by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — For years, Pat Richey did her annual duty like clockwork.
It was her responsibility to get an award plaque engraved at Murphy Trophy and Engraving in Olathe, take it to wherever the National Catholic Office for the Deaf was holding its annual conference and hand it off to the NCOD board.
And every year, Richey would watch as a deserving colleague received the Father David Walsh Pastoral Worker of the Year award.
“Every year, I come to this conference and I’m so excited,” said Richey. “I wait to hear who’s going to win. And I look out over the members, they make the announcement and I think ‘Oh, yes, that was a good choice,’” said Richey.
This year, however, there was a glitch.
When the first of December rolled around, she was still waiting to get the name of the winner from Joan Macy, board president of the NCOD. Finally, Richey called Macy.
“I’ll take care of the award this year,” said Macy. “You’re too busy. Don’t worry about it.”
“No,” said Richey, “It’s not too much. I do this every year. This is one of the things I do. Just give me the name.”
Back and forth they went.
Finally, Macy spilled the beans.
“Well, when you get the name for this year, make sure they spell it right — because it’s going to be yours,” said Macy, who is also interpreter coordinator for the archdiocesan office of deaf ministry.
Richey received the award at the NCOD annual conference held Jan. 6-10 in Savannah, Georgia. It recognizes someone who has demonstrated outstanding service and dedication to deaf ministry.
Richey was grateful, even though it wasn’t a surprise.
“When I got it, it was a lovely moment,” she said. “It hit me that everyone there deserves the award because they serve the deaf faithfully. I felt like sharing it with everyone there because all the members in attendance give their heart in service with the deaf [community].”
Richey, who is also on the NCOD board, was director of the archdiocesan office of deaf ministry from 2001 to 2015, succeeding her mentor and friend Sister Ann Albrecht, CSJ. She still interprets for Masses at St. Paul and Prince of Peace parishes, both in Olathe. She is a member of Immaculate Conception Parish in Louisburg.
“What most people don’t realize about Pat Richey is that she is one of the national leaders in deaf ministry and has been so for many years,” said Macy.
“She works with NCOD and our collaborations with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to make sure the deaf have access to their faith. She tends to step back and let others take the spotlight, so a lot of people don’t realize all the work she does. She’s worked with the NCOD since the early 2000s,” Macy added. “I’m glad she’s finally getting recognized.”
For Richey, the award is really about who she serves.
“I may be prejudiced, but I feel that we have the most wonderful deaf community in the world in the archdiocese,” said Richey. “They are kind, wonderful, faithful people. I feel greatly honored to be counted as a member of their family.”