Barbara Roth, a longtime employee of the Diocese of Harrisburg who served most recently as its Chancellor, retired in February after 41 years of service to the Church.
During her tenure in the Diocesan Tribunal, Roth served as Administrative Assistant, Case Manager, Office Manager and Chancellor, a role to which she was appointed in 2019.
“I’ve had a wonderful and fulfilling career working for the Tribunal of the Diocese of Harrisburg,” said Roth, a member of Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Harrisburg.
Upon Roth’s retirement, Bishop Ronald Gainer appointed Barbara Bettwy, JCL as the new Director of the Tribunal and Chancellor of the Diocese. Bettwy, a member of Holy Spirit Parish in Palmyra, continues to serve as Canonical Consultant and Judge in the Diocesan Tribunal, roles she has had since her hiring in September 2015.
The mission of the Tribunal is to reflect and experience Christ in the ministry of justice through the compassionate and equitable application of Church law, to protect the rights and dignity of each person without discrimination, and to provide an opportunity for healing.
Part of the work of the Diocesan Tribunal is to conduct ecclesiastical trials to determine a person’s right to marry in the Church if the person has been divorced. A declaration of nullity (annulment) states that a previous marriage was not valid according to the teachings of the Church and therefore, the parties are free to enter a new marriage in the Church.
“We are told that faith is a journey, and I hope that the work of the Tribunal has helped those needing assistance in their faith journey,” Roth said.
“For me the most enjoyable part of working for the Diocese has been the people; working with all of the Tribunal staff throughout the years, those both in the office and those that worked outside of the building; also working with everyone in the Diocesan Center in every department, and getting to know those working in all the parishes,” she added.
Roth congratulated her former colleague on her new roles saying, “I think the appointment of Barb Bettwy as Director of the Tribunal and Chancellor is an excellent choice. Barb is a very talented and gifted individual, along with being a skilled and knowledgeable canon lawyer.”
“I miss working with everyone at the Tribunal. They are a very dedicated and faith-filled group of people,” she added.
The position of Director of the Tribunal is not new to Bettwy, who served in that position for the Diocese of Erie where she worked for 15 years. It is, however, a new position for the Diocese of Harrisburg, established after a restructuring of the Tribunal following Roth’s retirement and other personnel changes. As director, Bettwy will manage the day-to-day workings of the Tribunal, allowing Father Paul Clark, Diocesan Judicial Vicar and pastor of St. Matthew Parish in Dauphin, to focus on his other responsibilities.
“I cannot express in words how profoundly grateful everyone should be for Barb Roth’s work in the Tribunal,” Bettwy said. “She served this Diocese for over 40 years and is largely responsible for the excellent work ethic and commitment to ministry that is so evident in the Tribunal Staff.”
“This is sometimes very challenging and emotionally draining work,” she said, particularly noting the cases involving marriage. “It is not easy dealing with the brokenness of people’s lives on a daily basis. However, the Tribunal staff is truly dedicated to this mission and share a camaraderie that makes working in this office a joy.”
Roth and Bettwy continue a line of female Chancellors for the Diocese, a role that was also held by Dr. Carol Houghton for 29 years before her retirement in 2019.
The Office of the Chancellor is concerned with the official documents of the Diocese, especially of the Diocesan Bishop. The Chancellor is the principal Notary of the Diocese, and the notary for the official documents issued by the bishop. A Chancellor is responsible for gathering, arranging and safeguarding the acts of the Curia in the archive of the Curia.
“Happily, having a woman as Chancellor is rather common in our province. In Pennsylvania alone, five of the eight dioceses have women Chancellors,” Bettwy observed. “I think they would all agree that while the title is nice, what is most important is increased opportunities for women to use their gifts in service to the people of God.”
“I am very honored that Bishop Gainer asked me to serve as his Chancellor and am grateful for the trust he has placed in me,” she said.
Learn about annulments and the work of the Diocesan Tribunal at www.hbgdiocese.org/tribunal.
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness