Karen Paul has been a light of hope, faith and compassion to the faith community of St. Francis de Sales Parish for more than two decades. For 23 years she has served as the secretary for Religious Education, the longest serving employee on staff. Friends, fellow parishioners and former pastors all agree that her welcoming spirit, in which she always greets everyone with kindness, is driven by her humble and spiritual joy.
Father Bertrand L. Theroux, retired pastor of St. Francis de Sales, who served the North Kingstown parish for 13 years, nominated Paul for a Lumen Gentium award in the category of Parish Service.
Father Theroux shared that Paul has handled the many changes at the large parish with grace, from the construction of a new church, to welcoming new pastors through the years. She has accepted the differences and respected the leadership of each one.
“She has always been welcoming and helpful to visitors and especially to parents or students in classes or meetings,” said Father Theroux. “She is never too busy to talk with people who walk in. Sometimes we take people for granted and assume they know how happy we are to be with them — in ministry or personal events. This celebration would change that and let us celebrate the great person that Karen is for us and for her family and so many others.”
Paul shared that she was shocked and humbled to be recognized with a Lumen Gentium Award, extending gratitude to her fellow hardworking and devoted parishioners.
“I just think there are so many other people from the parish that do so many wonderful things, and I think ‘why me,’ but I am so very honored. It’s such a family. It’s always been an amazing parish with good-hearted people.”
Throughout the years at St. Francis de Sales, Paul has met and worked with many families and their children as they prepare to experience God’s love through the sacraments. She shared that watching the young people take the next steps on their faith journey is an incredible occasion to witness.
“You just get to know the families and the kids. Especially at the sacraments, I find myself with tears coming down and am just so happy for them.”
She is the “frontline” of the parish, said Kristen Soucie, who also nominated Paul for the award.
“She is the one who answers all the calls when there are questions and does it all with a smile,” said Soucie. “She makes people feel welcome when they come by and is always happy to go the extra mile. She is a great listener and is so compassionate.”
Soucie added that despite all the personal struggles Paul has endured recently, neither her faith nor dedication to her parish have wavered. Over the past 10 years, Paul lovingly cared for her ailing parents before their passing, as well as her husband John, who was diagnosed with leukemia. He has dealt with continued health issues since then, including a serious heart attack this past September. Paul shared that her husband’s persistent positive attitude inspires her daily.
“He’s doing amazing right now. He is why I’m able to do what I do. He has this great attitude and never, ever waivers. He’s been very positive throughout everything. People ask him, ‘why are you not angry?’ And he said that ‘I am looking at this as a gift and I’m going to the best I can with it.’”
Paul also credits her parish for surrounding her and her family with continuous love and prayerful support.
“In between trying to take care of everyone and doing my job, it was the parish that really took care of me,” she said. “I don’t know where I would be without it. I really do believe that it’s the power of prayer and it works.”
— AWARDS BANQUET —
The honorees will be awarded during a dinner at Twin River Event Center in Lincoln on Wednesday, May 15.
Guests wishing to purchase tickets to the dinner — whose proceeds will support Diocesan Youth Ministry — are asked to register online at dioceseofprovidence.org/lumen-gentium-awards.
For more information, please call 401-277-2121.