Portsmouth Catholic honors
‘example of discipleship’

Cynthia Pauler, pictured with her husband, Michael, was recently named to the Circle of Saints by the Portsmouth Catholic Alumni Relations Committee for her commitment to Catholic education and to her community. (Photo provided)

Cynthia Pauler named to school’s Circle of Saints


An invisible hero.

An angel guiding and protecting.

A disciple.

Those are just a few ways family and friends describe Cynthia Pauler, this year’s inductee into the Circle of Saints, an annual award bestowed by Portsmouth Catholic Alumni Relations Committee. The honor is given to outstanding philanthropic alumni of any of the former Catholic high schools in Portsmouth.

Father Anthony Morris, pastor of the cluster parishes that includes Pauler’s parish, St. Paul, said she has “an energy of faith.”

“She’s not someone who sits in the pew, but someone who really is excited by her faith,” Father Morris said. “She shows an example of what discipleship means.”

Among her contributions for Catholic education, Pauler, 79, has been president of the Parent Teacher Organization at Portsmouth Catholic Regional School (PCRS) and Peninsula Catholic High School in Newport News, served on the high school’s board and continues to serve on the board of PCRS, which educates children from pre-K through eighth grade.

She served on the Catholic Management Team, a five-year commitment that evaluated all aspects of school life such as Catholic identity, school and community, communication, and finance and development, explained Donna Henry, PCRS first-grade teacher, assistant principal and chair of the alumni relations committee.

Pauler’s contributions to her parish include service on the funeral and counting committees. She is active in the Knights of Columbus Women’s Auxiliary, which she joined 30 years ago. She held several offices from secretary to president in the auxiliary and has organized and helped with countless fundraisers. She also reaches out to individuals in need such as visiting and grocery shopping for a housebound 101-yearold friend.

Renowned for her exceptional cooking skills, Pauler brings goodies to committee meetings, donates baked goods for fundraisers and helped cook at Knights of Columbus fish fries during Lent. Her pasta sauce with meatballs is a big hit at an annual auxiliary fundraiser, friends said.

Pauler said her volunteer efforts have waned somewhat because she broke her leg about a year ago, and now she also devotes her time to caring for her husband, Michael, who has dementia. Nonetheless, individuals say her involvement is still “amazing.”

Sister Grace Malonzo, a member of the Daughters of Wisdom, said Pauler “has a beautiful outlook on life” and is “generous with her time.”

“She’s a woman who gives herself to everybody that’s in need,” Sister Grace said.

Pauler and her siblings attended St. Paul elementary and high schools where the Daughters of Charity reinforced the Christian values and faith practiced in the home. She was one of four generations to attend Portsmouth Catholic schools, starting with her father who graduated in 1918 from the Xaverian Brothers’ Saint Paul’s Academy for Boys (now closed) and continuing to his great grandchildren who attended PCRS.

Growing up, Pauler’s family attended weekly Masses. Each May they made a little altar on a bookshelf in the dining room where the children knelt as their mother led them in the praying the rosary — a tradition Pauler continued with her two daughters, Emily Pauler and Betty Ann Smith.

Her mother modeled a servant’s heart as she participated in school fundraisers and made meatballs for military members at the USO. Sometimes Pauler would accompany her there, she said.

“Volunteering was part of my life. It is the way we were raised,” she said.

One of six children, family means “everything, everything, everything” to her, she said. From childhood through adulthood, most of her extended family has lived in Portsmouth, many within a stone’s throw of each other.

Pauler worked almost exclusively in administration, first as a secretary, in the legal field from high school graduation in 1959 to retirement in 2009, taking a brief stint off to care for her children when they were young. For the last 25 years of her career, she was an estate paralegal at the law firm Cooper, Spong and Davis. Her responsibilities included helping organize and conduct estate sales.

“It was a very rewarding experience, helping people navigate the probate system and finalize estate issues,” she said. She uses that expertise to help family and friends who are grieving from the loss of a loved one.

On Oct. 9, Mayor John Rowe issued a proclamation honoring Pauler at a special school assembly. Henry said honoring Pauler in front of the student body showed students that she is “an invisible hero” working behind the scenes.

“Since the day I met Cindy, she has always been a mover and a doer,” said Henry, who has known Pauler for about 30 years.

Pauler is driven to be the best she can be in her endeavors.

Career-wise, in 1968, she was named Legal Secretary of the Year by the Virginia Association of Legal Secretaries. At age 21, she was the youngest grand regent in her chapter of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, the oldest and largest volunteer organization for Catholic women.

She was listed in the 1966 edition of Outstanding Young Women in America for her community involvement. In 2009, the Girls’ Club of Portsmouth honored her as a Strong, Smart and Bold Woman for her role in helping the elderly.

Henry praised Pauler for putting her faith into action.

“She is always pulling us together, giving, rallying, problem solving, supporting and advancing us as the best school family possible for generations,” Henry said. “I think she’s one of those anonymous angels that you may not see or know what she does, but she’s always working on behalf of our students at Portsmouth Catholic and the community.”

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