Her Phone Never Stops Ringing
ELMHURST — Evelyn Sánchez was sitting at her desk in the rectory of St. Bartholomew Church, speaking on the phone and patiently explaining to the caller that information on how to have a baby baptized could be found on the parish’s website. When the caller didn’t seem to grasp what she was saying, she guided the person over the phone, describing in detail how to navigate the website.
Shortly after that call, Sánchez’s phone rang again. This time, it was someone who wanted a letter of reference from the parish. Sánchez explained that such letters are only given to parishioners who are registered with the parish and have been active in the church for at least three months.
“You have to come to church every Sunday,” she gently told the caller.
A few minutes later, a man came to the door requesting that a Mass be said for a relative. Sánchez conversed with him in Spanish and wrote the Mass intention in a ledger she keeps on her desk. She also took a quick look at her inbox to see how many emails had come in.
Then, her phone rang … again. And again.
All this took place within a span of minutes. “And today’s a slow day,” Sánchez said.
Sánchez, the secretary-administrative assistant for St. Bartholomew Church, Elmhurst, is one of the dedicated people working in church offices across the Diocese of Brooklyn helping to keep parishes running smoothly. They don’t get much attention. Sánchez allowed The Tablet to spend some time with her on March 9 to give a taste of what her job is like.
Sánchez has worked at St. Bartholomew for six years. She works Monday to Friday and her day starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. The rectory is closed from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. so that the staff can take lunch.
Sánchez has lived in Queens since coming to the U.S. from her native El Salvador nearly 40 years ago. She was a parishioner of St. Bartholomew for many years but moved six years ago and now belongs to St. Paul the Apostle Church, Corona.
Prior to her job at St. Bartholomew, Sánchez worked at a law firm and then served as an assistant to then-Father James Massa before he was named auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn. Bishop Massa is currently the rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary and College.
Sánchez loves her job: “I’m blessed to be here. I like talking to people and helping them. I’m a people person.”
Sánchez works closely with Raúl Ortiz, the administrative assistant who has been on the job for nine years. “It’s a pleasure to work with him,” she said.
She enjoys working with the parish priests and has great admiration for Father Rick Beuther, the pastor. “He’s a wonderful man and he does so much for people,” she said. It was Father Beuther who interviewed her for the job and hired her.
In mid-morning, the mail carrier came to deliver the mail. Sánchez placed the stack on her desk and started going through it.
A rectory can be a hectic place. “It’s a lot of phone calls, although we don’t get as many as we used to,” Sánchez said. “People usually call because they have a question, and a lot of information is on our website. Also, we have an answering service that directs the person when they call. Not all of the calls come to my desk.”
Parishioners seeking to meet with a priest submit the request online through the parish website. Sánchez checks the site several times throughout the day to answer parishioners and schedule the meetings.
St. Bartholomew, which celebrates Masses in English, Spanish and Chinese, serves a diverse community that includes immigrants from Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, and other countries in Central and South America. There are also many people from the Philippines as well as a sizable Chinese central population.
While automation has cut down the number of phone calls she gets, her phone was constantly ringing that morning. Plus, “we get a lot of visitors,” she said.