By Eric Brooks
Melissa Zuk is the Marketing and Communications Manager at Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Her journey to our parish culminated when her family bought a home “literally five minutes away from Our Lady” and we were in need of a marketing and communications manager. Arguably her journey to the parish began at The Ohio State University.
As a self-described introvert, Melissa recognized that being at a massive university could easily cause her to be lost in those masses. She sought out smaller groups to form connections, and sophomore year played on the club rugby team. While Melissa enjoyed the camaraderie and competition, there was a strong partying culture that eventually turned her away from the sport. The next summer, her brother’s girlfriend’s aunt sent Melissa an email asking her if she knew about St. Paul’s Outreach (SPO). Melissa did not, but was put in touch with one of SPO’s recently graduated student leaders and met her for coffee. Clearly the Holy Spirit was helping her to find a home at OSU.
According to SPO, “Our mission is to build transformational communities that form missionary disciples for life.” They recognize the vast majority of universities are almost militantly secular and Catholic students are lonely and isolated from God, but are also hungry for truth, meaning, and relationships. This was true with Melissa and in participating with SPO she was able to go beyond attending weekly mass because, “that’s what good people do.” She found a home in that ministry and came to understand the Catholic faith is what she personally believed. As Melissa states, “I embraced my Catholic identity.”
In yet another sense, Melissa was coming home in embracing her Catholic heritage. Her mother’s parents are devoutly Catholic, and their children, grandchildren, cousins, and other family members have carried on that faith. She describes her grandparents as the closest she has come to knowing living saints and they laid the first bricks in the foundation of her own faith.
Through SPO, Melissa also met her future husband, Andrew, and they attempted to create a home in Los Angeles where he worked in the film industry in Hollywood. At the time she was drawing on her degrees in marketing and graphic design as well as a burgeoning skill in photography. However, working for a small lunchbox company was professionally rewarding but left her with a void in wanting to help other people. The cost of living also left them wondering if they could ever raise a family in California, and they were far from family.
The Holy Spirit was at work again when they attended a parish mission featuring Matthew Kelly of Dynamic Catholic. Melissa and her husband had already decided to move back to Ohio because of her mother-in-law’s health; they needed to be closer to home. After researching Dynamic Catholic, she discovered the organization was based in Cincinnati and applied for a position. With all of their belongings packed away for the move and with the time difference, Melissa sat on an empty living room floor and had a telephone interview ridiculously early in the morning. And was hired.
After having worked for Dynamic Catholic for a year and a half, Melissa’s husband accepted a position in Columbus with a non-profit. During their move, she perused the Diocese of Columbus website and literally, the first job listing was for a marketing and communications coordinator at St. Brendan’s in Hilliard. Clearly the Holy Spirit was at work yet again.
While the young family continued to worship at St. Brendan’s after purchasing their new home in Grove City, at times it became ridiculous to drive almost an hour when Our Lady was five minutes away. Melissa and her husband had some trepidation about the parish, but once they began to truly know our parishioners and parish, they knew they had “found a home.”
Melissa has worked in her new role at Our Lady for slightly over a year. In it she has dual goals of keeping the parish informed as well as to evangelize our Catholic faith to the larger Grove City community. As she explained, we are not a parish for the Catholics of Grove City, but the Catholic parish for all of Grove City. It can be a daunting task considering many of the misconceptions other Christians have regarding Catholics, but she wants the entire community to feel welcome at our parish and to let that community know who we are and what we believe. One of Melissa’s best tools for this is our various events; Trunk or Treat, Feast Day, and the Parish Festival. Obviously COVID has curtailed many of these outreaches, but she continues working to spread our faith into the community.
Her most challenging issue has been balancing long-range planning with putting out fires. Melissa knows many of these strategic plans are extremely important and will greatly benefit the parish, but the past year has taught us all that emergencies can arise at any moment. In what seems a lifetime ago I had a manager who explained long-term plans are great, but sometimes you just need to “stop the bleeding” and that is what every parish has been doing since the pandemic exploded last spring. Despite that, Melissa embraces her position as a vocation and her greatest joy is hoping it will “build up the Kingdom of God.”
In her position, Melissa has a diverse set of responsibilities spanning several different disciplines. However, she knows God has placed her in this role and given her the tools to succeed in it. Her university education gave her a solid foundation in marketing and graphic design while her first job added extensive photography experience to her skillset. Her second job immersed her in social media and working for Dynamic Catholic proved how fulfilling it was to work professionally in furtherance of her faith. All of this has combined at Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
Outside of being a parish staff member, Melissa enjoys running and has competed in half-marathons and similar races. She is also an avid boardgamer since college and enjoys sewing and knitting, particularly things such as her children’s Halloween costumes. Melissa’s son also enjoys baking with her, and speaking of children, the Zuk family is currently expecting their third child and second daughter this May. Please join me in congratulating them.
When I asked Melissa what drew her and her family to our parish, she immediately responded that it felt like home—the first parish that felt like home since she had been married. Melissa feels as her family is part of our community and she is excited for her children to soon join our parochial school. She is particularly enthusiastic regarding the work Julie Freeman was done with the school and that Julie Dilley has done with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. (If you are curious regarding Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, I will be interviewing Julie Dilley soon, keep reading the bulletin!)
Melissa describes becoming the Marketing & Communications Manager at Our Lady as a process and she certainly joined our parochial staff during a volatile time. Despite that, she is proud to help shepherd Our Lady through its crises. I am reminded of a recent scripture reading, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” (Lk. 15:3 – 5)
I am uncertain whether Melissa is the shepherd or the sheep, but either is an apt description for her. Regardless, she has come home.