Friday, October 12th, 2012

St. Augustine's Schafer retiring

Administrative assistant will be honored Sunday for her 44 years of service

By Margie Wuebker
MINSTER - Connie Schafer, administrative assistant at St. Augustine Catholic Church, has seen many changes over the course of 44 years. And with more changes on the horizon, she feels the time has come to retire.
"I made the decision, and the hardest part was telling Rev. Rick Nieberding (the current pastor) of my plans," the 62-year-old Minster resident said. "There are big changes coming from the archdiocese in terms of a universal bookkeeping system for all parishes, and I decided this old dog has learned enough tricks over the years."  
Schafer will be honored Sunday during an 11:30 a.m. Mass at St. Augustine. A reception will follow 1-4 p.m. at the Minster Knights of Columbus Hall.
She recalled her first day on the job - Sept. 16, 1968 - as if it were yesterday. She came to the rectory for a morning interview with Rev. John Spatt and became the parish's first full-time office employee that afternoon.
Her duties included answering the telephone, greeting visitors, counting and recording Sunday collections and preparing the weekly bulletin.
The latter task involved transferring what the pastor had written in longhand to stencils and then reproducing everything via mimeograph machine. The process went off without a hitch until the blizzard of 1978. That marked the only time folks went without a bulletin.
"I had an IBM electric typewriter and a roll top desk in the beginning," she said. "The coming of computer technology certainly changed everything."
New duties came along like recording minutes following the establishment of the parish council in the wake of Vatican II.
"Parishioners began to take a more active role in the church as eucharistic ministers, lectors and CCD teachers," she said. "That was a welcome change because people are the church."
In addition to Spatt and Nieberding, she has worked for five other pastors - Revs. Joseph Pax, Larry Wyen, Tom Brenberger, William Hoyng and Louis Schmit. Staff members also have come and gone with the latest additions being her replacements - administrative assistant Cindy Wuebker and part-time business manager Leslie Tyler.
The most trying time in her career occurred in 1976 when a traffic accident claimed the lives of eight local teens. Pews were removed from the church to accommodate the caskets. Numeous local and national media came to cover the funerals.
"That was a time when I didn't like my job very much," she said. "It was not easy dealing with the sadness let alone all the media questions."
Thankfully there have been lighter moments. She smiled recalling ongoing discussions about installing restrooms in church. Parish council members finally approved the project.
"When janitor Norb Eiting was notified the following morning, we learned he and Deacon Scott Kramer had knocked out the walls the previous afternoon," she said. "I don't know what would have happened if the vote had turned out differently."
Schafer once had an opportunity to meet all newcomers when they came to the rectory office to register. Now they simply handle the process over the phone. Everybody seems to be busier these days, meaning fewer people stop by the office to chat.
Schafer plans to continue as substitute Eucharistic minister at the Wednesday children's Masses and as a member of the Mission Commission and the Arts and Environment Committee, which is responsible for decorating the church. She has agreed to remain in charge of financial details for the parish's ongoing $800,000 capital fund drive, which has resulted in a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system among other things. The three-year project ends in 2014.
She remains active in the community as a member of the Minster Civic Association, Service Club, Tree Commission, Book Club and the Auglaize County Library Board. She also holds the distinction of being the first female president of the Minster Oktoberfest Committee and the former Minster Kiwanis Club.
"I will be available if needed because a person cannot totally walk away from something that's been a part of daily life for 44 years," she said.
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