Danville parish ‘a big family’ for secretary marking 30 years

By: By Jennifer Willems

DANVILLE — How do you plan a surprise celebration for someone when the person you’re honoring generally helps to plan parish celebrations?

In the case of Mary Rothery, parish secretary at Holy Family Church here, it happens with a lot of good humor and love, just as it would in any family.
Rothery celebrated her 30th anniversary at Holy Family on Aug. 16 and her birthday on Aug. 17 — “I’m not going to say how old I am, but I started when I was 33,” she said with a chuckle.

To mark her anniversary, parishioners gathered for a brunch and open house between the morning Masses on Sunday, Aug. 26.

It’s those very people who have kept her at the Danville parish for so long, serving in so many ways.

“It’s just one big family,” Rothery told The Catholic Post. “They’ve always been a family to me. You can call on anybody and they’d help you.”

Her long relationship with her parish family started in 1982, when it was still known as St. Patrick’s Parish. One of the secretaries was getting ready to leave and asked Rothery if she would consider working there part time.

“I never gave it a second thought. I said, ‘Sure,'” Rothery recalled. “I was making more money at Sears, but I came in and talked to Father Dennis O’Riley.”

He was the first of “four fantastic priests” she has served under and it was his “wonderful sense of humor” that she remembers most.

Working with him as co-pastor was Father Robert Hoffman, who succeeded him in 1985. Rothery said he was soft-spoken and kind and she appreciated his ecumenical spirit.

She credits Canon J.J. Flattery, who was named pastor in 1989, with encouraging her to try new things.

“He would say, ‘You can do it.’ I found out there were many things that I could do if you put your mind to it,” she explained. “He’s been a great teacher — is a great teacher.”

The current pastor is Father Ted Pracz, and “everybody just loves him,” Rothery said. “One of his favorite sayings to us is, ‘The Spirit will guide you.’ That’s something I’ve learned from him.”

Not only has the Spirit guided her to be a listening ear and soft shoulder for parishioners in times of need, but it has helped her share a friendly smile and ready laugh at the many celebrations she has planned with Darlene Carter. Among them were 50th anniversary dinners for Father O’Riley, Canon Flattery and Father Hoffman, and countless ice cream socials.

“It’s the celebrations you remember,” Rothery said.

She has cooked dinners for the priests (and the bishop, on occasion), worked in the Holy Family Credit Union for 20 years, is Canon Flattery’s housekeeper, cleans the rectory — “you name it and I’ve probably done it at one point or another. It was fun. I haven’t minded it at all.”

For the last four years Rothery has lived in the parish house, making her the go-to person whenever somebody needs to get into church. She has also been known to take the snow blower and clear the sidewalk on winter mornings.

In addition to giving of her time and talent, Rothery has received loving support from her parish family, which was there for her through major surgery and the death of her son.

“A lot of things have happened in the last 30 years,” she said. “If I hadn’t had my friends and family here at church — they’ve made it a lot easier to accept those things and go on. I guess this is where God wanted me to be.”

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