Diocesan News

Late Parish Secretary Remembered for Kindness

Jeanne Shannon (left), Wilfredo Gomez and Mirna Roman pose with a picture of Marie Scarpelli. (Photo Paula Katinas)

OZONE PARK — When Wilfedo Gonzalez walked into the rectory of St. Elizabeth Church in Ozone Park in 2017 to interview for a job as director of religious education, the first person he met was church secretary Marie Scarpelli. 

“That was the first time she gave me candy,” he recalled, adding that Scarpelli always kept chocolates on her desk. “And it just felt like I entered another house like my home. It was just like a home with Marie there.” 

Gonzalez, who aced the interview and got the job, worked alongside Scarpelli for the next seven years. 

But now when he walks into the rectory, Gonzales doesn’t see Scarpelli there. She passed away from cancer on April 19 at age 80. The St. Elizabeth Church community is mourning the loss of the beloved secretary, who worked there for more than 35 years. 

The parish is still absorbing the news of Scarpelli’s passing and is searching for a way to pay a permanent tribute to her. 

Scarpelli, a widow with two children, was one of the unheralded but valuable people in the Diocese of Brooklyn — folks who work behind the scenes at parishes manning the phones and handling everything from clergy schedules to requests for baptismal records. 

Scarpelli was a lifelong parishioner of St. Elizabeth Church and a graduate of the parish school who had worked as the secretary since the late 1980s. 

She was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2021 and displayed courage by coming to work nearly every day, friends said. 

Gonzalez admired her dignity. “She never complained of her sickness. She would go for chemo and come back to work after. I don’t know how she did it,” he said. 

Scarpelli was so good at working through her pain that many parishioners had no idea she was ill, Gonzalez said. They learned of her cancer after her death. 

Jeanne Shannon, principal of St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy, enjoyed stopping by the rectory to see her. 

“I’d sit down and we would just chat for 15 or 20 minutes. And to be honest, it was a great sort of respite from the struggles of the job,” she admitted. 

Shannon praised Scarpelli as a selfless individual who lived according to her Catholic faith. “I saw a woman who is dedicated to her church and to her job and to her family,” she said. 

Scarpelli committed many small acts of kindness, Shannon added. “It wasn’t just that she had candy on her desk, she had the candy that you liked. In my case, it was black jelly beans,” she explained. 

Jeanne Shannon (left) and Mirna Roman look through Marie Scarpelli’s desk calendar in the rectory. The late church secretary was a detail-oriented, thoroughly organized person, they said. (Photo: Paula Kitinas)

Mirna Roman filled in for Scarpelli on vacations. “I was her substitute. But she hardly ever took a vacation,” she said. 

Roman marveled at Scarpelli’s organizational skills. The secretary left notes everywhere as a guide. Each appointment in her calendar was written in neat handwriting, she recalled. 

“She’s irreplaceable. You can never replace someone like Marie,” she added.