By DEIRDRE C. MAYS
CHARLESTON — Jodie Parker never meets a stranger. Ask anyone who knows her and they will tell you “it’s a pleasure to deal with Jodie.”
Her humor, warmth and willingness to help will be missed when she retires March 5 from her work as administrative assistant in the Office of Christian Formation and Education.
Over the years, her positive attitude has touched the lives of principals, teachers, school secretaries, diocesan coworkers and, her Bishop.
“If there is anyone within this staff of the offices of the diocese who has brought a smile to her work, it is Jodie Parker,” said Bishop David B. Thompson. “Jodie is a living example of Christian Joy. She made the work of anyone associated with her very pleasant. Day in and day out, Jodie preached the Gospel of joy. I thank her for that because it really corresponds to the Lord’s plea ‘Let us rejoice and be glad.'”
Parker is originally from Milwaukee, Wis. She and her husband of 44 years, Chuck, put down roots in Charleston after he was stationed at the Navy base in 1957.
Parker has worked since she was in high school, except when she was raising their three children. In September 1987, then Father Robert Kelly, superintendent of schools, caught her while she was monitoring recess at Blessed Sacrament for her grandson’s class. He asked if she would come work for the education office, and she agreed to go and work for 30 days. That agreement lasted 11 years. At the time she worked for Father Kelly, Larry Bolchoz and Franciscan Sister Agnes Assisi. She has seen the department evolve. She worked under Franciscan Sister Jane Hosch, when it became the Catholic Schools Office. She worked with H.L. Dukes Jr. and Sister Carol Ann Kleindinst when they opened Charleston Catholic School. Parker helped do a lot of the paperwork involved in the formative process.
“That was a wonderful experience to see Charleston Catholic to its fruition and what it has become,” she said.
Parker was impressed by the work of Tom Mahan, the director of Christian Formation/superintendent of schools, who combined the Offices of Catholic Schools and Religious Education to make the Department of Christian Formation. He was followed by Gay Rowzie, Ph.D.
“Tom made us a collaboration and Gay picked up where he left off,” Parker said.
Rowzie described what it was like to work with Parker.
“There’s something extremely maternal about Jodie,” Rowzie said. “She also has a great desire to be of service to the Bishop, the Church, and of personal service to me. She is also of great service to the people at the other end of the phone. People have felt that they have developed a relationship with her just talking over the phone. She’s an up person; she always has a lilt in her voice.”
Parker’s work as administrative assistant to Rowzie puts her in touch with departments including youth ministry, catechesis, campus ministry, schools, child development center and finance. Parker often eats lunch at the office. She is in the enviable position of loving her job that she comes near to tears when she talks of leaving.
“I never thought it would be this hard saying goodbye to everybody,” she explains. “My heart belongs to the principals and teachers of the Catholic schools. But the unsung heroes are the secretary of the schools. Those people work long hours and they love our children.”
She is a member of Blessed Sacrament Church and a regular for perpetual adoration. Once retired, Parker and her husband will hit the road for Branson, Mo. Then, she will continue her private ministry of helping her neighbors and volunteer at Meals on Wheels. Working for the St. Vincent de Paul is also on her “To Do” list.
“By their fruits you will know them,” quoted Father Joseph Wahl who worked across the hall from Parker. He summed up what many people think about Parker.
“There is so much positive about Jodie,” he said. “I admire her long service and the attention she gives to every detail. I have been charmed by her good graces, her kindness and infinite patience. She’s a wonderful human being and a wonderful representative of the church.”