In 1970, Sue Pieroni walked into Our Lady of the Lake Church in Lake Village to apply for the secretary position and made a promise.
“Father (Bernard) Bolds told me, he said, ‘Are you going to promise you will stay?’ He had trouble keeping a secretary. It was part-time,” she said. “And I said, ‘OK, Father, I will stay.’ I kept my promise.”
Pieroni, 76, affectionately known to all as “Ms. Sue,” retired from secretary of the Chicot County parish Oct. 31 after 50 years.
“I loved my job. I want you to know this -- I think the good Lord put me in that spot. I think that’s where I was supposed to be,” she said.
Pieroni grew up Baptist and met her Italian husband Vincent Pieroni when he and his friends visited her hometown of Eudora, about 17 miles from Lake Village.
“Those guys used to ride down to Eurdora and wanted to see all us pretty girls down there and that’s how we got tied up,” she said.
They married in 1962.
Pieroni worked at a bank when the part-time secretarial position opened. At the time, she was not Catholic but soon converted under instruction from Father Bolds.
“Oh heavens no,” she said laughing, about whether she imagined working 50 years for the parish.
They were good years. While her husband farmed and her five children attended St. Mary School, which closed in May 2015 after 107 years, she kept the church running. She also did accounting for the school.
“I’d be there at 7:30 a.m. and go unlock the church most of the time. Go to Mass most of the time when I could,” Pieroni said. “... I had something different I’d do every day. Count the collection, go to the bank, make the deposit, record all the donations and everything. Tuesday I’d pay all the bills. I had a little schedule. When we had the school, it was really busy around there.”
The school closing was the worst thing to happen, she said.
“It was just a good place,” she said. “They got a wonderful education. When our children would leave St. Mary’s and go to other places after eighth grade, they were always top students in their school, wherever they went.”
Pieroni said she’s worked for at least eight priests, including Father Erik Pohlmeier from 2001-2005, who is now pastor at Christ the King Church in Little Rock.
“What he said was his biggest accomplishment in Lake Village was getting Ms. Sue to use the computer,” she laughed.
Father Stephen Hart, pastor of Our Lady of the Lake, said in an email interview with Arkansas Catholic that when he came to the parish two years ago, “I noticed Ms. Sue’s constancy and her personal humility, talents that are needed when you are the secretary of a parish. She always treated visitors and guests with respect and never sought to draw attention to herself. I had to cajole her a bit about giving the parish an opportunity to recognize and thank her for her service.”
Lisa Casali, the new secretary, said she has “very, very big shoes to fill” but was grateful to be trained by Pieroni before stepping into the role.
“She always goes above and beyond not only her office duties, but other things as well. I just feel so blessed to have the opportunity to step into that position,” she said.
While Pieroni had her set responsibilities, she’s not one to sit still. If she noticed something needed to be done, she did it.
“I’m just a country girl. I love to work. A lot of times I would even mow the yard around there or wash the garage there. I’d just do whatever needs to be done,” she said.
Pieoroni said she hated to quit, but it was time. And though retired, she’s hardly slowing down.
“I do miss going up to the office every day, but I still enjoy being at home. I haven’t had a free minute this week. There’s always something to do,” she said.
She said she is grateful for 50 years of memories.
“For that opportunity to do that, I thank the good Lord every day,” she said.
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