The Beginning

We had no idea what the year would bring.

Right from the start 2010 felt like a ten car pileup on an icy highway.  The crashes continued into 2011 leaving all of us numb, especially me.  This is the week, two years ago, that it all seemed to begin.  It started innocently with a phone call from Colleen.  She said, “The Connecticut Archdiocese wants documentation from all of the Confirmation sponsors stating that they belong to a parish.”  Julia and Madeleine are getting confirmed and because I am their aunt and godmother it is automatically required that I am also one of their sponsors.  The automatically required is not a church thing but one of my mother’s rules.  “What?” I say, as I haven’t belonged to a parish since moving to New York City.  I moved here at 17 and it might be more realistic to say I’ve never belonged to a parish in my adult life.  Sadly, my sister Lisa is in the same predicament.  Colleen adds, “We need the paperwork as soon as possible.”

I called the church down the block to discuss our problem.  We have attended mass there many times over the years and given generously when the basket is passed.  I gave crumpled twenties.  The secretary told me that I had to apply and then attend for six months before I could become a parishioner.  “No exceptions will be made!”  She was harsh and even as she hung up the click had a sharp edge to it.  I jumped back fearing for my eardrums.  That’s when I realized this wasn’t going to be easy.  I called Vita in a panic.

“I can’t be the girls sponsor for confirmation if I don’t belong to a parish.  Nobody told me I had to pay dues!”

“Mae,” came Vita’s voice in a slow yet deliberate tone, “How do you think Rome was built?”

Growing up our neighbors had a dog named Muffy.  He was a scraggly mutt who went from house to house begging for food and working a trash can if it held something that smelled really good.  I fear my approach to church is a bit like Muffy.  I’m not a holiday only kind of gal, but I go where I like when I feel the need.  Suddenly, my religiously roaming ways are backfiring on me.  At 49, I am about to get in trouble with my mother over religion.  The chemo she’s been on isn’t working anymore and after a nine-year battle, it doesn’t look good.  The last thing I want to do is disappoint her.  She is a devout Catholic.

“Vita, what do I do?”

“Come to Queens.  You can get anything in Queens.”

I’ve never met anyone who loves Queens as much as Vita does.  “OK, but first I have to see how Lisa is doing on this quest.”  I don’t want to go to Queens just yet.  Certainly someplace in Manhattan will take me as a parishioner.

Lisa works as a producer in news.  She’s like a truffle dog when searching out specific people for a specific story.  “I found a priest.”  She tells me this triumphantly as I am already waving the white flag of failure.  “You found a priest to lie for us?”  I am now blown away but she answers, “No, I found a priest who will talk to us.  His rule for admitting parishioners may not be as strict.  We’re meeting with him next week in Chinatown.  You had better make yourself free on Tuesday night.”  I did and I remained in awe.  I refer to this meeting as “The Chinatown Connection.”

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