisfy the priests’ culinary needs because “they would say they don’t like this, that or the other” but there was never a time she felt like the job was not one she enjoyed.
After injuring her back earlier this year, Watson felt it was the right decision to retire. She said, “I think God is telling me it is time to relax otherwise there would be no reason to leave.”
Cachie devoted 14 years of service to the Santa Rosa parish, officially relieving herself of parish administrative duties on December 29. Sitting in her office with small mounds of work yet to complete, she told Catholic News an interesting story of how she began working at Santa Rosa.
She started at United Bearings Limited in Barataria, a job she loved and was dedicated to for 11 years but the commute placed stress on her body. During her time there, she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis which debilitated her. However, through the support of her supervisor and other staff members she was able to keep her position.
Still under the pressure of the commuting from Santa Rosa Heights to Barataria, Cachie considered a job offer at the Santa Rosa bookshop. “I saw the post and applied but I never really thought I was qualified enough to run the bookshop,” Cachie said, placing the thought at the back of her mind.
To her surprise, weeks later then parish priest, Msgr Christian Pereira requested a meeting with her not concerning the bookshop position but to be the parish office administrator.
Cachie recalled the conversation she had with herself when she met with Msgr Pereira. She thought, “Wow this is what I want to do, this is the closest way for me to give back to God.” Given her schedule at the other job Cachie was not able to be as involved in the parish as she would have liked saying, it was a feeling that constantly “weighed” on her.
As she considered the new position, Cachie still doubted her capabilities, telling Msgr Pereira that her ill health would affect her duties but he assured her not to worry, “just accept and all will be well”.
“I am very grateful for Msgr Pereira’s guidance and while working here I have also been guided the entire time by the Holy Spirit. I was once a very anxious person but I’ve grown to be patient, gentle and compassionate,” Cachie remarked.
She added that while reflecting on her role spiritually, she hoped anyone visiting the parish would see the ‘face of Christ’ when greeted by the office staff.
“We must not see our work like persons in the secular world, we must see our work here as our vocation—where Christ has called us to be. However, you come in this office; angry, dishevelled or otherwise… once you see us, we hope you see the face of Christ through our attitudes.”
Cachie stressed that parish staff are often “bogged down” by their workload but that does not mean they should disregard or “show a bad face” to persons who come to them daily for help.
Now that she is leaving, Cachie believes the time for only retired persons working in the parish office is no more. “I think it is time that we make the work of parishes attractive enough for the young people just like any other profession. It is a full-time job which should be treated with professionalism and efficiency.”
At Santa Rosa RC it appears a good beginning depends on a good ending. With integrity and grace both women are ready to let go and have already put measures in place for a smooth transitioning for their successors and continuation of parish life.