WINNSBORO—St. Theresa Church runs on volunteer energy.
A dedicated team of senior citizens keeps things going daily for the small parish, which is home to about 40 families.
Several men tackle routine maintenance and train the altar servers.
Tom Lagatore handles landscaping and care of the memorial garden. Ann Smith does the bookkeeping.
Others perform dozens more tasks and help at the two weekly Masses.
They do the work because it has to be done and because they love their little house of worship on the hill.
“This church has always felt like home, and we spend almost as much time here as we do at our own home,” said Nancy Watkins, who works as parish facilitator, serves on the finance council, prepares the weekly bulletins, and lectors at Mass, among other duties.
Her husband Tris Watkins handles maintenance, serves as sacristan and is an usher.
Mr. Watkins, a convert, is one of the only Winnsboro natives at the parish. Most members moved to the area years ago, drawn by work or the military, and some are retirees.
Smith moved from Maryland about 10 years ago to be closer to her children and grandchildren. Now she’s at the church almost every day, handling the bookkeeping, preparing financial reports and serving on the parish finance council.
“I used to work in this field and they asked me to take this over about two weeks after I moved here,” Smith said. “I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Tony and Joan Verrastro have belonged to St. Theresa since 1988, when they moved from Bethlehem, Pa., so Mr. Verrastro could work at the Mack truck assembly plant, which closed in 2002.
“We came here from a much larger church in the north, and came to love the small community,” Mr. Verrastro said. “Everybody knows everybody. This feels like a large extended family. You know you’re never alone.”
The Verrastros say they’re proud to give back to their parish. Mr. Verrastro helps with maintenance, serves on the altar and helps train altar servers. Mrs. Verrastro washes and repairs altar linens, serves on the bereavement committee and as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, and helps man the parish prayer chain.
“Working for the church makes you feel good,” Mrs. Verrastro said. “Even the littlest bit of help you can give is appreciated.”
Father Andrew Trapp knows better than almost anyone the importance of the volunteers’ work.
He serves as pastor of St. Theresa and the much larger Transfiguration Church in nearby Blythewood, plus he’s the chaplain at Cardinal Newman School in Columbia.
The priest usually visits Winnsboro twice a week for Mass on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. The rest of the time, he said, the volunteers keep the parish running.
“We’ve got a very small community at St. Theresa, and they’re a wonderful group of people,” Father Trapp said. “They set a great example in how they take care of things. The people there really, really love the parish and value its mission in Winnsboro. It’s a big relief to me to know they are there.”
Photos by Christina Lee Knauss/Miscellany
Top Photo: Tris Watkins lights candles before Mass at St. Theresa Church in Winnsboro. Watkins, who serves as sacristan, is among a core group of senior volunteers who dedicate time to keep the church running.