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Canon Anilin Collado is the Diocese of Los Angeles’ missioner for human resources and St. Paul’s Commons retreat center manager. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

Canon Anilin Pulido Collado pauses before her next appointment to send a quick email because, she says, “Somebody’s trying to collect unemployment benefits and I wanted to get back to them right away.”

It is open enrollment for Episcopal Church Medical Trust benefits – time for most Southland Episcopal church clergy and diocesan lay employees to sign up for or upgrade existing plans, or at least to revisit their medical and dental health care options. When the season rolls around near the end of each year, it keeps Collado, missioner for human resources for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, as the song goes, working day and night.

Some days begin very early, with consultations on East Coast time with the New York City-based Church Pension Group, which administers the church-wide medical trust. “My day can start at 5 a.m.,” Collado said. “That’s when the CPG opens and, if you don’t want to be waiting too long, it’s always better to make the phone call first thing in the morning.”

Other days last well into the evening hours, to accommodate church vestries and committees as well as individual schedules.

Pre-pandemic, there were multiple visits to local churches across the diocese to explain, illustrate and educate clergy and lay professionals about a ream of nuanced possibilities. Now, in the age of Covid-19, she participates instead via Zoom webinars and telephone consultations to help tailor decisions to fit individual circumstances.

But navigating the employees of 130-some congregations and 40 diocesan schools and institutions through the complexities of the open enrollment season is a tiny aspect of Collado’s role. Year-round, she serves as an overall resource person for those same entities, a role she approaches with compassion and extreme care. She also serves as manager of the St. Paul’s Commons Retreat Center in Echo Park.

“My role is to be a resource person from pre-hiring through termination and everything in between,” says Collado, or “Ani,” as she is affectionately known. “This is my ministry. The ministry is in the encounter in daily lives, in the contact.

“It’s a vocation,” she added. “It’s where answering God’s call comes in, you’re interacting with the people you talk to. When they call you, it’s usually because they have a problem, maybe health or financial or a congregation has problems and they need help with figuring it out.”

Sometimes the calls are from churches concerned about their ability to afford clergy benefits and wanting to explore other options.

Canon Anilin Collado, at right, poses with her colleague Clare Bangao, coordinator for mission congregations, and Canon Michael Cunningham, rector of St. Mary’s Church, Lompoc, during Diocesan Convention 2019. Photo: John Taylor

“I feel for that,” Collado says. “Especially during this pandemic, when we have had to shut down preschools and schools and furlough employees. They are very passionate about their vocations and I can feel the pain in their hearts. That’s where this is not a job but a vocation.”

Other times, there are consultations regarding worker compensation claims, short- and long-term disability questions, how to handle the paperwork for employee terminations, and whether churches are in compliance with church canon and government labor laws.

“I started to work with Anilin regarding human resource issues, prior to being ordained a deacon in 2005 in our diocese,” recalled the Rev. Barrett Van Buren. “Her care and concern helped pave the way for my formation in the various assignments I’ve had throughout the diocese.”

Barrett says that since he became rector of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Placentia, “Anilin has gone above and beyond in making sure our parish was meeting standards with our benefits for all employees and when we needed assistance in revising our parish employee handbook,” Van Buren said.

“She took the time after work to meet our subcommittee members, and still continues to provide personal attention to us. She has contacted and met with us after her work hours to accommodate our plans and goals.”

After his May 2020 hiring as chief of staff for All Saints, Beverly Hills, Gerry Suenram, “quickly learned that Anilin was the go-to person for my questions about benefits and employment.

“There wasn’t a parish administrator here at the time, and so I may have had more direct contact with Anilin than a typical new employee would,” he said. “She was immensely helpful in onboarding me into my new role.”

Previously a residential real estate manager, “I had no familiarity with what is typically administered at a church like this,” he recalled. “Anilin was super-gracious about introducing me to this world. She has been the hub of my introduction to parish administration and human resources.”

Collado has assisted him with “everything related to bringing a new employee in and ending employment,” as well as health benefits, background screening, guidance on the pandemic and “all the peculiarities of payroll for clergy” and, most recently, open enrollment.

Through her expertise, “I was able to take the information, to share it with our staff and to feel confident that I was sharing the right information in a timely way. She helped me help others.”

For Terry Roberts, parish administrator at St. Wilfrid of York Church, Collado is “a godsend, helping us navigate personnel and human resources issues,” especially when the Covid-19 pandemic forced layoffs at the Huntington Beach church’s 140-student preschool.

“Personnel issues are not cut and dried,” Roberts told The Episcopal News. “I want to thank the diocese for having someone like Anilin in that position. She’s helped us with open enrollment, and she’s been especially involved with the Covid-related questions about how we keep people or lay them off and how to get through this whole Covid problem we’ve had.”

In the interim period between rectors, “Anilin was there supporting us. There were a lot of issues that we had to work through, with letting go of our rector and hiring the interim priests that we’ve had during this time.”

Canon Anilin Collado reads from her contribution to the book “Race & Prayer” during an event in 2002. Photo: Janet Kawamoto

Collado also manages the St. Paul’s Commons Retreat Center. In that capacity, she oversees the center’s bookings and finances, meets with facilities staff and coordinates hospitality for church vestry retreats and commission meetings and events for the entire diocesan community.

Pre-pandemic, “I was always very excited to book groups coming from our congregations,” she says. “It is a way to connect them to the diocesan office and to experience it. It is a connection to the bishop’s office and to the staff. I am always reminded that this place was built to be a connecting point between our far-distanced congregations and St. Paul’s Commons.”

The pandemic has forced a lot of cancellations, impacting the retreat center budget, unfortunately. “I have a feeling it will be that way for a while,” she said. She is exploring possibilities for booking rooftop events and outdoor space, however.

Canon to the Ordinary Melissa McCarthy said Collado “takes seriously her role in the lives of all the employees across the diocese. She brings a spirit of love and generosity to all her work, both as missioner for human resources and as manager of the diocesan retreat center, where she exercises her unique gift of hospitality. She is always ready to help wherever there is a need, and she is keenly observant, often seeing issues before anyone else does.”

Collado is a self-proclaimed “double dipper,” blending her Catholic Chiro Youth Movement spiritual formation with her Episcopal Church service. She considers both diocesan roles a continuation of ministry that began at an early age in the Province of Cavite in southern Luzon, in the Philippines, one of the nation’s most industrialized and fastest-growing regions.

She immigrated to the United States in 1989, and four months later began working at the diocese, which she considers “a very gracious blessing.” She is married to Antonio and together they share four children: Luz Angelica, who lives in Canada; Crystal, who lives in the United Kingdom; Mark, who lives in Australia, and Anthony, who lives in Southern California.

“Every person I come across, I consider that I am meeting Christ,” Collado says. “I am meeting the many faces of Christ, in some sense, through the experiences and events that happen. It’s very fulfilling for me. I view this as ministry, rather than work. My connection to people is my connection to God.”

— The Rev. Pat McCaughan is correspondent for The Episcopal News and vicar of St. George’s Church, Laguna Hills. This is the first in a series of articles about members of the Diocese of Los Angeles staff.