Okay, that's enough. I have a story to tell you, as promised, about the overthrow of the Altar and Rosary Society. And it has been overthrown, yes indeed. Though it was a bloodless coup.
First, a little backstory. To refresh your memory, or become newly acquainted with the situation as it was, my blog post from April 26, 2007 sums it up neatly. Read that first, then come back. I'll wait...
Link to the story of what sister and I call "Thanks, Catechists: Have Some Goulash."
Okay, good; you're back. Fucked up, right?
Now, as you can see, Sister and I decided that if we were to remain members of this organization, something was going to have to change. As we saw it at the time, there were two main issues: the president had some serious control issues, and we didn't exactly have new members lined up around the block to join. Dwindling numbers and burnout among the ladies who were left was a real issue.
It's not that we don't like Ruby. She's related, and we love her. She's a hoot, full of energy, great sense of humor and she is a good friend at the end of the day. But she's got some issues. We all do, really. (No, poops, not you! Yeah, me too.)
Sister and I felt in our hearts that an overthrow was in order, perhaps coupled with a membership drive of some sort. It would have to be accomplished delicately, with not a small amount of finesse.
Hmmmmm, but how?
We put on our Big Girl Panties and thus girded for battle we put our heads together and made a case for a strong Altar and Rosary presence in the church. Oh, we had prepared a flowery oratory about the importance of a female influence in the parish and the necessity of the galvanizing nature of single-sex clubs. I was ready to extol the virtues of the Good Works we have done in the past and with some fortitude on our parts, could continue to do. Sister would stand to my right and hum The Batttle Hymn of the Republic.
We were ready, people. Ready to whip our small band into a pack of determined, tenacious Warriorettes for the Lord. (Glory, glory halleluuuuuuujah...)
Only they had the next meeting without us.
WHAT THE FUUUUUUUUUCK!
I know what you're thinking. Way to be on top of things. You can't stage a coup if you don't even show up. Would it have killed you to mark your calendar, dumbass?
Truly, Lillian always calls every member before the meeting to give us a heads up. It had been a year since the last one and I was sure someone
would let us know what the date was for the new meeting.
Well apparently, no one got calls, and the few--I mean, literally the five people that showed up--decided that if there was that little interest in doing anything meaningful that perhaps it would be best to take another break, perhaps even end the 60-year-old club altogether.
Sister and I were apoplectic. We did a lot of "what the fuck?" -ing. Perhaps if calls had been made, more people would have SHOWN UP. But what was there to do? If the group wanted a year off, there wasn't much we could say about it. And if no one came back eager to pick up and get back to work, the decision to end the group had already been decided.
Or had it?
After the second sabbatical, the Altar and Rosary was on life support. We had done nothing for nearly two years. Made no donations, had no fundraisers, no social events. Nothing to show that we even existed. We had put Grandma in the nursing home and the kids didn't come to visit anymore because she smelled like pee.
It was time to decide what to do about Grandma. She was dying, poor thing, and we had decisions to make.
We had a meeting, and you can bet your sweet asses Sister and I were the first ones there. Call or no call. We were going to show up every Thursday night at seven in the hall every week if that's what it took. (It wasn't necessary, though. We got a nice letter telling us that Grandma was about to go tits up and we should come for the reading of the will, perhaps enjoy a last slice of pound cake and a cup of decaf...)
First order of business, the President announces that she has met with the priest about disbanding and discontinuing the Altar and Rosary society, closing the doors, distributing our (massive accumulation of) funds, nailing the coffin shut, sprinkling it with holy water and burying it deep.
She had the DNR papers in front of her. Lillian led us in the praying of the rosary, which we dedicated to the group assembled and asked for the Holy Spirit's wisdom and guidance as we decided on our own fate as a club. Heads bowed, beads clicked, voices united in prayer.
Amen. Ruby read the letter she sent to us about the mechanics of disbanding and then opened the meeting for discussion. I spoke up.
There were about a dozen or so women there, give or take, all of the able-bodied members. There were many sad faces. Lots of them had been in the Society for twenty years or even more. I asked, "Who wants to see the Altar and Rosary continue? Show of hands."
I think there were two people who didn't raise their hands, and they're quite deaf so they may have thought I was asking about the Butler and Snow Fairy Society. And I'm sure they don't give a rat's ass about butlers or snow fairies.
And this, my friends, is when we got to the heart of the matter. It's what Sister and I suspected all along. President Ruby didn't want to be president anymore, so she felt it was time to disband the whole of the thing. The rest of us--the riff raff as it were--were content to continue in whatever shape or form the Society took.
And the die was cast.
I said, "That's fine. Perhaps our long-serving officers would like to step down and we can install new ones. What is the procedure for such a thing?" Murmurs of assent rippled up and down the table. ("I didn't get a harumph from that woman...harumph....thank you.")
She looked at me and said, "You want to do it?" Was it an offer or a dare? I don't fucking care.
"Sure." And I took the gavel. That was it, a bloodless coup.
Now, a president needs a cabinet.
The treasurer had already said she wanted to step down a year earlier, and Sister volunteered back then to take over for her; not missing a beat Sister again entered the fray and reiterated that she was ready to step in right then and there. She didn't quite rip the checkbook out of Jean's hand, but did it with a look that made Jean hand it over promptly.
Funny side note: Sister, who is one of the smartest people EVER had to listen to Jean explain for a half an hour about how to write a check, record it, keep track of how much was in the account...if Sister has a stroke someday it is because she smiled and nodded dutifully as not to hurt dear Jean's feelings. Jean may have found balancing a checkbook and tracking receipts to be a challenge worthy of a CPA. Sister does not. She has streamlined the bookkeeping process already. I knew she would. She's Sister.
Now, dear Lillian has been secretary since Jesus was in short pants and we thought it'd be a friendly gesture to ask if she'd like a break from her duties as well. She said that would be lovely, and Miss Jane Vespa spoke up immediately and said she'd be happy to record the minutes for us. Goddamn, that was easy.
Only a vice-presidency left to fill, which we thrust upon a newcomer, Ruth, before she could say no. (We explained that the vice-president doesn't really do much unless I get assassinated after mass one Sunday, and she seemed okay with that. Of course if I take a bullet some weekend, she's hosed.)
Here's the other part, and Sister called it: Ruby hasn't been to a meeting since. She bet that if she wasn't the Chief, she wouldn't be interested in being an Indian, and so far that's been the case. The vice-president who was deposed in absentia left the church altogether, and treasurer Jean is getting married and moving parishes shortly too so we won't see much of her anymore either. And in an early administrative twist, Miss Jane Vespa left the parish and resigned her position as secretary, so Lillian's back in harness. Which suits me fine because she knows everything about everybody and is an invaluable asset to the inner workings of the Society. She's my CIA: Catholic Intelligence Agency.
We still don't have great numbers of members, but the ones that are still there are raring to go. Old ladies aren't old like when I was a kid. We have a member who just turned 80 and became an honorary lifetime member. We asked for ID. No shit, if I showed you a picture of this woman you'd ask too. She's deafer than a hake, but other than that, she's sound as a pound baby, yeah.
I had a fantastic meeting with Fr. Albert who is completely in our corner and basically said he'll back the ladies on whatever we want to do. I told him we're going to start selling indulgences in the Spring and he marked it on the parish calendar. He totally gets me.
So in January we had our first event of the year, a Chili-Chowder-Chocolate Cookoff. We had a smallish turnout, but it was fun and we still managed to collect two big baskets of food and twenty bucks in cash for the food pantry. A small but auspicious beginning.
We're having a Ladies Who Lunch social event in May for all the women of the parish (and if you have any ideas of fun things we could do to entertain them and make them want to join us, that'd be awesome), and our craft fair/bake sale will be back and better than ever in the Summer. I'm spearheading that one and I've got some great ideas.
We have a face again!
And for the members that have hung in there, here's the thing: they feel like they have a say
in what we do now. And they feel that if they bring up an idea that it won't get shot down out of hand. I will talk it over with Father and see what he thinks, and because I get on well with him (he plowed me again this morning, by the way) our ideas have a chance to become actual events. They feel like the priest is on their side instead of being the guy we have to "get stuff by" to make it work.
It's a good thing.
Oh, and the other good thing that came of this--the checkbook! Sister gave the treasurer's report and I was finally able to say what I'd been thinking forever, and that is "What are we saving all this money for?" Honestly, we decide to host a dinner and do it on the cheap so we don't have to tap into our savings? What sense does that make? And you know what?
EVERYONE AGREED WITH ME. They are tired of the constant penny-pinching too!
So you know what we did? We wrote some big-ass checks, that's what. We made a substantial donation to the food pantry, gave generous gifts to our outgoing officers and Father for Christmas, and resolved that all the money we make at fundraisers will be returned sooner rather than later to the community in one way or another. None of this sitting on it so it can earn 19 cents interest for ten years. Times are hard, people need help, and they need it now.
I'm seeing now that I've thought about the whole thing, necessary to the writing of it, that it's not often I'm able to see myself as an agent for change. The changes I effect are small, and that's on the rare occasion I get to see the results of my work. For once I can see an idea I had not only happening (so many of my ideas die young), but working in the way I had hoped.
Maybe I need to write it all down to realize it.
In my next post, I shall give my State of My Knitting Address. Here's a hint: it involves mittens.