Mary Ellen Misiewicz took a job as a para-secretary at Our Lady of Sorrows Church shortly after moving to Linwood in 1968, because the position's flexibility and proximity to her home allowed her to be there for her school-age children.
Having spent her adult life to that point moving from appointment to appointment with her air traffic controller husband, Victor, Misiewicz didn't think she'd be around long.
She was wrong.
On May 30, Misiewicz retired after 45 years with the parish. While she said she never expected to spend more than four decades in the position, looking back, she's glad she did.
"I never thought that in my life," Misiewicz said. "Never planned it, but it worked out. Got through all the kids."
Misiewicz joined the parish just a few years after its building was constructed at the corner of Maple and Wabash Avenues, and in that time has served under five priests.
The Rev. Paul Harte is the latest priest to join the parish, having been appointed by the bishop to work alongside Cal LaVerde in February. While he has had only a relatively short time to get to know Misiewicz, he said he has quickly come to appreciate all she does for the parish.
"What I've most enjoyed is her sense of genuine commitment to the priests, to the people in the parish," Harte said. "There's nothing she wouldn't do."
Before her retirement, Misiewicz was treated to a luncheon with her church office colleagues, and on May 30 was honored with an open house, during which the community was invited to bid farewell to the longtime employee.
Dozens of former and current church members and employees filtered into the office to enjoy light refreshments, give their thanks and wish Misiewicz well in her retirement.
Sylvie Danzenbaker, who started attending the church 49 years ago and has known Misiewicz since she joined, said Misiewicz has become an important member of the church community.
"She's kept everything going smoothly, and she's done things ... I'm not sure everyone knows what she's done," Danzenbaker said. "She's done so much."
Traveling has always been a hobby of Misiewicz and her husband, but they have usually only been able to commit to a few weeks each year. Now that they're both retired, they plan to spend more time on the road, and will next visit the Catskill Mountains in New York in June.
While Misiewicz no longer will be a fixture in the church office, she plans to remain a member of the church and attend services when she's not away. And while she'll be around less, her presence still will be felt, Harte said.
"Nobody will be able to take her place," Harte said. "We've hired a new person to take over her role as the para-secretary, but she'll still be welcomed back, and I'm sure I'll still be calling her for information."
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