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Steps down
Chief operating officer retires as renovation of 40-year-old New York church center nears completion


Patricia C. Mordecai



New officer named

With the appointment on Nov. 15 of Linda Watt, former ambassador of Panama, as the new chief operating officer at the Episcopal Church Center, women now occupy the church’s top three leadership positions. Watt, a member of Grace Episcopal Church in St. George in southern Utah and a career foreign-service officer, was ambassador from 2002-05. She is married to Leo Duncan, a retired diplomat. Look for more information on the new church executive in the January issue of Episcopal Life.

When Patricia C. Mordecai retires at the end of the year, she will leave an indelible mark in the form of a $34 million renovated Episcopal Church Center building in New York.

Mordecai, chief operating officer at the Episcopal Church for eight years, plans to retire to Maine after more than 30 years of service in church administration. Her career has included professional assignments in the dioceses of Massachusetts and Washington.

“I had no idea when I came here that it would be something I would be managing,” Mordecai said of the building renovation. Nonetheless, construction management was not foreign to her.

“When I was working with my husband at a boarding school,” she said, “I ended up representing the school in the renovation of an art center, a classroom building and the construction of two dormitories.” The latest renovation was on a grander scale and more complex, but the issues were similar, she said.

Often, people don’t know why the renovation was undertaken at this time, she said, explaining, “We were dealing with a deferred maintenance issue. “We had 40-plus years of doing nothing to upgrade the building. It was in the 1960s [when it was built] with asbestos, and we had a building whose system did not now meet the code. It was not ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant.”

With a reduced workforce in recent years, the building also had excessive space, she said. The renovations and the relocation of staff allows the upper three floors of the 10-story office building to be leased. [The presiding bishop’s residence is located above the offices.]

“It will be a multi-tenant building,” Mordecai said. “We are now exploring options in that regard.

Work continues

Although the bulk of renovations are complete, Mordecai said, some work remains. Asbestos removal and renovation of the presiding bishop’s residence will continue until the end of January. Interior construction will be needed for the upper floors, based on the specifications of those who lease them.

The renovation of the bookstore on street level is nearly complete, and a new bookstore and café will open in January.

“I think that makes my leaving right at this moment difficult,” Mordecai said of the bookstore and café. “I would have liked nothing better then to have been here for that exciting time. So I look forward to coming back someday when it is operational.”

Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold also said he wanted to return and told an assembly of staff last month that they should not be surprised to see him serving them coffee one day.

Once a Presbyterian, Mordecai has a 32-year history with the Episcopal Church. She worked for John Coburn when he was dean of the Episcopal Theological School and then when he was bishop in Massachusetts. Then she served as the first director of operations for St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C. During that time, she said, she decided to become an Episcopalian.