‘Let’s Talk With Lydia’ Ending at St. Vincent Pallotti Church
Editor’s Note: The following article by Loretta Fulton first was published in the West Texas Angelus, the newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of San Angelo.
By Loretta Fulton
Every priest serving St. Vincent Pallotti Catholic Church in Abilene since 1985 has at one time or another said the same words when confronted with an issue that needed a decision.
“Let’s talk with Lydia,” they would say.
That’s been the observation of Monica Garcia, a longtime church member and one of the many admirers of Lydia Rodriguez, who is retiring in April as St. Vincent administrative assistant after thirty-six years.
“She’s like the backbone of our church,” said Garcia, director of clinical education in speech pathology and an instructor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Abilene Christian University.
After April, the current priest, Father Emilio Sosa, and his successors won’t have Rodriguez to consult any longer–unless they talk her into being a volunteer consultant after she retires. And that probably wouldn’t be hard to do. Lydia already was a member of St. Vincent when she was hired as secretary to Father Jim Lynes in 1985, and she loves the parish with her whole heart.
An invitation-only catered dinner will be held for Rodriguez on April 9. After that, less formal come and go receptions will be held between Masses on dates to be determined. Her last day in the office hasn’t been determined yet because she is training her replacement, who also is a member of St. Vincent.
Rodriguez, 68, was born in Sweetwater and grew up in Roscoe, just west of Abilene. She and her husband, Carlos, have nine children–four of his, four of hers, and one from their marriage. And they have twenty grandchildren in Abilene, San Antonio, and Jenks, Oklahoma.
“Pretty much all of them are here,” Rodriguez said.
Even so, trips to Jenks and San Antonio will be on the retirement list after Rodriguez rests up a bit. She doesn’t see herself sitting still for long and isn’t sure about the word “retirement.”
“I don’t know how long I can do that,” she said.
Rodriguez started work in the St. Vincent church office on April 8, 1985. Since then, she has worked with eight priests, three associate priests, and two sisters. Her first job was answering the phone and taking messages for Father Jim Lynes, who was priest at St. Vincent from 1985 to 1988. Since then, it’s been a constant learning curve.
“I learned that every priest I worked for had their own ways of doing things,” Rodriguez said. “So, I had to learn again.”
Rodriguez proved to be quick learner and the person that everyone in the church has called on from time to time. That may be for an official record or for something less formal like a bit of historical knowledge.
Through the years, Rodriguez added to her official duties, taking on bookkeeping chores, creating the bulletins, keeping records of the church sacraments, and working at the popular Cinco de Mayo Festival. She especially enjoyed the festival, but tackled the other jobs with enthusiasm. A source of pride for Rodriguez is preparing the audit for the diocese. Every time the parish got a new priest, an audit was required. Getting the requested items to the diocese made Rodriguez nervous, but apparently she had no need to worry.
“The audits were always good,” she said, “so I guess you can say I was doing my job well.”
Rodriguez can rest assured that everyone she knows at St. Vincent, including clergy and lay members, believes she has done her job well.
Working in the parish office has proved to be a learning experience for Rodriguez beyond official duties. With each new priest, she learned more about her faith and watched it deepen.
“My faith has grown through the years,” she said. “I’m very proud to be a Catholic.”
PRIESTS THAT LYDIA RODRIGUEZ WORKED WITH
Fr. Jim Lynes 1985-88
Fr. Steve Hicks 1988-Fr.
Joe Uecker 1993-2004
Fr. Santiago 2004-2005
Fr. Terry Brenon 2005-2016
Fr. Rodney White 2016-2017
Fr. Lorenzo Hatch 2017-2018
Fr. Emilio Sosa 2018-present
Loretta Fulton is creator and editor of Spirit of Abilene
Lydia is truly a Christian servant. She has been loyal to the Abilene Association of Congregations (AAC) and hopefully will continue to be on board in her retirement. I wish for her the very best in this transition.
Thank you so much Jim for your kind words. I plan to enjoy my retirement and continue to ministry to my church.
Congratulations, Lydia. That fact that you worked successfully with that many priests over that many years speaks volumes about your character. I hope you have a long and happy retirement.
It was a blessing for me to work with them all. My faith grew stronger with each and everyone of them. I will surely enjoy my retirement.