By Tony DeGol
If the family is the heart of the Church, Donna Cook has helped keep that ticker beating in Altoona-Johnstown for more than four decades.
Cook retired from the Family Life Office in June after a distinguished 43 year tenure with the ministry.
As Office Manager, Cook helped carry out the various programs that nurture and support families at various stages of life’s journey.
“Two of the biggest blessing I had was meeting program participants who truly were seeking resources from our office to enrich their faith and families,” reflected Cook, a member of Holy Name Parish in Ebensburg. “The other blessing was working with many volunteers who helped give of their time and talents so graciously to make these programs possible.”
Cook encountered individuals and families with challenges in their lives, but felt fortunate that the Family Life Office had programs and resources to help them.
“I admired their drive to reach out for help to do what is best for themselves and their families,” she added.
Among the many highlights of Cook’s career was planning the popular Wedding Anniversary Liturgies. Each year, married couples celebrating milestone wedding anniversaries are invited to a Mass at either Cathedral with the Bishop.
Cook was also instrumental in a more recent tradition – an annual day of prayer and remembrance for widows and widowers.
“Donna was the heart of the Family Life Office,” stated Andre McCarville, Director of Missions and Family Life. “She knew the office better than anyone, and was the greatest asset in planning events, working with parishes, and even training new directors.”
McCarville said Cook’s passion for the ministry was evident.
“There were few questions I had that she couldn’t answer, but more than that, she loved what she did,” he mentioned. “She loves God and she loves families. She loved helping make strong and faith-filled families, and anyone who worked with her, or even knew her, could see how evident that was in her life. I truly wish her all the best in her retirement, but she will be sorely missed.”
After high school, Cook spent her entire career in the position – an achievement that is rare in today’s culture.
Undoubtedly, she touched many lives in those four-plus decades, and the rewards were a two-way street.
“It became a ministry instead of a job for me,” Cook noted. “I have definitely been a recipient of the benefits of the enrichment programs and resources through this office. Thanks to the many people I have met over my years with Family Life for making my personal family life enriched in so many ways.”