Kathy Whitcomb Retires after Decades of Service
Martha Fetterhoff to follow Whitcomb in service to new diocesan vicar
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
June 20, 2019
ROCKFORD—Kathy Whitcomb began serving the Church in Rockford as a volunteer in 1981 when she moved to Rockford and Holy Family Parish from farther south in Illinois.
 
“I guess I was (at Holy Family) so much, they thought they might as well hire me,” she says with a laugh.
 
She began fulltime work as secretary for the parish business manager. In 1986 she was asked to become the secretary and bookkeeper at Holy Family School where she worked for over eight years.
 
After a short break, she was hired in 1998 as administrative assistant for the diocesan Vicar for Clergy Office. When she retires on June 28, it will be just one month short of 21 years in that position.
 
In another week, when Martha Fetterhoff begins as administrative assistant in the what is now the Office for Clergy and Religious, she will likely be only the fourth person in that position since the office began in 1982. 
 
Whitcomb understands that the office was preceded by the Priest Personnel Board for the Diocese of Rockford.
 
Msgr. Robert Hoffman was the first Vicar for Clergy, and his assistant was Joyce Durango, Whitcomb recalls. Father F. James Larson and his assistant, Joyce Donohue, then served, and Donohue continued on as administrative assistant for a few years after Msgr. Michael Binsfeld began as Vicar for Clergy.  
 
Whitcomb then was hired and served Msgr. Binsfeld for two years, Msgr. Eric Barr for about 11 years, Father Brian Grady for one year, Msgr. Daniel Deutsch for six years, and Msgr. Stephen Knox for two weeks.
 
It would be for longer than two weeks but Whitcomb is choosing to retire and care for her husband, Dean, on a full time basis.
 
“It’s going to be very hard leaving here,” she says. “I’m going to miss all the staff and the priests. They’ve all been like family to me.”
 
Her work has expanded over the years. The office keeps the priest personnel records and database and organizes the annual priests retreats, clergy conference, priests jubilee celebration and Presbytery Day, among other duties. 
 
She is the one who makes sure all the Safe Environment papers are up to date for the active priests in the diocese. She also provides the “good standing” letters priests need when they travel out of the Rockford Diocese to provide retreats, to visit priest friends or assist at a non-diocesan parish — anytime they will be celebrating Mass or serving in other priestly roles beyond diocesan borders.
 
“I’m the holder of all cell phone numbers,” she says. If a priest becomes ill on a weekend and can’t find a substitute to say Mass, she is called upon to find someone. In fact, Whitcomb is often the go-to person for questions from priests, parish staffs and parishioners, guiding them, she says, to the correct office for answers if she can’t answer them. 
 
When a priest dies, she adds, “we are the go-between for the family, parish and funeral home.”
 
Whitcomb also does the budgeting and accounting for the Permanent Diaconate and Vocations offices as well as for the Vicar for Clergy Office.
 
And finally, she keeps a database on the religious sisters present in the Rockford Diocese.
 
Some of Whitcomb’s service has been above-and-beyond her stated duties. Over the years, she has assisted many retired priests in various ways: answering their questions, arranging or giving them rides to appointments, visiting them in hospitals or nursing homes, or making a quick run for them to the grocery store. 
 
A couple of years ago, Father Paul White, pastor at Church of Holy Apostles in McHenry, became the Senior Priest Advocate and took over many of those duties, she says.
 
Although she will miss daily contact with so many people, Whitcomb thinks Fetterhoff is a “great” choice to succeed her.
 
“Her eight years of experience in Hispanic Ministry will be very helpful in this position,” she says, noting Fetterhoff’s ease with both the Spanish and English languages.
 
“Until the Hispanic priests who come to work in our diocese learn English, Martha has been a great help with translating for them,” Whitcomb says.
 
“Now that Martha will be the administrative assistant for the ... office, it will be so much easier for both the office and the priests.”
 
Even knowing that she is leaving the office in good hands, Whitcomb knows this change will resemble how much she missed the school children when she left her parish school work those many years ago.
 
She expresses gratitude for all the people she knows from her diocesan work, including for “all the prayers and support they’ve given throughout my husband’s illness.
 
“I’ll be happy to be there for him, and he is looking forward to me being there all the time.”
But, she adds, “I can still stay in touch.”
 
A retirement party is scheduled for Whitcomb on June 21 at the Diocesan Administration Center in Rockford.