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Betsy McNeil: the face of Jesus from behind the desk

St. Vincent de Paul Church volunteer strives to make everyone feel welcomed

Published: July 5, 2013   
Alesia Schaefer
Betsy McNeil displays the contents of her pockets. Each item — the crucifix, rosary and the ball bearing — reminds her of the importance of modeling Jesus in her job.

Name: Betsy McNeil

Parish: St. Vincent de Paul Parish

City: Rogers

Age: 61

Family: Married to Don McNeil for 29 years, widowed for 12 years; three adult children; and seven grandchildren.

Why you want to know Betsy: McNeil works as the “face” of the second largest parish in the diocese as the information coordinator at the church’s front desk. She is the warm smile, kind word and caring voice that greets every parishioner who walks through the doors of St. Vincent de Paul Parish. Although she is not bilingual, she always finds the help, person or answer for her Hispanic neighbors in the parish. She has been actively involved in the parish for more than 25 years and has served in all facets of the parish, beginning as a school parent, by helping implement and kick off the Life Teen program at the church, serving on the secretariat for Cursillo , working as the spiritual director for Beginning Experience, a ministry for widowed and divorced, and currently serving as a member of the spiritual formation program at St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith.


Being the “gatekeeper” can be a stressful job at such an active parish of this size. How do you stay so upbeat and positive for all those you meet?

I have a timer set to go off every hour when I am working at the front desk. When it does, I pause and pray for a few minutes, also using Sister Macrina Wiederkehr’s book “Sacred Pauses” for the meditations. Often other staff members or people who are at the desk will join me. It helps me realize what this job is all about.

So often people struggle with understanding if they are doing God’s will for their life, you seem content and joyful where you are. What’s your secret?

After my husband died, I felt like the Lord gave me one of the beatitudes to follow and that is, “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.” I believe God gave that beatitude to me as a directive of what he wants me to do. I feel God sees me as a ball bearing, like in machinery, to keep things running smoothly, to keep things peaceful. When I am operating in my gifts at St. Vincent de Paul that is how I truly experience Jesus Christ in my life on a daily basis. As a spiritual director, as well, my joy is in sharing my Catholic faith.

The joy you have for your faith is so evident in your daily life and in how you communicate with others. You said you keep a ball bearing in your pocket as a daily reminder of what Jesus has called you to do. What else keeps you on task for the Lord?

I also keep a rosary in my left pocket, for help from my favorite saint, the Blessed Mother, and a crucifix in my right pocket to remind me to see Christ in the people I meet. I’m blessed to be on the front lines of seeing miracles in people’s lives daily. When people ask about my job, I know that my job is heaven sent because I am actually being paid to talk about Jesus.

Do you have a favorite book and/or devotion right now?

I was recently introduced to the devotion of “Mary, Undoer of Knots” and I have since discovered that this is one of Pope Francis’ favorite devotions and decided it needed to be a devotion of mine, too. I also am reading a book called “Francis” so I can learn more about our Holy Father’s patron saint.  

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