by Kara Hansen
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — When Donna Harrity was first hired to help with insurance for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas in 1974, she was told it would be a little job.
That “little job” turned into more than 30 years as the director of group insurance and retirement for the archdiocese. During that time, she has facilitated the delivery of benefits to employees spanning the archdiocese, and now numbering some 2,700.
“When I was first hired, we provided health insurance, some retirement coverage and tax shelter,” said Harrity. “That has expanded over the years to [include] health, dental, and vision coverage, expanded life insurance, and full retirement coverage for all employees.”
Throughout these years, Harrity has been responsible for overseeing staff changes around the archdiocese, negotiating insurance contracts, and staying abreast of federal insurance requirements.
“Donna is tremendously knowledgeable about her job and she has always amazed me with the questions she can answer about insurance and federal laws,” said Cathy Bohon, secretary to the chief financial officer and to the real estate and construction consultant of the archdiocese.
The nature of insurance work, explained Harrity, is such that she works with employees at pivotal moments of their lives.
“I help people with any concerns they might have,” said Harrity, “but we’re especially involved at the good and bad times of their lives — marriages, births, and deaths.”
Just as the services her office has provided have grown, so, too, has the population she’s served. When Harrity first started her position 34 years ago, the chancery was located at 2220 Central Avenue in Kansas City, Kan., and consisted of approximately 20 employees, mostly priests and nuns. Harrity’s first office was literally a closet with a sink intact.
“Back then there were very few women working for the archdiocese and it was a much smaller environment,” she said. “Both the building and [number of] people have grown tremendously, and now there are many dedicated laypeople working for the archdiocese.”
Many in the archdiocese count Harrity as one of those dedicated laypeople.
“Donna was one of the first people I met when I came here 24 years ago,” said Bohon. “She is so friendly and tries to be fair and inclusive to everyone.”
That quality has been beneficial in Harrity’s role in explaining and navigating benefits for archdiocesan employees, particularly priests.
“Donna has always been so responsive to the needs of our priests,” said Msgr. Charles McGlinn, pastor of Curé of Ars Parish in Leawood and vicar for personnel for the archdiocese. “Many of our priests have had multiple health issues requiring complicated procedures. She is always patient and willing to go the extra mile for them.”
Msgr. McGlinn said Harrity was particularly helpful in navigating the specific needs of new priests, priests who are transferred to a different parish, foreign-born priests, and priests who are retiring from parish work.
“There’s really no problem too big [that] she cannot solve, and she has such a sense of humor and bright spirit about her,” said Msgr. McGlinn. “Donna’s truly an institution here at the archdiocese.”
Jerry Mayne, chief financial officer for the archdiocese, agreed.
“Many of our priests do not pay a single bill until they call Donna first,” he said.
After her official retirement on Jan. 30, Harrity will stay on with the archdiocese in a consultant role to assist with the transition of her position in the group insurance office. The new position will be less than 20 hours a week and will continue indefinitely until a smooth transition is completed, said Harrity.
Though she will miss her work and the people she has worked with, Harrity is looking forward to spending her retirement traveling, reading and celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary with her husband Joe in June.
“I’ve been blessed to meet some very dedicated clergy and lay employees serving in parishes and schools over the years,” said Harrity.
The feeling seems to be mutual for the staff she will soon be leaving.
“Donna is the greatest resource we have available here. She knows the insurance and retirement plans like no one else because she created them,” said Mayne. “She will be dearly missed.”