Cathy Colten began part-time work at the church as front desk reception more than 14 years ago, when she took on a few hours to help out Judy Anderson. Her role and contribution have grown significantly since, and so much of the daily functioning and behind-the-scenes work and communications of the church have passed through Cathy’s caring and thoughtful eye. But beyond her care, creativity and organized/detail-oriented nature (which don’t always go together as beautifully as they do in Cathy!) her friends and colleagues recall her infinite patience, quiet confidence and servant-leader heart. She has modeled faithfulness of the Christian life and dedication to others, out of a deep love for Jesus and for the people of First Pres. If the fruits of the spirit mark the Christian life – of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control – those who know her best say “Cathy walks the talk.”
While carrying out her front desk duties, Cathy stepped into a “temporary” role as Communications Coordinator for the church in April 2017, and continued until her retirement in August 2021. It is a sure bet that almost anything you’ve read from the church, designs, banners or photos you’ve enjoyed, annual reports you’ve studied, the Advent Devotional that touched you at Christmas, the Website updated with the latest mission news, or guides that have helped you plan fall events, Cathy has had a hand in producing. When she didn’t know a communications program, she taught herself how to use it (including most recently Canva design and social media posting), building upon her professional background in graphic design. In recent years she developed the systems, the programs and the protocols that kept the Communications function running smoothly for the church.
Her closest friends among staff took some time to recount what has made Cathy’s service so special for First Pres.
Most called out the fact that she was a terrific “pray-er” – she has the most thoughtful prayers for people who needed them, always willing to stop what she was doing to pray over someone with words that truly soothed, with the absolute assurance and confidence that the Lord will help. This depth of prayer and faith grew authentically out of her servant heart. Cathy has advocated for the needy and victimized throughout her life, serving as the voice of Jesus to women who were marginalized or victims of human trafficking in local spas with both New Name and Women at Risk in Naperville. She would advocate for these organizations in the church and community, volunteer in her time off, and ultimately, put her faith into action. With New Name, she would regularly visit the women working at the front desk of the local spas, pray with them, give them a care package, telling them that Jesus loves them. This touched the women, who were often working in forced or abusive situations. She formed critical bonds of friendship with these women as they heard the Good News – that they are not worthless, but they are loved and cherished by a powerful and mighty God.
Friends recall that Cathy didn’t like to be the center of attention, but she was always there for others. As the front desk receptionist, she fielded everything from package deliveries to walk-in strangers who would enter the church just “looking for the pastor.” Colleagues observed she was always kind and respectful in how she dealt with anyone who walked through our doors. She was highly empathetic, able to walk with people through difficult feelings and situations.
She was also a “cookie monster” who loved to share lunch and treats daily with staff. She cultivated a beautiful family, with husband Rob calling her every day at lunch just to check in. A devoted mother, her eyes sparkle when she talks about her two boys James and Christopher now grown and one recently married. She loves her family with a full heart.
Cathy recently retired to spend more time with family and pursue new horizons on how she spends her time. She spent her last weeks training our new Communications Director Katherine Vasile, who said: “I will always be thankful for her kindness and gratitude. Cathy made me feel comfortable and integrated me into the staff here at First Pres. She has such a kind and gracious presence that always lights up a room. Even though I haven’t known her for long, her love for the Lord and this community is evident in everything she does.” Pastor Chris Griggs commented on Cathy’s tenure on the church staff, “Cathy has been a wonderful part of the team and has contributed significantly to the health of the church staff culture. She cares deeply for the other members of the staff team and has been a positive, reliable presence for many years. We will miss her greatly.”
Join us in thanking Cathy for her creativity and service, for loving the First Pres community, and for the way she models the fruit of the Spirit in her walk with the Lord for us all!