By Jill Kruse
Witness Editorial Assistant
MASON CITY — Members of Epiphany Parish in Mason City gathered on the weekend of March 3-4 to celebrate the ministry of Pat Dixon, who recently retired from the parish’s staff after more than 20 years of service.
Two receptions were held in Dixon’s honor — one at each of the two Mason City Catholic churches that comprise the parish. The first of the gatherings took place Saturday evening at Holy Family Church, the other at St. Joseph Church on Sunday morning.
Her retirement was a bittersweet occasion for Dixon and for all those who have been impacted by her ministry.
“I’m going to miss the people. I’m going to miss helping people,” reflected Dixon.
But the 73-year-old widow also said she looks forward to having more time to spend with her family, especially its youngest members.
“My immediate plans are to spend some time with the grandchildren. I have eight. A new one was born in December,” Dixon said. “They grow up just way too fast, so that is probably the No. 1 thing I want to focus on.”
While parishioners are happy for Dixon and wish her well in her retirement, they agree that with her departure from the staff, there are now big shoes to fill at the parish.
“People will miss her, her guidance and her compassion. She will be very hard to replace,” said Myra Libby, an Epiphany parishioner whose volunteer work with the parish allowed her to get to know Dixon through the years.
“Some people just have the Holy Spirit working in them to do the job as best they can to help those they’re serving,” added Libby, who said she believes Dixon is one of those people.
Dixon began her ministry with the Catholic faith community in Mason City more than two decades ago when she joined the staff at Holy Family Parish as a certified pastoral associate, working with adult faith formation and the RCIA program. She later moved across town to join the staff at St. Joseph Parish and worked there for a number of years in a pastoral ministry role. In 2013, when the two churches combined to form Epiphany Parish, Dixon continued in her ministry at the new parish until her retirement this February.
In her most recent role as a pastoral minister, Dixon worked with families to plan funerals after their loved ones had died and sometimes conducted the wake services. She visited parishioners who were homebound or living in nursing homes or sick in the hospital, and she supported those who were being cared for by hospice as well as their families.
During her time with first Holy Family, then St. Joseph’s, then Epiphany, Dixon worked with three different archbishops, six different pastors, several seminarians, and numerous archdiocesan committees, staff members and parish volunteers.
“Her longevity with the parish provided much needed continuity during so many changes over the years,” said Carol Bruns, Epiphany Parish’s business manager.
But it wasn’t just the length of time in which she served that made a difference; it was also the manner in which she served.
“Pat looked at her profession as a ministry — not a job,” said Bruns. “It is through that mindset that her compassion, empathy, wisdom and humor touched countless lives.”
The many lives Dixon touched also touched hers in return. Sharing in people’s deepest “joys and sorrows” had a profound impact on her, Dixon said. Watching those she worked with complete their RCIA journey at the Easter Vigil Mass, holding a newborn in the hospital, accompanying priests administering the anointing of the sick to the homebound, helping a hospice patient plan her funeral — those are the sort of experiences Dixon said she will carry with her always.
“There were a lot of different graced moments,” she said. “They have deepened my faith. This has been a spiritual journey for me.”
Dixon said she is grateful for the support she received through the years that allowed her to do her ministry and to serve the people of her parish.
“I just had so many wonderful mentors, helpful volunteers, good pastors who helped along the way. I had the encouragement of the whole faith community,” she said. “I just feel so extremely blessed.”
Pat Dixon (left) poses with parishioner Myrna Bernemann at a reception at Epiphany Parish, St. Joseph Church, on Sunday, March 4. (Contributed photo)