I remember July 15, 2007 the stake executive secretary came to the Relief Society Room with my husband to pick me up to go to the office of the stake president. Pres. Robert Derosa said, “As you know, Bishop Margiotta will be released and your husband will be called as the new Bishop of Plainview 1st Ward”. Bill already knew what was going on it seems and I was not sure if I was supposed to say anything or to ask any questions or to say thank you. I was just totally dumbfounded. In my mind, I was like my husband will be the father of the ward. A very big responsibility. Can he do it? Pres. Derosa was still talking and my mind was thinking about my husband’s long hours away from us. I will be left to take care of these 5 children. How long will this take? … my mind was still thinking? Then I heard Pres. Derosa saying, “ …3 to 5 years usually.”, like he heard my thoughts. He said more things that I do not remember anymore, he shook our hands, I gave my husband a hug and off we went back to our classes. I played it cool, but I was very humbled and overwhelmed. I remembered I was told not to say anything about it until it happens. And you know what was cool that I never knew before, when bishops are called they get a letter from the prophet telling them they are called to serve as a bishop … like how missionaries receive mission calls.
Then he was sustained and ordained as Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Plainview 1st Ward. I was there and my children. I felt very tender. I am not sure what my children were thinking but they were very quiet. Then they were spoken to by our Stake President also. That, as bishop’s children/family, we will be looked into like a fish in the fish bowl. That we all need to behave and be good examples to the other members of the church. I really have very behaved children (it was a process to make it like that) but this time they were extra behaved.
I never thought my husband will be called as a bishop. I knew he was always a very devoted member of the church, honors his priesthood so dearly and he always wanted to serve in the church. Bill joined the church when he was 26. He never served a full-time mission, he is not a scripture scholar and he has no professional training for this position, though he was a counselor in the bishopric for about 7 years. If he needed something from the scriptures, he always asked me. He always thought I knew since I went to seminary and institute and I served a full-time mission. My best resources though were the topical guide and the bible dictionary. With this, I learned that God calls who He wants. He doesn’t call the qualified but He qualifies the called.
2 of my brothers in the Philippines were serving as bishops at that time. I always wondered how their wives are. Really. Are they lonely? Are they overwhelmed with the children? Is there anything I have to know to give my full support in this very important calling? The Stake Presidents’ wife at that time, my friend Vivian Derosa spoke to me on what to expect and told me to just be a good wife and really support him in this calling. “It will be very rewarding”, she continued. Another former bishop in our ward tutored me on how to be a good bishop’s wife. He specifically said, “Don’t be jealous when women speak to your husband … sometimes for hours and forever. He is in the Lord’s errand”. I took all of what they told me into my mind and open up my heart to accept that my husband was called as the BISHOP of Plainview 1st ward (NY). Indeed, he is in the Lord’s errand.
Then the journey began … I do not really remember everything but I will try to share some experiences so dear to me … my experiences as a bishop’s wife.
We had a special meeting as a family. He told each of us to support him and that we’re all in this together. Except for all confidential matters, we are.
One Friday morning, I laid all his dressed down clothes (jeans and kicks) to go to work. As he was drying himself after shower looking at the clothes I laid for him, these were the content of our convo:
Bishop Whitney: “I feel that I have to wear my suit and tie this morning.”
Me: “Honey bunny, it is Friday, did you forget? You will be overdressed, I’m telling you.”
Bishop Whitney: “How can I forget that? I do not know why but I have to wear a suit and a tie.”
Then the phone rang and … I couldn’t share to you the rest of the story. All I can say is that with this calling he do not get a day off as long as he is in office.
Several occasions, on Monday nights, I have to finish family nights with my children ourselves for him to fulfill his responsibility. Sometimes I ask: “Do you really have to go?” Most of the time, the answer is yes.
I have countless evenings when I have to read the scriptures with my children. Sometimes, I would silently murmur and say, this is not a family scripture study… my husband is not even here. Every time, I think like this, the feeling is accompanied by a silent shame, and a subtle regret. So since my children’s eyes can’t wait until he comes home late, I have to do it. And try to do it cheerfully. It is not easy but the thought that he is doing the Lord’s work equalizes the whole thing.
Don’t ask me why, but I don’t drive. This means we have to go to church when he goes and leaves when he leaves and sometimes that is forever. We are blessed with good children. Alot of good samaritans in our ward offer to bring us home but all of us wants to stay and go home as a family. Our van is packed with food, pillows, blankets and games. Sometimes it has become a joke like our address has moved to 160 Washington Ave., Plainview NY 11803 instead of 1 Summit Lane, Levittown, NY 11756. It is pathetic but unless it is a fast Sunday, nobody wants to leave the church. One thing we do, we always break our fast with a prayer in the bishop’s office when everyone is gone. Very special.
My husband’s first ward conference had a lot of preparations on his part. Usually if he wants to go to the church, and if it is a week day and I am off from work, he tags me along. This time, he got me to go with him and he did alot of things. We were in the church from 10pm Saturday till 3am, Sunday and we have to be in the church again in 4 hours. I was just behaving like a good wife, trying to help, print papers, sort some papers and bind them. Deep in my thoughts, I was like I am glad Ward Conferences are only once a year. On later years, he has become better with delegating and life for him was alot better.
One wintry night, he needed to go to the church, he did not come home until after the next day. The snow was bad. I was just happy phones were working. If this is not dedication, I do not know what this is.
When hurricane Irene hit Long Island, it was a possibility that people might need shelter. With the stake president’s permission, we packed our basic needs and slept in the church. The floors were hard, no wonder in the morning I lost all my children from where we were that night finding them in padded couches in the church lobby.
Graciously, I learned to patch holes when needed. Several Saturday mornings, he will tell me to prepare a talk for the next day. It is either the assigned speaker copped out, sick or whatever. I do not ask questions. I just have to prepare. This happened about over a dozen times.
I have seen a very distressed sister calm down and comforted after my husband gave her a blessing in the middle of the night. This was like magic to my eyes.
When hurricane Sandy devastated our Long Island, we did not have power for 13 days. Instead of focusing the predicament our family had, he focused on giving service to the community and his enthusiasm was very malignant. Our children happily came to serve too. We had a lot of family fun time together, precious.
Christmastime were always fun, I hooked him up with TOYS FOR TOTS and we got truckload of toys for the children. As a family, we would pack our van with toys and go to each of the children in our ward boundaries. Watching these children light up with a big smile, priceless.
Every Saturday night for the past 5 years and 11 months,I would say 99+% he goes to the church to bring the bread for sacrament, make sure the church is clean and garbage are out. Sometimes he comes home around 12 midnight or later. I tell him he has a special spot in heaven doing what he does. His good examples has echoed to me and our children’s attitude toward service of which I am eternally grateful. Indeed, “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17)
Last week June 16, 2013, my husband came to get me from Relief Society class. Outside with him was our stake president, President Mark Hardman. He escorted me to his office and had a visit with me. He told me my husband will be released as our bishop next Sunday, June 23, 2013 and a new bishop will be called. He thanked me for the support I gave to my husband while in office. My eyes flooded and I had a lump in my throat. I tried to hold the emotions back and I told him I am happy my husband was able to serve. He was transformed into a man who God wants him to become.
Now I could say that he knows scriptures more than I do, He has touched more lives than he could imagine. We were really blessed and that if I will be given another chance to serve, I do not know about how my husband feels, but in another time, another place, I would be love to be a bishop’s wife again.
Jacinta B. Whitney