Mrs. Carol Orlando

Pastoral Associate

Carol might be describing a beautiful staircase she has climbed step by step. But she’s not describing a staircase, but rather her life in ministry. Hers has been a long exciting climb, step after step, ministry involvement after ministry involvement.

She put her foot on the bottom step, Carol says, shortly after she and her husband, Joe, moved to Cedar Grove in 1977. Their son, Jason, was entering CCD, and Carol wanted to walk with him as he took his first steps on the journey of faith. And so she asked, “Do you need any volunteers?” What a question to ask in the CCD Office!

Carol’s volunteering took another step a few years later when Sister Katie asked her to help out with some of the administration in the CCD program. Father Bruce asked her to be a Lector, and she once again said, “yes.” Bishop Saltarelli invited her to join the Liturgy Committee, an ongoing involvement that she treasures to this day. Carol became very involved in Cornerstone and looks forward to seeing it revived here at St. Catherine’s.

And there were more steps. The diocesan program, “Christian Foundations for Ministry” took three years to complete and gave her a more rounded view of ministry. Sister Maureen’s invitation to join the team for RCIA led Carol to work with adults and now to be Director of the RCIA process in this Parish. As she looks back on it now, every time she said “yes” to an invitation to enter a new ministry, it was another step on the staircase that has led us to where she is now.

In the course of a phone call, then-music minister Ada Simpson encouraged Carol to enroll at Caldwell College to further her studies in ministry. Again, Carol said “yes.” In 2000, Carol completed the program and received her Masters in Pastoral Ministry. Father Charlie said, “Carol, would you….” And of course she said “yes” to his invitation to take what was perhaps her most important step: becoming Pastoral Associate here at St. Catherine’s.

At first Carol served part-time, because she was still working full-time as a teacher in Jersey City. But in 2004, Carol retired from a 34-year career in elementary education (she had taught every grade except the fifth) and began her full-time ministry in our Parish.

What has kept Carol climbing those steps? As she explains it, she knows that it has been God calling her through the people who have invited her to become ever more deeply involved in ministry. But those steps have not always been easy or comfortable. Carol says, “God leads me – often in directions I would rather not go.” She gives as an example her leadership of the Social Justice Committee, a committee our parish shares with our New Energies partner, Our Lady of the Lake in Verona. “I always saw myself as an American first,” Carol recalls. Often the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church, like those on immigration and opposition to the death penalty, contrasted with her natural inclinations. But the Lord has “stretched” her, she says. Her ministry has taught her to see herself as “Catholic” first, a Catholic seeking to live her Catholicism faithfully in the America of today.

Referring to Carol’s multiple ministry hats in the parish, Monsignor Slipe often jokes that if no one else is in charge of something, Carol probably is. Today, she may be leading the Bereavement program, tomorrow it might be RCIA for adults approaching the sacraments of initiation, the next day she might be bringing Holy Communion to the Sick or helping the Liturgy Committee decorate the church for Christmas. But when she is not, what does Carol do to relax?

“I love to read,” Carol answers, “that’s my passion.” She enjoys novels, especially mysteries. But her absolute favorite is Harry Potter. She is amazed, she says, at how the author can weave fantasy out of mere words. Some people find the fantasy world Harry Potter a problem for faith; Carol is not one of them. Her years in teaching have taught her the value of imagination. “It’s make-believe!” she exclaims when asked about a conflict with faith. And for Carol, faith is not make-believe. Her faith is real and actual and leads her into self-giving service.

One place where Carol finds service easy is babysitting for her young granddaughter, Rylyn. “She’s the love of my life!” Grandma Carol exclaims. Undoubtedly, when Carol leads the Baptismal Preparation class and ministers at the celebration of the sacrament, it is Rylyn’s face she sees in every infant. It’s the littlest ones that lead us to Jesus.

In her life in ministry, Carol is still climbing those steps. She says she doesn’t know what will be the next step for her, and she doesn’t seem bothered by that. The Lord will send someone to invite her, and she will undoubtedly say, “yes.”