By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Just as Katy Crabtree was introducing her successor at a Feb. 27 gathering of retired priests, in walked latecomer Father Chuck Jones.
“He’s the one who never answers his phone calls,” Crabtree warned Eva Skahan.
And that, in a nutshell, is why Crabtree was so effective for a decade as the diocesan wellness coordinator for priests, and especially why she worked so well with retired priests.
She was the boss, make no mistake about it. If often on her rounds of checking in on them, a retired priest was ailing but reluctant to see a doctor, Crabtree would take them there. She’d coax them, and if that didn’t work, she’d bully them. And she often drove them to doctor’s appointments herself.
And she did it out of love.
Crabtree was told that the Feb. 27 wine and cheese gathering would be an opportunity for retired priests to meet her successor, whom Crabtree called “a nurse’s nurse.”
In reality, it was an event for the priests and the Retired Priests Committee dedicated to their welfare to thank Crabtree for her years of love and service.
“If we told her that in advance, she wouldn’t have come,” said John Massman, a leader of the committee that includes representatives of the Knights of Malta, Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, Knights of Columbus, Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, and the World Apostolate of Fatima.
Massman told the gathering of a few dozen retired priests that the committee asked retired priests a decade ago what they needed the most. Health care assistance topped the list.
Bishop Raymond J. Boland then hired Crabtree, a veteran registered nurse, to regularly monitor the health of retired priests.
Her job, Massman said, was supposed to be “part-time.” She put in much more time than that.
“If she would have worked full-time she would have worked 24 hours a day,” Massman said.
“She knew every priest,” he said. “She even got the respect of some priests who shut the door on her the first time she came.”
On behalf of the committee and priests, Massman gave Crabtree a Waterford crystal vase, which will be inscribed with words of appreciation for her service.
Crabtree assured the priests that if they thought she was tough, meet Skahan. She’ll know they need medical help before they tell her, and she also will not take no for an answer.
“I’ve already told her who to look out for,” Crabtree said.
Crabtree also told the priests the reason she was leaving her job. She had come to love the priests dearly, and it became too painful when the inevitable happened and they returned home to God.
“It really became too hard for me to give them up,” she said.
“It’s been a wonderful time,” she said. “You are family to me.”