Promotion follows decades of service to St. Mary Magdalen
By Linda Briggs-Harty
Sitting in classes as a girl at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic School, Nancy Shroff might have had a flash of intuition about her future — a life devoted to God and others. If so, the dutiful Shroff no doubt smiled to herself and went back to work.
She has always adopted a demure demeanor – even now, after 27 years as the century-old parish’s religious education director. Still modest, amiable and petite, she shrinks next to some of the taller students she’s taught over the years. Parishioners know her as one of them.
Shroff was recently named a part-time pastoral associate. The church’s pastor, Father Jack Siefert, said she will be in charge of faith formation for the entire parish.
At 5-feet-1 Shroff may be small, but she has a big smile and an ample heart. The kindness and Christian care emanating from her friendly face sets her apart.
Siefert, who has been at Mary Magdalen for three years, must have been touched by Shroff’s selfless service. This spring he asked her to consider taking on the new role, along with maintaining her status as religious education director and Parish School of Religion teacher.
“Having someone with Nancy’s understanding of the faith, the parish and the need to catechize makes her ideally suited for this role,” said Siefert. “Given her devotion to the faith, Nancy’s acceptance of the pastoral associate position at Saint Mary Magdalen is natural and fitting.”
Shroff’s job as pastoral associate involves coordinating the three priorities in any Catholic parish: faith development, which includes Bible study and fellowship; outreach, including programs for the poor such as St. Vincent DePaul, CARE and St. Patrick’s downtown; and adoration/prayer.
She will follow directives outlined by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“We can’t evangelize others until we’ve been evangelized ourselves,” she said.
From volunteer to teacher to director to pastoral associate
Shroff credits her promotion to God’s plan.
“It’s an answer to prayer at this point in my life,” she said. “I’d asked God where he wanted me, and over time I had the overwhelming sense I should follow this path.”
She stressed that every change throughout her Catholic career involved God making opportunities available and her responding in kind. In 1973, as a stay-at-home mom looking to connect with others, she responded to a bulletin notice calling for volunteer Parish School of Religion teachers at night.
Loving that role, in time Shroff pursued advanced education in the field. She holds a master’s in religious education from Loyola Institute of Ministry Extension. Courses equipped her both for teaching and helping with pastoral ministry.
In 1981, she joined the St. Mary Magdalen day school staff as a paid teacher. Six years later, she became religious education director, overseeing preparation programs such as first holy communion, first confession and confirmation.
Shroff acted as interim principal twice, most recently last year before current principal Kathy Wiseman took charge.
Lifelong Mary Magdalen parishioner
A parishioner at St. Mary Magdalen all her life, Shroff grew up in Rock Hill and still lives there. She was a student at Mary Magdalen and she sent her four children to the school. Now grown, they all reside in the area.
She relishes time spent with her four grandchildren, ages six through 14. Children have always held a special place in her heart. But now, she said, “I’m looking forward to working with the adults in a way I haven’t before.”
She welcomes parishioner input. “I want to be there for everyone,” she said. She also welcomes visitors and others checking out the parish for the first time. The parish website, http://www.stmmchurch.com, will list upcoming events and initiatives soon, she said.
Shroff said she has no desire to stand above: “I’ll be involved in offerings right alongside others.”