There are countless behind-the-scenes tasks that come with running a parish.
Mitchell knows firsthand what has to be done: entering weekly offertory
contributions and donations from special collections, maintaining the
parish census and keeping sacramental records up to date. Answering the
phones, greeting visitors and even some light cleaning duties are part
of the gig, too.
It’s not glamorous work, but it is essential to
keeping a parish operating smoothly. Mitchell has been doing it for more
than 50 years, beginning with her first secretary position at the
former St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Florissant. Today, the
95-year-old continues her service to the Church, working one day a week
at St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Parish in Florissant.
“Jesus keeps wanting me to work for His Church,” Mitchell said. “I’ve loved every minute of it.”
all, Mitchell has given 52 years of service to the Archdiocese of St.
Louis, beginning at St. Thomas the Apostle in 1970, when founding pastor
Father Francis Matyas hired her full time at the rate of $1 an hour.
the duties, Mitchell prepared the bulletin using an old printing
machine in the basement, printing 300 copies every week, and stuffing
bulletins with extra notices when needed.
“I ruined so many clothes with that ink,” she joked. “But I loved every minute of it.”
also helped keep track of offertory contributions and recording
sacraments, answered the phones and on occasion helped with cleaning and
laundry. Mitchell served in that role for 35 years.
“Father Matyas was a dear pastor,” Mitchell said, adding that she was the lector at his funeral Mass in 2009.
also recalled working with another priest at St. Thomas the Apostle,
then-Father Vincent Bommarito, who served his first pastorate there from
“He was such a delight to work for,” she said. “He’d
park the car and come up the steps yelling, ‘Wilma!’ He would cook lunch
for me, too — he was such a good cook, too. And we’re still friends.”
With their birthdays only a few days apart, Mitchell still sends Msgr.
Bommarito a card on his birthday and calls at the holidays.
Bommarito, now pastor of St. Joan of Arc Parish in St. Louis, described
Mitchell as the heart of the parish. “Everybody knew her. She’d want to
know about their whole history,” he said. “The best thing about Wilma
was she is an incredible, kind and welcoming person,” and the first
person a guest who is coming into the Catholic faith should meet, he
There’s only one thing that comes above her service to the
Church — her grandchildren. “Her grandkids walk on water, right next to
Jesus,” Msgr. Bommarito joked.
In 2005, St. Thomas the Apostle
merged with St. Dismas and Our Lady of Fatima parishes to form St. Rose
Philippine Duchesne. Mitchell continued working at St. Rose. The parish
merger eventually led to a reduction in hours in 2008.
fill the gap, Father Joe Weber, who worked with Mitchell when he was
associate pastor at St. Thomas in the 1980s, hired her at St. Justin
Martyr in 2008 when he was pastor there. She worked there part time for
12 years until the pandemic in 2020.
Every Tuesday, Mitchell
arrives early to get to her work. She stays until midday and then
attends her regular eucharistic adoration time from noon-1 p.m. A former
regular with the parish quilter’s group, Mitchell still helps organize
the group’s finances.
Mitchell is the oldest of six children, and
the last surviving sibling. She and her husband, Thomas, who died 17
years ago, would have marked their 75th wedding anniversary this year.
Her two children are grown, and she’s been blessed with four
grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“God has been good to me,” she said.