When Sue Kohles and her husband, Mike, joined St. Leo’s 15 years ago, she didn’t anticipate that God would lead her into being quite as fully immersed in the parish as she is now. When their daughter, Nikki, started attending Grand Island Central Catholic High School, they felt that being a part of the Catholic community here was important, even though they lived on a farm just outside of Cairo. After attending several of the area parishes, they found that St. Leo’s just felt like home.
“One of the things that really impacted me was that this is really a singing parish,” Sue says. “I grew up Methodist and singing is a big part of that church. So for me, this detail made me feel very at home here.”
When the family first joined the parish, Sue naturally got involved in the Music Ministry as a cantor. She also joined a women’s group and the Prayer Chain. In addition, Mike and Sue worked to facilitate small groups in the parish to build community.
“We helped with Confirmation classes once Nikki started that,” Sue says. “When your child is a part of something, we felt we needed to step up and help with it as well.”
When they got out of farming, Sue found herself looking for a job. The first year she worked at Central Catholic, but when some of the assisting roles were restructured, she found herself looking again. The job of Office Manager here at St. Leo’s opened up and she decided to see if that was the right fit.
“I love that I am the first face of St. Leo’s,” Sue says. “I greet people and it is so important to me to have a bright, welcoming face for everyone who comes in. Beyond that, I am a bit of a jack of all trades. I pay all the bills and I am the secretary for the Finance Committee and Parish Council. I handle scheduling for the parish as well as keeping track of Mass intentions. I am Fr. Don’s right hand and we handle anything that comes up.”
Sue has always felt that it is important to be a part of the “working side” of the parish.
“If we are going to be involved in a parish, we didn’t want to just be Sunday goers,” she says. “Being a part of how the church runs and serves others is important to us.”
Working for the parish has helped Sue grow in her spiritual life, as well. The opportunity to attend daily Mass and having the ability to go to the chapel has been a special part of this job for her.
“When things are stressful, I can sit and pray or I can reach out to others to ask for prayers,” she says. “Not many jobs offer that.”
Another big benefit of working for the parish is getting to know the members of the church.
“It has been great getting to know people beyond the faces that you see in the pews around you at Mass,” Sue says. “Becoming friends with the daily Mass attendees has been one of my favorite parts of this job. They come in and visit or just wave ‘hello’ if they know I am busy. The ministries that meet during the day stop and say ‘hello’ and it is just so welcoming for the whole parish.”
The running of a parish has a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Sue experienced a steep learning curve when she first took the job, but she has felt that it has been so rewarding.
“It was very challenging when I first started because there was just so much to learn,” she says. “But it has been the most rewarding job I have had. I have found that working here is one way that I can give back to the community — not just our parish community, but the surrounding community as well. I am a representative of the parish when we are involved in projects outside of the parish, such as the Annual Coat Drive. I have the opportunity to correct fallacies about the church if someone makes comments to me or just be a witness for the church and what it does.”
The role of Office Manager is a job, but it is also an opportunity to serve the parish community. Being an integral part of the parish and how it runs has given Sue the ability to be more involved and grow in her spiritual life. Being the welcoming, friendly face of the parish is a role she is grateful to get to fill.