By Barb Arland-Fye
Mary Matelich, assistant city attorney in Great Falls, Mont., cherishes the education she received in Catholic schools in Clinton, Iowa. A 1976 graduate of St. Mary High School, she and her husband, Craig, have four sons ages 20 to 27, all of whom chose to attend Catholic colleges.
She praises her parents, Merlyn and Violet Kuhl, as her first teachers of the Catholic faith who made sacrifices to send their children to Catholic schools. In addition to her parents’ influence, “The religious Sisters and priests who taught me have helped to shape my life. They were absolutely amazing teachers and scholars. They shared their knowledge of their educational fields, but more importantly their faith in God. I learned that by placing God as the number one priority in my life, everything else falls into place.”
Matelich remains active in her Catholic faith, serving as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist at Holy Spirit Parish in Great Falls, and was former chairman of the Pastoral Council during construction of the new church (2007-2008). She previously served on the Christian Service Commission as a member, then chairperson.
Her role as mother took priority over her career while her sons were growing up. “I served as assistant city attorney from 1985-1988, ‘retiring’ after the birth of our third son. I returned to the position April 12, 2010, after being a ‘stay-at-home’ mom for 22 years.”
Having returned to the workforce, Matelich said she enjoys being a public servant and assisting both citizens and the police officers. “I never thought I’d end up in a criminal law area. I had a teaching job set up prior to moving to Great Falls. God had another plan for me. The prosecutor’s job kind of chose me.”
She has received convictions in three domestic violence cases where the victim has not been used as a witness and one change of plea to guilty on a stalking case “after the defendant realized that I had convinced the victim to show up for the trial … the victim never had to testify.”
Matelich said domestic violence victims often are afraid that their abuser will hurt them if the victim testifies against the abuser in court. They may be willing to tell a police officer what the abuser did, but then recant their original story in an effort to protect themselves or the abuser.
Matelich also has a commitment to helping younger abuse victims. While raising her sons she volunteered for 10 years as the attorney for her county’s guardian ad litem group, serving as its first attorney. The group has grown from one volunteer guardian to nearly 70 volunteers, all of whom advocate for abused and/or neglected children.
These volunteers speak up for the child in all court proceedings. Matelich advised the guardians on their cases and assisted with training.
As a former Girl Scout indebted to her leaders, she volunteers with the Boy Scouts of America, first serving as the leader for her sons’ Cub Scout dens and Boy Scout troops. All four earned the rank of Eagle Scout, with each one doing his Eagle Scout service project at the family’s parish. Since 2006, she has served as vice president for public relations for the Montana Council, Boy Scouts of America.
She’s relied on her faith and the lessons learned from Catholic teachers to guide her through major and minor challenges in life, including the death of two brothers, one in a plane crash and the other who had Down syndrome. “My Catholic teachers instilled in me a respect for human life at all stages—from conception to natural death.”
What would she suggest to help Catholic schools thrive for generations to come? “Teaching our Catholic traditions, maintaining academic excellence, and including technology to assist in learning. Continue to focus on the individual students and meet their needs. Recognize the importance of Mass and receiving the sacraments.”