Eileen Hickey has resigned from her position as the housekeeper at the Gore Catholic Presbytery from May 31 this year.
She had been in this position for almost 30 years, and has seen many changes in the Church over that period of time. When she was first engaged by the late Father Albert Welsh, the Gore Blessed Sacrament Parish, while being the largest in eastern and northern Southland and west Otago, was one of a number of rural and semi-rural parishes in the region.
Now, the Gore church and presbytery are the hub for almost the entire area. The Mataura parish has been incorporated into Gore, as has Riversdale. Gore is now the hub for Catholic churches at Balfour, Tapanui and Waikaka, as well as the church in Gore.
During her time at the Gore presbytery, Mrs Hickey rendered outstanding service to the clergy and the Catholic community. Indeed, in October, 2012, the late Bishop Len Boyle presented her with the papal Benemerenti Medal.
As was recorded about that occasion, “Eileen has given to the community for more than 20 years. Eileen has acted as housekeeper for the clergy, manager of the parish office, liaising with the parish school and their families and carried out a whole range of other less visible tasks.” She had thought that Bishop Boyle was visiting for another parish event.
The secret had been well kept, even by her own family who had come to Gore to celebrate a birthday. The spontaneous burst of applause when Bishop Boyle called her forward, and the standing ovation (with some tears) after the medal was presented, were eloquent testimony that everyone agreed that the honour was well deserved.
When Mrs Hickey announced her retirement, the clergy and community she had served once again marked the occasion with a presentation. Like the presentation of the Benemerenti Medal, this was a surprise to Mrs Hickey, who lives very quietly. However, she did reply through the Gore parish newsletter.
“My sincere and humble thanks to one and all for the kind words, expressions of gratitude, gifts, cards, acclamations etc. over the past few weeks as I transition into the next phase of my earthly journey. I have been privileged to have been in a position where I’ve met and listened to people of all walks of life from all sorts of places and cultures and can only hope I have done whatever I was able, to make them feel accepted and welcome,” she wrote.
“Work for me wasn’t a job to go to each day, but rather an opportunity to respond to whatever happened each day, and I truly enjoyed being there over so many years, and I will miss it, but all good things come to an end. Love and blessings to you all.”
On resigning from her position at the Gore presbytery, Mrs Hickey said: “I started at the presbytery just helping out with household duties in Fr Welsh’s time, and over the years all the other tasks just happened. I started every day with my motivational prayer from 1 Corinthians.”
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.”
- by PETER OWENS