Parish Worker Says Job Is a Blessing
When Socorro DeLoach is asked about her greatest source of satisfaction as a Glenmary parish worker, she says simply, "I have the greatest boss in the world—God. I'm working for him!"
Socorro has worked at the Sandhill, Ga., mission since 2005, but her relationship with Glenmary began over 26 years ago. After growing up in her native Mexico, she met and married Lionel DeLoach, an American who worked for a company near her town. When he retired in 1986, the couple moved with their four young children to his hometown of Glennville, Ga. Socorro and the children all have dual citizenships.
Glenmary's St. Jude mission became their parish, where the children grew up in the faith and the DeLoaches were very active parish members.
But 18 years later, in 2004, change was underway in the Georgia missions. Glenmary returned St. Jude to the Diocese of Savannah for continued care. Glenmary also established the new Our Lady of Guadalupe mission in the nearby town of Sandhill, where members of the growing Spanish-speaking Catholic population formed the congregation.
Change was coming in Socorro's life, too. She had been volunteering as a religious education teacher and in other roles at St. Jude for many years. But after Spanish-speaking families from the parish joined the new Sandhill mission, Socorro soon became a valuable volunteer there.
Personal tragedy struck in 2005 when her husband passed away. Later that same year, then-pastor Father Brian LaBurt asked Socorro if she would accept a paid position as a parish worker at the new mission.
‘My children were all graduated from college and married with families. And my husband was gone," she says. "I wasn't sure what to do next in my life. So when Father Brian offered me the job, it was a real blessing, like God was opening a new door for me." She has been there ever since.
"I'm not important or special," she says. "I don't do this work for the money or recognition, but because I love God and the people."
Glenmary Father Bob Poandl now pastors the Claxton, Pembroke and Sandhill, Ga., missions. Since he can't be in all the missions at once, he relies on dedicated, dependable team members who can share the workload. In Sandhill, which now has over 175 parishioners, Socorro is that person.
"One of my responsibilities is to lead the religious education program with the help of our volunteer catechists," she says. "At the beginning, I also had to organize several other parish ministries and find parishioners who could lead them. Now that the leaders are comfortable with their jobs, I can be less involved."
But she adds that she still needs to communicate frequently with all of them about how their ministries are going and what they need, and she still helps supervise activities.
As religious education director, she also teaches adult religious education, with Father Bob's assistance, and confirmation preparation at Sandhill—as well as baptism and quinceañera preparation (girls' 15th-birthday celebrations) for all three missions.
In addition, she helps coordinate the outreach to migrant workers who come to the area twice a year to plant and harvest the Vidalia onion crop, and helps organize the Christmas giving program for needy children. She has even led Word and Communion services when needed.
Her office duties include keeping some mission records and producing weekly bulletins for three missions.
Then there are the other parts of her job—what she calls being the "bridge," at times, between parish members and the pastor, and being a good friend.
"People come to me with personal problems," she says. "I thank the Lord they trust me. I feel good about working with them because the mission members are my second family and I believe I can count on them, too. I try my best to listen and help. But whenever it's a problem that calls for Father Bob's help, the parishioner or I contact him."
She always prays "that God will put the right words in my mouth. And when I see good results later, or see persons getting stronger in their faith and doing better in their lives, it makes me very happy."
Socorro has loved being part of Glenmary missions because, she says, the priests, brothers and coworkers are really in touch with the people and care about them, so they can serve them better.
One of her other talents and loves is art. Through the years, Socorro has often used this talent to help her church and larger community when asked—for a sanctuary mural at St. Jude, large historic wall murals in the town, and backdrops for school events (co-artist); illustrations for other churches' cookbooks; prints of her original art for fundraiser auctions; and more.
And when she encounters challenges in her job or life, Socorro does the best she can and keeps going because, as she says, "I love God and the people."
This article originally appeared in the February 2011 Boost-A-Month Club newsletter.