Edie Pearson retiring: secretary to bishops, ‘mom’ to priests

By: By Jennifer Willems

“I can be a little imp,” Edie Pearson admits with a laugh that is familiar to anyone who is acquainted with her. In fact, she is known as “Edie Elf” for her regular e-mail reminders of how many months it is until Christmas, which start to arrive almost as soon as the holiday passes.

That laughter will be mixed with a few tears in the days to come, however, as Pearson retires from the staff of the Diocese of Peoria after nearly 30 years as secretary to Archbishop John J. Myers, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, and the Office of Catechetics.

“I’m going to miss everyone here,” she told The Catholic Post last week. “They’re my family — my extended family.”

That includes the priests of the diocese, all of whom hold a special place in her heart.

“The Vocation Office was right across from my office in the (former) Chancery and, of course, I got to know the guys. We all built up a nice rapport,” Pearson said.

“It’s so awesome to see these guys grow from being little-kid priests to where they are today,” she explained. “When I would go to ordinations I felt like the mother of the bride.”

Now the relationship is more that of a mother, grandmother, big sister or little sister, depending on the priest and his age.

“I always wanted to tell the priests that their vocation is a not a 9-to-5 job,” Pearson said, encouraging them to “keep in mind who the Boss is — Jesus.”

“I also would like to tell the people here that the Diocese of Peoria is a great diocese,” she said. “There are a lot of nice people working for the diocese and the Lord loves them all. They just have to remember that.”

Pearson has been clear about her own focus since the day she first walked into the Chancery Office in the basement of the cathedral rectory on April 1, 1981, to work for Father John J. Myers, then chancellor of the diocese.

“I’ve never thought of my position as a job. I always thought of it as a vocation,” she said. “I knew that I couldn’t be a priest, nor did I want to be a priest. I just wanted to be the best secretary I could.”

At the top of her list of fond memories is the Diocesan Eucharistic Congress in 1992, with Scott Hahn as the keynote speaker. “It was absolutely wonderful,” she said. “We had it at the Peoria Civic Center in the arena and it was packed.”

Another “awesome” event was the first Honors Mass with the Conferral of Ecclesiastical Honors in 1993.

On a more solemn note, Pearson said she vividly remembers the funerals of Bishop John B. Franz in 1992 and Bishop Edward W. O’Rourke in 1999. During her Chancery years, she had also helped Bishop O’Rourke with letters and mailings.

She had nothing but praise for her first boss, who would go on to serve as vicar general, be ordained coadjutor bishop in 1987, and installed as Bishop of Peoria on Jan. 23, 1990. A high point was when Archbishop Myers became the leader of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., on Oct. 9, 2001.

“He was a wonderful boss, wonderful. He was so very intelligent, but coming from a big family I think he was aware of people,” Pearson said, noting that she now considers the Myers siblings to be family. “He was such a pleasant man to be around.”

The two continue to stay in touch and she is clearly delighted that he remembered her on her retirement with “a lovely letter” earlier this month.

Pearson has been secretary for diocesan Office of Catechetics since 2007 and says, “I love it.”

“Dr. (Vincent) McClean has so many wonderful new ideas for our catechists,” she told The Post. “I wish I could stay around and see what he’s going to do. He promised to call me.”

She can count on it. McClean, who directs the Office of Catechetics, said Pearson will be missed.

“She has been a wonderful help to me for the two years I’ve worked with her in the office. She has a good sense of the history. She has a good sense of the personnel and the priests. And she just has very good judgment about how the office should run,” he said. “I have appreciated and enjoyed very much working with her.”

Retirement will allow Pearson to spend more time with her husband, Don, in Spring Bay and at their farm in Arkansas. They have seven children, 17 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

“I’m really a homebody. I really am,” Pearson said. “I love to read. And I hope to buy myself a keyboard because I sold my organ.”

Over the years Pearson has shared her musical talents with the people of St. Monica’s in East Peoria, St. Joseph’s in Pekin, St. Thomas the Apostle in Peoria Heights, Holy Family in Peoria. On occasion she has substituted at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

“I love to sing, too,” she said. “I keep telling Bishop Jenky that if they would put an elevator in at the cathedral I would be in the choir, but I can’t do those steps.”

Born in Peoria and raised in St. Monica’s Parish in East Peoria, Pearson said her Catholic faith has seen her through many painful and difficult times. She credits the grace of God for lifting her over many obstacles and giving her the gifts of loving and forgiving freely.

To do that, she relies on daily Mass, the rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. “And I have many prayer warriors praying for me.”

When Pearson started working for the Diocese of Peoria on that April Fool’s Day three decades ago, someone told her that if she still had her faith in two years he’d be surprised. Turns out the joke was on him.

“I said, ‘Faith is a gift from God that you have to nurture every day. No one can do it for you,” she recalled.

Pearson still does.

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