(Catholic Herald photo by Tracy Rusch)

Just a few years ago, Mary Thimm, religious education director of St. John, Rubicon, fell backward off a stepladder while working outside. While this could have left her badly injured, she had a job to do.

“I made a pact with God, more or less—you shouldn’t do this—but I said, ‘Lord, if you want me to keep doing this job as director, you need to help me so that I can walk good again,’ and that—well, he never quit!”

But Thimm said that this year, her 37th as director, will be her last.

“I know I’m going to miss it very, very (much),” Thimm said. “But I feel it is time that someone younger comes to take over, because, you know, their ideas, their energy, all of that.”

In 1972, when Fr. John Hentzner, senior priest, was pastor of St. John, Thimm was teaching fifth and sixth grade classes. At that time, Fr. Hentzner said he was looking for a responsible person to run the CCD program.

“So, she’s been there ever since,” Fr. Hentzner said. “…She’s very good at it and they didn’t want her to leave.”

Thimm began to take classes for coordinators at what is now the Archbishop Cousins Center in Milwaukee, and graduated from the program two years later. Since those first days of class, Thimm continued to attend seminars, workshops and directors’ meetings, still driving back and forth to Milwaukee.

“She’s very competent, capable and Catholic,” Fr. Hentzner said. I mean, she practices her faith; I think people recognize that, too. So, give her three C’s, but she’s above average.”

Anne Thelen, first grade catechist at St. John, Rubicon, has worked with Thimm since the late ‘60s or early ‘70s, and said replacing her will not be an easy task.

“We probably would need at least four directors to take her place,” Thelen said of Thimm’s many responsibilities.

“She certainly is going to be missed,” Thelen said. “I certainly hope she enjoys her retirement…It’s always been an honor and privilege to work with her, for sure,” she added.

: Mary Thimm
Age: 83
Parish: St. John, Rubicon
Favorite movie:
“The Sound of Music”
Book recently read:
“Chicken Soup for the Golden Soul”
Least favorite quotation:
“I know one I don’t like. My grandma always used to say, ‘Once begun is half done,’ and I’d just say. ‘Grandma, that’s not the way it is — once I started something, it goes on forever.’”
Favorite quotation:
“Ask and you shall receive.”

During her years as director, Thimm began and led the Girls’ Sodality at St. John, a group for young women; coordinated the annual fall festival; brought in speakers; organized field trips and retreats; held prayer services for the elementary students; the list is endless.

Much of her work was done at home, in addition to raising eight of her own children and her twin sisters, because of a promise she made to their mother before she passed away when the twins were 5 years old. She also continues to volunteer her time in the gift shop at Hartford Memorial Hospital, which she has done for more than 40 years.

Harold, her husband of 63 years, is a farmer, which added another title, bookkeeper, to her list of jobs.

Thelen said that though Thimm probably would have liked to find a replacement for herself when her husband was in the hospital in September of 2008, she kept going.

“She was kind and gracious enough to hang on, even though she’s had turmoil at home with her husband’s health,” Thelen said. “When he had his bypass surgeries, yes, and she was still there—so that’s commitment.”

For the four weeks of recovery after Harold’s surgery, Thimm stayed with him at St. Luke’s Hospital in Milwaukee, driving to Rubicon for Saturday morning elementary grade CCD classes and Monday night high school religion classes.

Thimm credits God and her family with helping them get through the rough patches in her husband’s health and in life.

“Without God’s help, we just could not have lived through this,” Thimm said. “…I know I couldn’t have made it without that (faith) and without our children; they were the greatest–they were right there with us the whole time.”

But she also credits the volunteer catechists who teach at St. John, as well as Fr. Alois Van Beek, pastor, with her success as director for nearly four decades.

“We have such wonderful teachers, wonderful catechists at Rubicon and my one theory is that the religious education director cannot do anything unless she has good teachers to teach for her,” Thimm said. “I’m just organizing it; they are doing the work.”

As she looks forward to reading, visiting friends more often and knitting the afghans she gives to grandchildren — each newborn, graduate and newlywed — she said she still wonders what she’ll do next.

“What am I going to do with my life to take the place of this?” Thimm said. “Because I don’t feel that I should sit here. I should be doing something, whatever it is, that will benefit others, but I don’t know what. I haven’t figured it out yet…I’m sure God has something in store for me, whatever it is.”