By Jerry Duggan
After years of rewarding, yet demanding positions in the field of fundraising, Paula K. Parrish aimed to write a book with a friend and take some time off. She found she had too much energy to do that – she yearned to return to serving the Church. This summer, she joined the USA Central and Southern Province as Chief Advancement Officer.
She has admired the Jesuits from afar for years.
“As a cradle Catholic in Texas, my high school debate team would always match up against Jesuit College Prep in Dallas – and Jesuit always won,” Parrish recalled, smiling. “It seemed like they were the best at everything that they did, and I admired that.”
Parrish started out as an educator, working at a Catholic high school for 23 years, toward the end of which she became involved in advancement-related projects at the school. From there, her career in fundraising blossomed.
A certified fundraising professional with more than 25 years of experience in the field, Parrish has worked for organizations such as Rotary Downtown Fort Worth, Leadership Fort Worth, Cristo Rey Fort Worth Catholic High School, Fort Worth Opera, Loreto House Pregnancy Center and Children at Risk-North Texas. She previously served as executive director of the Advancement Foundation of the Diocese of Fort Worth.
Throughout her career, there exists a common thread; many of her most fulfilling positions have come at Catholic institutions.
A desire to return to such an environment is what drew her to the Jesuits.
“Starting and ending meetings with prayer and centering my work on Christ has been most meaningful for me in my career,” she said.
Such assignments have provided Parrish with a sense that her work is making a difference in the world.
“At one time, I worked in development at a facility for abused and abandoned children,” she said. “I was always in awe of the gifts that the psychologists and professionals who worked directly with the children had, but I don’t possess those gifts. What I was able to do, though, was help raise $14 million, which resulted in seven new buildings for the children. That is how I have been able to make a difference.”
She acknowledges that any fundraising effort is a team endeavor.
“To fundraise successfully, it really takes a village,” she said. “Everyone who works for an organization needs to put their best foot forward at all times to show that this organization is one worth supporting.”
She is confident that the “village” surrounding her in the province will be up to the task.
“I look forward to growing closer to my colleagues and working together to advance the mission of the Society.”
Parrish lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with her husband, Larry, to whom she has been married for 44 years. She has two adult children and four grandchildren.