Name: Theresa Paladino
Parish: St. Joseph Church
City: Center Ridge
Family: Widowed, with no children.
Why you want to know Theresa:
A product of one of the founding families in the area, Theresa was just finishing high school when she was approached to volunteer as church secretary. That was 40 years of evenings and weekends ago. She fills her days as a full-time customer service representative for an insurance company in Little Rock.
In her own words:
Arkansas Catholic’s theme this year is “Arkansas Catholic delivers a year of faith.” What have you done or plan to do to strengthen your faith this year?
Father Silvio D’Ostilio started an adult catechesis class after Sunday Mass, and I have been attending that. It’s really opened up a lot of questions. Being a cradle Catholic, there are a lot of things that were never explained to me in this way.
So, how exactly did you come to work in the church office?
Msgr. (Francis) McKee was here at that time. He asked if I would help keep some of the bills and things on track and it just took off from there.
Forty years is a long time to be doing anything. Especially for free.
I counted it up and I’ve been here through seven priests, three and a half bishops and four popes. I say three and a half because we had Msgr. (Gaston) Hebert in between there for a little bit (Laughs).
Small parishes work differently than large ones, especially when you have as many family members in the congregation as you do.
It is different in a small community. Sometimes I had to make decisions that were not what my relatives wanted to hear or the way they thought we should do things.
How does someone that young face that kind of pressure?
Bishop (Andrew J.) McDonald was my mentor. He used to call me and say “How are things on the hill?” I think he felt a close connection to us because we were such a small parish. He told me you have to rule with your head with a touch of your heart and that sometimes the hardest decisions you have to make are the ones that uphold the Church’s teachings. He really taught me a lot. I also relied on various offices at the Diocese of Little Rock. I can’t say enough about how tremendous they have been over the years.
You mentioned difficult times. What were the joyful times?
Seeing the community build into what it is today. At a time when a lot of small parishes are dying away, we’re very active. We started as an Italian community and since the old days, we’ve embraced others and welcomed them and made them a part of our parish family. One thing that’s unique is how the young people are staying in this parish and not moving off. I’d say our biggest age group is between 30 and 40 with kids.
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