By Alice Huth-Derrah
“All things are possible for those who believe”
Joseph Pergolizzi smiles warmly as we meet saying, with a bit of a twinkle in his eyes, “I don’t like interviews.” It’s immediately evident that he is a natural people person, possesses a sharp wit, and is a tall bundle of energy. Hired as St. Elizabeth Seton’s Parish Manager in January 2022, Joseph explains that he sort of “fell into the job.” By happenstance, he had been volunteering in the church office and one day Father Kilian, the parish pastor, stopped Joseph and asked if he had any experience working in payroll. Indeed Joseph did, and within a few days he was hired.
Born and raised in Rochester, a city located in the western part of New York, Joseph’s mom and dad were native New Yorkers. He grew up among extended family and is the oldest of his “many siblings.” After high school, he enrolled at St. John Fisher College in Rochester and remained only three months, quickly discovering it wasn’t a good fit. Joseph soon found his way to the Continental School of Beauty, also in Rochester, completed the required 1,000 hours of training, and was launched into a career as a hairdresser that would last four decades. However, he has enjoyed a variety of different work adventures through the years, a self-described “jack-of-all-trades.” This included a 19 year stint with American Express starting out as a Customer Service Representative, moving on to data entry, finance, and then controllership. He also found time to earn a General Studies Degree from Glendale Community College with an emphasis in Communication and Accounting.
Joseph acquired his first taste of Arizona as a teenager after coming to stay with an aunt and uncle for a year. He was experiencing a growth spurt at the time and his aunt and uncle jokingly told him he couldn’t come back for another visit because it was “too expensive trying to keep me in clothes.” After moving to Arizona in 1990, he ended up moving back to New York in 2014 to help care for aging family members. After several years of “many funerals and high taxes,” Joseph returned to Arizona.
As he begins to describe his job responsibilities, Joseph points to the green paint on his office walls (the color visually pulls nature inside) and says, “We’ve made sure all the spaces in the parish office are welcoming.” By “we” Joseph means “the most wonderful team in the world,” referring to the other staff members and volunteers at St. Elizabeth. He rarely speaks about his work without using the word “we” when describing his coworkers who have helped create an office atmosphere promoting mutual respect and trust. He describes his management style as “I ask, say thank you, give credit where credit is due…I empower the staff.” He also actively adheres to “No Rule #4,” which is written on a sign prominently displayed above his desk. Joseph laughs and explains that it means saying a firm “No to the idea that because we’ve always done things a certain way we should continue to do so.” Though responsible for church finances and much more, Joseph and the staff focus on relieving Father Kilian of any additional parish tasks, adding “Father has enough to do,” while keeping on-going communication between everyone a priority.
Between work and “multiple hobbies” such as cooking, painting, and designing, Joseph also enjoys spending time with his beloved cat, Smokey ”the boss,” and his rescue dog, Dakota, who are best buddies. One of the last thoughts Joseph leaves me with is, “Remember, the office of the Parish Manager couldn’t run properly without such an amazing staff.”