Throughout her adult life, Teresa (Terry) Skelley had always been an active volunteer for organizations that helped those in need. So, after her husband passed away in 2016, her priest at St. Robert Bellarmine asked her to attend a meeting of their St. Vincent DePaul Conference one evening.
Terry went in as a curious potential volunteer and walked out as the new President of the Conference! She has been in that position for the SVdP Conference at Mary, Mother of God parish ever since. On top of that she is also the current Central District Council President. Such are the sometimes amusing ways that God works with us.
As a musician and church Music Director, Terry had long contributed to the work and mission of the church in many ways. But apparently the group that night, along with God, knew that Terry possessed the leadership skills that would help her in this calling.
Besides those skills, her faith has helped and sustained her through all the challenges. Those challenges included the Covid pandemic crisis several years ago as well as continuous membership changes within the conference. The Holy Spirit really stirred up that faith when, as a young 15-year-old girl, Terry connected with the charismatic movement within the Church, a movement that began right here in Pittsburgh from within Duquesne University in 1967. Since then, she has been a faithful servant of the Lord in many ways.
Terry sustains her faith with her attendance at Mass, often daily but most certainly weekly as her music playing circulates her throughout the diocese. Privately, she also spends at least an hour of regular daily prayer time that begins with a reading of either the lessons for the day or other personal devotionals that she has. She also runs an on-line intercessory prayer chain. Terry likes the quote attributed to St. Francis de Sales that says “Every one of us needs a half hour of prayer a day, except if we are busy – then we need an hour”.
While the Covid-19 period was tough for all conferences, Terry laments the continual frustration of having limited funds to help those friends in need throughout her community. And, as with most conferences, she struggles with the need for more volunteers. She has been uplifted, however, by the help from other conferences who have lent a hand to financially ‘strapped’ conferences like hers, who are surrounded by a community with many needs.
But those challenges are offset by the sheer joy she finds when she and her fellow volunteers can see where they make a difference in people’s lives. Her first memory was a stark example of how the need is great in their service area. On a home visit one of her members discovered that the sole contents of the refrigerator for the person was a stick of butter. And maybe the most memorable case involved helping a woman who was a cancer patient but could not eat her food bank items because of the reaction it gave her that conflicted with her cancer medicine. The woman did not even have a stove with which to prepare food. After the conference purchased her a new microwave, upon opening the package the woman began to cry, saying “Do you know how long it’s been since I received something new out of a box”.
As important as these stories are, Terry reflects on the big picture which reminds her that SVdP does more than ordinary social agencies do by bringing personalized attention to friends in need. That attention focuses on the individual in an effort to lift up the dignity of each of the persons they serve.
She also feels blessed in having in her conference “a crew that is uniquely gifted” as well as connected within the greater community. Those connections enable them to do what they can for others through the work of SVdP and beyond. She is also grateful for her local priest along with the parish who supports the work that they do. That support is not just from collections twice a year and moments during Mass when SVdP can ask for help, but also from the spiritual support that comes through the dedicated attention of their local Deacon.
What does the future hold for Terry? She only knows that she will continue to serve the Lord, through the Church and other places, in whatever manner she is summoned to do so. Accepting that this may present itself in unexpected ways, just as it did eight years ago!