By Anna Schulten
The North Star Catholic
As 2020 draws to a close, we spend an Advent season preparing our hearts to receive Christ ever more fully this Christmas season. As Catholics, our lives do not exist in isolation: we come to faith and grow in relationship with God in the context of a Christian community. This season, we reflect on our journey of faith, and we undoubtedly remember with gratitude the many individuals who have walked with us. This month’s Saints Among Us column is dedicated to one Catholic who has spent decades sharing the faith with her local community: Marlys Verba.
“No one person has done more toward the development and growth of the strong faith community we call family – Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Soldotna – than Marlys Verba,” said Kathryn Dunagan, a staff member and fellow parishioner at the parish. Marlys’ life in ministry to the Church began in earnest like many Catholics: as a very involved parent. She ensured that her children, and the children of the parish, received a substantial Catholic education and were taught the love of our Lord. Her zeal to share the faith extended beyond the classroom and into service, as she led by example and by addressing community needs and everyday aspects of parish life.
Under Archbishop Hurley’s recommendation, Marlys began to take courses in lay ministry and leadership formation and received a Master’s degree in Pastoral Ministry in 2006. She was commissioned by then-Archbishop Roger Schwietz and Fr. Richard Tero to become the parish’s Pastoral Associate (this title was later changed to Parish Life Coordinator). Pastors came and went, but Marlys was a constant presence to faithfully support each leader and the community through each transition. With her family’s support through the years, she continued to be involved with many ministries and took on many roles to enhance parish life.
Marlys tended the heart and soul of the community. She had a keen instinct in identifying opportunities to build community within the parish, both spiritually and socially. Marlys knew all parishioners by name, and she was present to each person that approached her, in both good times and difficult situations. Marlys also supported parishioners that needed assistance by connecting them to the resources. In short, she matched parish needs with parishioner talents, which is an exceptionally rare and useful skill. “Marlys had this special gift of asking just the right person to do whatever needed to be done, and somehow you couldn’t refuse her requests!” said Dunagan.
“God’s grace has allowed us to be the beneficiaries of her wisdom, perseverance, and faith,” said Dunagan. After decades of service, Marlys has recently retired from her ministry at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish. “Marlys truly will be missed in her role as Pastoral Life Coordinator, but the good news is she is not leaving us. We know she will continue to be present by sharing her gifts, love and friendship with all, just without the job title!”
Parishes across the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau are filled with everyday saints like Marlys. Many parishioners take on leadership roles in our parishes, and many more serve quietly, unnoticed by most, but they make just as big of a difference in the lives of those they serve. Who has accompanied you, or your parish, on the journey of faith?
We invite you to nominate an everyday saint from your parish for the Saints Among Us column! Contact Anna Schulten to submit a nomination: firstname.lastname@example.org.