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 building.
Mordecai has served as chief operating officer of the Episcopal Church Center in New York City for eight and a half years. She was appointed to the newly created position shortly after Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold was installed.
"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 planning for the church center renovation began two years before the actual work. When the work commenced, it continued for an additional two years.
"It was difficult for the staff to endure the construction going on around them and moving into less than desirable temporary quarters," Mordecai explained. "But I think we made a great effort to try and make it bearable. One of the things that meant the most to me was getting everyone settled in new spaces and having people happy with the end result."
Although the bulk of the work has been completed, Mordecai said, "We still have a couple of pieces to be done."
"The Presiding Bishop's residence will be renovated once the Griswolds move out and we will be beginning construction on a bookstore café on the first floor of the building," she said.
The bookstore café, although scheduled for completion prior to Mordecai's departure, is expected to open for business in January 2007.
"I think that makes my leaving right at this moment difficult. I would have liked nothing better then to have been here for that exciting time," she said. "I think it is a wonderful concept and a welcoming place for our church center offices. So I look forward to coming back someday when it is operational."
Bringing people together
In describing her work, Mordecai said she has been responsible for managing the staff and for bringing people together "in collaborative ways to carry out the mission of the church."
She added that to do this work under the leadership of Bishop Griswold has been a "wonderful experience."
"He is a man of great faith with a calm presence," she said. "He empowers people to do their jobs."
Griswold's style of leadership was helpful, she said, because it allowed her to determine the expectations of her role which meant "freedom to really figure out what was the best way to go about pulling this whole operation together."
Mordecai said she will miss the "great spirited and dedicated people" she has been associated with at the church center.
"I think the church does not always realize what a wonderful staff is serving the church. People who really give their lives," she said.
Raised Presbyterian, Mordecai has a 32-year history with the Episcopal Church. During the course of her professional life, she has worked for John Coburn, when he was dean of the Episcopal Theological School and again when he became Bishop of Massachusetts, where she remained for 15 years and eventually became the administrator.
Prior to joining the church center staff, she served as the first director of operations for St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. It was during this time, she said, the decision was made "to make the leap and formally become an Episcopalian."
As fulfilling as her work has been, Mordecai said one of the most exciting aspects of her job has been the opportunity to participate in the transformation of Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD).
"I have been a board member ex officio since I became COO and it has been one of the finest experiences that I have had," she said. "To see that organization grow, and be transformed in a way that is making such a difference in the world and having such an impact has been a very meaningful experience."
The search for Mordecai's successor began in September. She said the arrival of Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori is "an exciting time in the life of the church." She hopes her successor will be named before she leaves so she can help with the transition.
"I think I would say [to my successor] that despite all the turmoil that is going on in the church today, to say nothing of the world, the staff here have a wonderful opportunity to stay focused on the mission of the church and the way in which we can provide resources for dioceses and parishes," she said. "If we get caught up in everything that is out there in the media we will get sidetracked from doing the important work that we have to do. So it's a challenging time but a wonderful time to help strengthen the vitality of this great church of ours."
Mordecai was raised in New Rochelle, New York. She is a graduate of the College of Wooster, in Wooster, Ohio.
She and her husband Don have four adult children and one grandchild.
"I am going to truly retire. I know my husband thinks that this is just a bump in the road and that he is going to try and do something else; perhaps some teaching. But my sense is that I couldn’t possibly do anything that would be as satisfying as the roles that I have played throughout my years working in the Episcopal Church," Mordecai said. "I am really looking forward to flexibility. Time to just be; time to read, to be in the garden, walk and sail and do those things that have been very difficult to do for all of these years."
She and her husband moved to their home in Castine, Maine this summer where they have made Trinity Episcopal Church their parish.
"I am sure I'll get involved eventually but I'm going to take some time and not commit myself to anything until I have an opportunity to ... see what my life is going to be like. But I am sure that I will get involved in numerous volunteer activities, which is what small towns are all about."