Retired communications chief, Cecelia Price, was key lay leader, official says

Cecelia Hart Price

Reflecting on more than three decades of service to the Archdiocese of Louisville, Cecelia Hart Price said she’s retiring with gratitude and pride for the work she accomplished in collaboration with her colleagues.

“That’s the thing I’m proudest of, working with wonderful colleagues to make good things happen for the church,” said Price, who retired on June 14 as chief communications officer.

Dr. Brian B. Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer of the archdiocese, lauded Price’s talents as a communicator and noted that she was also a key lay leader for the archdiocese.

“She served on dozens of committees. She provided advice and consultation to three archbishops and dozens of colleagues leading numerous diocesan agencies,” said Reynolds in a recent interview.

“Her work as a lay minister had an impact beyond her specific tasks in communications,” he said. “Because of her role and because of her enormous skills and knowledge of a wide variety of issues, she was part of planning most every initiative in the archdiocese in the past 30 years. She is a skilled communicator, but she has been more important as a leader of the church of Louisville.”

Price was hired in 1991 by the late Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly as associate director of the Office of Stewardship. The Archdiocesan Communications Center was founded a year later. In 1993, she became the chief communications officer. 

“In a certain sense, I stumbled into communications, but I loved it and was very happy when I started working for the archdiocese,” Price said during a recent interview. 

Her original plan was to earn a doctoral degree in history and become a teacher. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Bellarmine University and a master’s degree in history from Fordham University in New York. In 2010, she earned a master’s degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University in New Orleans, through the extension program, known as LIMEX.

In her more than 30 years as a communicator, Reynolds noted, Price navigated significant changes in communications.

“It’s been more than three decades of coordinating our communication initiatives at a time when the mediums of communication have changed dramatically,” he noted. “For example, when she began with us, we had no internet — email, website and social media. That has become the normative communication tool while maintaining more traditional communication tools,” such as print publishing. 

In addition to the weekly print publication of The Record, the Archdiocese of Louisville now has a presence on the major social media platforms, robust websites, digital newsletters and podcasts.

“Last year one of our podcasts (“What’s New in ArchLou”) had more than 140,000 views — probably the most views of anything we’ve put out. That is part of Cecelia keeping us up-to-date on modern means of communication,” said Reynolds. 

The podcast’s success is also one of the things Price said she’s most proud of. It came about through a collaboration with colleagues in the Office of Mission Advancement, she said, noting, “We don’t do anything alone.”

“We’ve had all these wonderful guests. The success of it, I consider an accomplishment,” Price said. 

Reynolds also noted that Price’s responsibilities included responding to the faithful who reach out with concerns and doing crisis communications. 

“That means managing hundreds of complaint calls, letters and preparing hundreds of statements and press releases in response to whatever has occurred,” he said. 

Reflecting on her work, Price said an archdiocesan communications office should be a “servant to the mission and ministries of the church.”

Keeping that in mind, she approached her work “as a servant with a sense of service and expertise,” communicating well and communicating with care and compassion, she said. “I approached it as a ministry that is essential to the church” and its mission of communicating the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Brian B. Reynolds

In helping to achieve that mission over the three decades, Price said she faced various challenges. Paramount among them was the sexual abuse crisis in the early 2000s.

“Terrible harm was done,” she said of the sexual abuse perpetrated by some members of the clergy. 

Though it was a difficult time, she never considered leaving and was able to work through it because of how the archdiocese responded, she said.

“I worked with people who wanted to approach it with compassion and transparency. I felt privileged to work with people who wanted to develop ways to prevent this terrible harm from happening again,” she said. “I felt like my colleagues were trying to do their best and trying to move forward with hope and a good system in place. I respected the fact that there was a commitment to doing better. It wasn’t defensive or blaming others.”

Three decades at the helm of the Archdiocesan Communications Office helped her to grow in her knowledge, understanding and perspective of the Catholic faith and it also taught her many lessons, she said. 

Four in particular stand out:

  • Listening to understand. “It’s essential to good communication,” she said.
  • Thinking carefully about how communication is received. “How are people reacting, and what’s happening as a result?” she said.
  • We’re better together. “Collaboration and working together is essential to our ministry,” she said.
  • Invoking and relying on the Holy Spirit. “I learned that I can’t do it on my own. I need the help of the Holy Spirit,” she said.

Price said her career goals were always centered on service and meaning. 

“I wanted work that was meaningful. That was certainly met and exceeded,” she said.

Price has served on a variety of boards and committees, both in the Louisville community and at her parish, Holy Trinity Church. 

She is married to John Price, who retired in 2019 from St. Xavier High School, where he taught social studies since 1979. They have two daughters, Genevieve Huett, a teacher in Pacific, Mo., and Katherine Price, a child psychologist in Louisville. 

Marnie McAllister, editor, contributed to this story.

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