The news was out, of course.
It would have been un-Christlike to say it, but both Fr. Tom and his right-hand woman Jean McGinty knew that the leak about the parish merger could only have come from St. Stephen’s. From their point of view Fr Andrucyzk and his staff thought of it less in terms of a leak and more as ‘the best defence’.
Fr. Andruczyk ‘didn’t do email’, so all his commmunications were intercepted by Sal Lezek who — in this case — gasped thearically, attracting the attention of the Women’s Spirituality Group meeting in the dining room. They all put down their study guides and watched, wide eyed, as Sal rolled past the open door on her way to the kitchen where Fr. A was embarking on his second helping of the donuts the ladies invariably brought for him.
“They’ve gone and done it,” Sal wailed. “They’re closing us down and we’ve all got to go to St. Therese!”
Well, from there, the Women’s Spirituality Group had forgotten all about the Psalms and the meeting broke up in a cacophony of exclamations and half-formed memories, plans for the future and not a few dabs at moist eyes with crumpled Kleenex pulled from the depths of a purse or a sleeve. The ladies all — eventually — went home, stopping along the way to share the news with Flo in the Dollar Store (because her uncle had been a St. Stephen’s priest back in the day, God rest him) and with Andre Marek, who could always be found in Pat’s Kitchen on Steel St at this time of day and who knew more about the history of St Stephen’s than any man alive. Tones of outrage sang down the telephone lines and by the time Fr. Tom was arriving at the St. Stephen’s Parish House for lunch, the “Save St. Stephens” Facebook page had received an extra 754 belated “likes” for a total of 1027. Not impressive numbers, Andre would later comment, but his accountant’s heart coldn’t help but swell at the thought that it was — a quick doodle on his napkin told him — a 73.4% rise on the disappointing number it had stood at for most of the past year, and almost 200% more than the number of people at mass on an average weekend. That had to mean something, didn’t it?
Andre peered at the flat screen of hs phone. With the font bumped up to accommodate his weakening eyesight, he could only see three or four words on each line of the Facebook app. Most of them were in all-caps.
SAVE OUR CHURCH, the screen screamed. The comment came from someone whose name he didn’t recognize.
THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!
Andre stabbed at the ‘Read More Comments” option and let his eyes drift down the screen.
Heat rose to his face. Fumbling, he thumbed into his phone:
“If you care so much where have you been for the past year?”
He stared at the screen. What he had ACTUALLY managed to produce with his arthritic thumbs read,
“If you all. Cars so much where have you been dorky be teas….”
He sighed. He should, he knew, probably take this as a sign that God didn’t want him to add to the vitriol being spread around in His name. His thumb hovered over the ‘delete’ key for a second longer, then he pressed down again until he was left with nothing but an empty comment box and a blinking cursor.
A gum-snapping teenaged waitressed sidled over, waving a coffee pot.
“What’s happening in the world, Mr Marek?”
He looked up at the girl. She was unmistakably kin to Pat-of-Pat’s Kitchen. Probably a granddaugther at this point. What a thought. He didn’t know her name, though he felt he should.
“Change,” he said, laying his phone on the formica table top.
The girl sighed deeply.
“I could go for some of that,” she said, pouring his coffee and turning away.
Andre blinked and watched her go. I got old, he thought. When did that happen?