NEW YORK — When the Province’s next administration takes office in June, its term will begin missing a valuable member of the Provincial Office’s staff — Theresa Bartha.
Bartha, who has worked in the office for 29 years as executive secretary, is retiring May 31.
“For many friars, Terry is the calm, pleasant and helpful voice that answered phone calls, responded to questions and assisted with so many different requests,” said Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM. “For those of us who served as Provincial Minister, she was our right-hand person. I often say to myself, ‘I don’t know what I would have done without Terry!’”
Over the years, Bartha has worked with four Provincial Administrations in an office that has changed location five times. When she began, the Provincial Office was on West 31st Street over the Franciscan Pilgrimages office. It moved to West 88th Street, West 32nd Street and West 27th Street before settling in the current location at 129 West 31st Street.
“The former Provincial Office on 31st Street was connected to the friary back then, which allowed the friars in residence and those visiting to pass through the office, giving us time to know them better,” she said. “I also liked working at 88th street. We were in a brownstone building and there was a nice atmosphere. Because the office was in a residential neighborhood, you connected with everyone more.”
When she started working for the Province in 1985 under Provincial Minister Alban Maguire, OFM, and Provincial Vicar Matthew Conlin OFM, Bartha was not familiar with the Franciscans, but found the friars helpful while she transitioned.
“Alban, my first provincial, taught me a lot,” she said. “I didn’t know much about working with a religious order, but he threw in tidbits of knowledge as we went along. He was very good to me.”
Life at HNP
Working at Holy Name Province has given Bartha a satisfying and fulfilling sense of purpose.
“The daily interaction with friars and staff has always been enjoyable,” she said. “A day doesn’t go by without at least one friar stopping by my desk to ask how I’m doing and to ask about my family. I especially appreciate the hospitality shown to me by the friars over the years.”
Some of the most memorable moments for Bartha come from Provincial Chapters — the anticipation before each election, getting to know the new administration and missing the Provincial leaders when they have to move on.
John Felice, OFM, was one of the Provincial Ministers who was thankful for Bartha’s expertise as he began his term in 1996. “The first day I took the B train to the 88th Street Provincial Office, I did not know what to expect,” he said in a 2010 HNP Today article. “But there was Terry with her calming presence and great knowledge of the workings of the office. She would patiently tell me to answer this, give permission for that, write to this bishop or go to this event. I will be forever grateful to her for making my life organized and functional.”
One of the highlights of Bartha’s career came when she was celebrating her 25th anniversary with the Province. The friars presented her with the Francis Medal for her loyal and dedicated service.
“I never felt I deserved the award,” Bartha said. “I came to work, I was here to do my job. To get honored for my work was quite a compliment.”
“Terry has been a very loyal, faithful and dedicated employee,” said Provincial Secretary Michael Harlan, OFM. “Throughout these years, she has managed a wide range of office duties and responsibilities. She was always available to assist anyone in the office as well as the friars who called, even in the midst of completing a myriad of tasks and projects. Terry’s professional support and commitment to the Provincial Administration have been invaluable.”
Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Bartha moved to Staten Island in 1984. Prior to working for the Province, she was a secretary to the associate director at Little Flower Children’s Services, a foster care and adoption service, and CBS, Inc., as a supervisor in their legal records department.
She was previously a homemaker, foster parent to two children, and volunteer at her daughter’s grammar school as librarian and classroom monitor. Through her parish, Bartha aided elderly and sick parishioners, and also volunteered as a dispatcher at the Flatlands Volunteer Ambulance Corp.
She is married to Robert Bartha and has two daughters — Caroline and Karen — and two grandchildren, Angelina and Anthony.
The transition to retired life will be a difficult one — Bartha was quick to declare that she will miss everything and everyone. She is looking forward to having time to relax and to indulge in hobbies that include gardening, painting, reading and cooking.
“I would like to say to the friars that I love you all very much and will miss you, especially your friendship and many kindnesses shown to me during the past 29 years,” she said.
Those who wish to contact Bartha before she departs may do so by emailing her at TBartha@hnp.org or calling the Provincial Office at (646) 473-0265.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.