Those who consider Reader’s Digest a must-read publication would likely apply the same standard to the bulletin of St. Anthony/St. Patrick’s cluster in Elmira.
Amid the numerous announcements, Mass schedules and such, the publication is enlivened by various essays, poems and sayings sprinkled over its pages — much in the same style of Reader’s Digest. Some bulletin samples include:
* “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Followed by: “A lot of kneeling will keep you in good standing.” (Nov. 16, 2003)
* A girl responds to a debate about the Seven Wonders of the World by saying that her list comprises the abilities to see, hear, touch, taste, feel, laugh and love. Below this anecdote is a column titled “When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking,” which describes a parent’s quiet acts of love seen through the eyes of a child, such as “I saw you feed a stray cat and I learned to be kind to animals.” (Dec. 14, 2003)
* A reprinted poem on the importance of sending Christmas cards. (Dec. 18, 2005)
The conduit for all these nuggets of wisdom is Betty DeBlasio, who put a rare flair into the business of bulletin editing. She retired Jan. 1 from the post that she held for more than 18 years.
A longtime parishioner of St. Patrick, DeBlasio began as the parish secretary and bulletin editor after then-pastor Father Daniel Holland approached her about it. The part-time position eventually grew from two days per week to three.
What also grew was DeBlasio’s reputation for providing lively reading. She said her material was derived from “newspapers and other things that I’ve read,” along with contributions from staff members as well as sayings she would make up herself — which, she quipped, was her privilege as bulletin editor.
Though humble about her efforts, DeBlasio did acknowledge that it pleased her how “a lot of the parishioners would say they looked forward to the bulletin. They would say it’s different than anything they’d seen, because it was so interesting.”
Faith Eaton, business manager for the St. Anthony/St. Patrick cluster, has worked alongside DeBlasio since shortly after the cluster formed in 1994. Eaton expressed awe at the care DeBlasio put into bulletin editing, noting that she would often add cartoons and sometimes produce excerpts that would bring tears to her eyes.
“She was really into making it something special,” Eaton remarked, adding with a laugh that DeBlasio did it all on an electric typewriter: “She would never use the computer — never.”
Luckily, this lively format will continue from here on out. Charlene Pabis, another St. Anthony/St. Patrick secretary, has inherited bulletin duties — and she plans to carry on DeBlasio’s style, thanks to a large amount of material that her predecessor left behind.
“She’s got a shoe box with envelopes that are just full of little sayings and little stories,” Eaton said of DeBlasio. “Things she has collected, things people sent her, things from Reader’s Digest — she presented that all to Charlene.”
Told that Pabis may have a tough act to follow, DeBlasio said, “Well, I don’t know about that. She’s going to do fine.”
Asked why she has opted to retire, DeBlasio said, “Well, I’m getting up there in years,” noting that she will celebrate her 80th birthday on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25. She takes into retirement many good memories, which include 12 years of teaching religious education prior to becoming secretary and bulletin editor. A convert, she noted that she received instruction in the Catholic faith from Father Joseph Egan, the late St. Patrick pastor, in the early 1970s — meeting in the same room in which she would later serve as a parish employee.
“I got to meet a lot of parishioners that I didn’t know before,” she said of her job, adding, “I’ve always had such nice pastors there. I’ve enjoyed every one of them; they were so good to me and kind.”
DeBlasio plans to remain active in parish life, especially through the Legion of Mary that she has belonged to for nearly 30 years. It can be assumed that she is optimistic about her new status as a retiree, based on a saying that surfaced in the Jan. 1 bulletin — the last one she edited:
“And now let us believe in the New Year that is given us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been.”