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‘What about the switchboard?’

It usually doesn’t take long for an often-used word or phrase to lose its meaning and become cliché. Although I’ve heard “unprecedented times” repeated over and over lately, it still perfectly defines this time.

When staff members who were able began working from home, the question was asked, “What about the switchboard?” Would it be best to continue working on-site as usual? Would it be better if all calls were sent to voice mail and checked remotely throughout the day?

Amanda “Mandy” Maher at the switchboard at Providence Spirituality & Conference Center.

In the end, it was decided I would work from home and all calls would be routed to my cell phone. Yes, that’s right! If you’ve called the Sisters of Providence recently, I have answered your call on my cell phone. What a blessing for me to be able to answer calls as they come in while staying safe!

I have been a switchboard operator for the Sisters of Providence for 16 years and the calls can vary – questions about theology, questions about Mass times for area churches, questions about the best local florist, or even “Who used to live in the house that sits across the road from the church in the Village?” Still, I’ve found most calls fit neatly into one of two categories: Calls for employees or calls for sisters. However, during these “unprecedented times,” there have been more calls from people who just simply want to talk. I fondly remember one call I received during my second day working from home and I think we both found peace while talking with one another. Lately, I’ve had more calls from former students or old friends of sisters looking to reconnect. How nice that so many are taking the time to do more of that!

For me, the most “unprecedented” thing has been where I happen to be when I answer switchboard calls. I have taken calls while on a hike, while mowing my lawn and while baking bread. I’ve even had some calls in the middle of the night. Sorry if I sounded a bit groggy!

But among the many calls I have received during my time working from home, one stands out as my clear favorite.

A man called me one afternoon and told me he was having a terrible time. After attempting to call several places all around the state, he was frustrated because most places were closed. He said even when he did get someone to answer the phone, he hadn’t been able to find anyone who would take the time to talk to him. He asked if I would please listen and try to help. I tried to sound confident when I said, “Yes, I’ll help you.” but what was I agreeing to? Was I getting in over my head?

Turns out all he wanted was the definition and proper spelling of a word!
Now I can add Reference Librarian to my list of job duties. Unprecedented!

. . . and if you were wondering, Henry and Florence Caserotti used to live in the house that sits across the road from the church in St. Mary’s Village. He ran the local grocery store and worked for the Sisters of Providence in the print shop.

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Amanda Maher

Mandy Maher grew up in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Village and has a life-long history with the Sisters of Providence, having attended art classes taught by Sister Rita Ann Roethele. She currently lives in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and has worked as the Congregation switchboard operator for 16 years.

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20 Comments

  1. Lisa Stallings on May 14, 2020 at 7:00 am

    Love this blog, Mandy. Many thanks for sharing your experiences and especially for your phone ministry!

  2. Marsha Speth on May 14, 2020 at 7:49 am

    Mandy, thank you for sharing this delightful blog! I had no idea about some of the calls you get. And thank you for being the voice of Providence in the way you respond to each one!

  3. S. Denise Wilkinson on May 14, 2020 at 8:08 am

    In these “unprecedented times” it’s obvious you are an essential worker…no matter where your work site is. Thank you for exemplifying the voice of Providence….and for answering the phone no matter where you are!

    • Donna Butler on May 14, 2020 at 8:34 am

      Mandy,
      I loved reading this blog! I’m glad you can work from home. It is a joy to know that you are representing us and I am glad this ministry affords some interesting surprises.

    • Jennifer Drake on May 19, 2020 at 8:49 am

      That’s awesome, Mandy! Thanks for all your hard work … even at a distance. Who knew all the types of calls you receive? That’s great. 🙂

  4. Maureen Abbott on May 14, 2020 at 8:15 am

    Reading your blog gave me an unprecedented early morning uplift. Thanks!

  5. Jeanne Hagelskamp, SP on May 14, 2020 at 8:23 am

    I love this blog, Mandy! What a gift you are, not only to us, but also to those who call in! We are so blessed — and thank you for taking on this essential ministry remotely!!!

  6. Paula Modaff, SP on May 14, 2020 at 8:29 am

    Mandy, your voice always reassures me that I will receive the correct connection. From your blog and your professional response when you are on duty, it is obvious that you consider your position to be a ministry rather than merely a job. Thank you!

  7. Nancy Reynolds on May 14, 2020 at 8:35 am

    This is a wonderful blog, Mandy. You are such a gift to us by being the voice of Providence wherever you are. Thank you for your faithfulness over 16 years.

  8. Barbara Sheehan on May 14, 2020 at 9:19 am

    This is an absolutely wonderful blog. A wonderful way to bring to my day. Thanks! Remember the moment is the moment we have been waiting for….whatever that brings! THANKS again!

  9. PAULA DAMIANO, SP on May 14, 2020 at 10:05 am

    Thanks for what you do and for who you are to callers, visitors, staff and the entire SP community!

    • Sherrie (Maher) Mansfield, PA on May 14, 2020 at 9:34 pm

      Mandy, I really enjoyed your blog. Both the college and the SPs are blessed to have you on their team. Keep up the great work, cuz!

  10. Jeanne Frost on May 14, 2020 at 10:34 am

    I love this, Mandy! You are very professional, and I’m quite sure that the callers didn’t even suspect that you were doing anything other than answering the switchboard, especially mowing the lawn or baking bread in your home. It will make me wonder what an operator is doing the next time I make a phone call. We are so lucky to have you with us!

  11. Dawn Tomaszewski, SP on May 14, 2020 at 11:54 am

    I knew you were both an efficient, helpful and friendly switchboard “operator.” I had no idea you were such a good writer–clever and witty!!! Look out. You’ll be getting regular requests for contributions.

    Thank you, Mandy, we’re so grateful for your service!

  12. Mary Heins on May 14, 2020 at 5:46 pm

    Thanks, Mandy, for this fun blog! I feel you gave us some of the “inside story” about how the huge SP motherhouse and grounds continue to operate during this time of shutdown. If we can’t visit, at least we can hear from some of you on the front lines who are keeping things going. That helps a lot.

  13. Fran Olender on May 14, 2020 at 5:54 pm

    What a great blog! I rarely comment, but I could not resist letting you know how you made me smile. Writing a few lines that connect us all is a real gift- especially now! Stay well Mandy-the Sisters are lucky to have you on their “switchboard”!

  14. Rita Clare Gerardot on May 15, 2020 at 11:21 am

    Mandy, I’ve observed you and have marveled how quickly and professionally you handle all incoming calls. You represent the SP’s very well. Thanks! May you continue to enjoy your ministry with us.
    Rita Clare Gerardot, SP

  15. Jane Fischer, PA on May 18, 2020 at 10:55 am

    Oh, Mandy! “You came and you gave [give] without taking!” That’s Barry Manilow and I’m sure you’ve heard it. It is so comforting to know that you are still with us and still giving. You are a centinel as all who have been touched by your work will agree. You wear the charism of Providence, and we are all blessed for having you near. Thank you for your work and for raising your head here to say hello.

  16. S. Mary Ann Lechner on May 20, 2020 at 3:21 pm

    Mandy, for quite some time now I’ve been wondering who
    is taking care of calls at the switchboard. Thank you for
    enlightening me with such a clever, entertaining Blog.
    You are quite a writer. I enjoyed your Blog so much that
    I’ve read it several times. Thank you for being such a dedicated
    employee. We owe you!

    mlechner@spsmw.org

  17. Gloria Memering, SP on May 24, 2020 at 12:11 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing such a wonderful article about you and your tremendous service
    to us and our world.
    I miss sharing your space here and your willingness to help me find the one word needed in our
    paper’s puzzle.
    Looking forward to your being here, Mandy!

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