Theresa Bayes is hesitant to take credit for herself, preferring to refer to everything as team effort. She would rather discuss how wonderful Julia and Emily are on the finance staff, how lucky she is to have Amy Woloshan as the head of the Finance Council, and how thankful she is for our parish volunteers. In fact, I believe Theresa spoke more often about Ann Voight’s contributions to Our Lady of Perpetual Help than she did her own. This reminds me of the ending to a prayer asking for St. Martha’s intercession that I am fond of, “I ask you Saint Martha, by your intercession to help me in overcoming all my difficulties and to teach me to become great in the Kingdom of Heaven by becoming as humble as you in this world.”
Having known, worked with, and now interviewed Theresa, she is very much becoming great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
As with many of our clerical and lay leadership, Theresa’s path to OLPH was not a direct one. She has always shown an affinity for numbers and considered herself a bookkeeper. For 18 years she worked in that capacity for the diocese, maintaining the accounting books for its Catholic cemeteries. While Theresa enjoyed the work, it was “a lonely job” with her solitary office buried in the basement at St. Joseph Cemetery; pun intended. For anyone who has seen the iconic movie, Office Space, I am reminded of the quotation, “Milt, we’re gonna need to go ahead and move you downstairs into Storage B… So if you could pack up your stuff and move it down there, that would be terrific, okay?”
Despite that solitude, Theresa fully intended to retire from the diocese in that position. Unfortunately, seven years ago her husband of 41 years became disabled. In addition to being a caretaker for him, Theresa also needed to take him to dialysis appointments three times every week. As it would happen, those appointments take place close to Our Lady and the parish was advertising for a bookkeeper. Theresa describes it as, “A blessing” and “What God had planned for me.”
Since then, she worked at Our Lady for three-and-a-half years and for a year-and-a-half has been the Finance Manager at the parish. In that role, Theresa manages all of our banking; receipts, expenditures, quarterly reports for the diocese, payroll for 72 parochial employees, and so forth. She considers the job a calling and her two guiding principles are being “very honest and transparent.” Theresa’s greatest joy as Finance Manager, predictably has nothing to do with herself, but instead is “the people here and their generosity.” Even during this pandemic with its job loss, job reduction, and general financial hardship, Theresa is constantly impressed by the generosity of our parishioners.
The pandemic has also given Theresa her greatest challenges during her tenure in the parochial finance department. From week to week, she simply does not know what is going to happen next. However, she takes comfort that despite any of those challenges she is a “perfectionist who will do the best I ever can” to ensure our finances are sound. Then Theresa again deflects attention from herself adding, “I can’t do what I do by myself, it’s a team.” She is also extremely excited about the future of Our Lady with the recent announcement that Fr. Joseph Yokum will be joining our parish the summer as our pastor and administrator.
Theresa is dedicated to her responsibility to the parish. Constantly she tells me that, “We want to be open,” and “we take the generosity very seriously.” The one time she expresses any personal pride is when she recalls how a CPA not affiliated with our parish came across her yearly report in the bulletin. The CPA expressed that the report was one of the best he had seen, distilling a full 18-page document into easily understood financial facts anyone in the parish could understand and follow. Theresa was not proud the CPA thought her report was outstanding, but rather that our parishioners could understand its finances.
Theresa’s greatest joy is her family. In addition to her husband that family includes her only daughter, Brenda, Brenda’s husband, Dennis, and their only child, Dominic. In fact, Dominic recently enrolled at Our Lady of Perpetual Help school as a first grader where the full in-person classes have greatly benefited him as well as the resources our school can dedicate to him. Given how catastrophically the pandemic has impacted schools throughout the United States, Theresa is particularly grateful our parish has been able to maintain fully in-person education for the entirety of the 2020 – 2021 academic year. Working in the parish office, Theresa has directly witnessed the immense effort this has required on the part of so many people.
When I ask Theresa what she would do with a magic wand she immediately thinks in dollars as befits a Finance Manager. If she suddenly found a few tens of millions of dollars laying around, Theresa would first build a new school building. For those unaware, the current school was the original church in our parish and celebrated its first Mass on Christmas Eve in 1959. The building has been loving maintained and modernized, but I understand Theresa’s wish to replace a school that has been around for longer than many of its teachers have been alive.
While the pandemic and her husband’s illness have robbed Theresa of the familiar comforts of eating out for dinner and going on vacation, she does enjoy some familiar rituals. She loves watching television in the evening and has a particular affinity for Hallmark movies, especially those shown around Christmas. As Theresa describes it, “Ten minutes in you know how it’s going to work out. But I love them because they all have that perfect ending.”
After so fully giving herself to others, I absolutely believe Theresa could use one of those perfect endings.
By Eric Brooks