It started months ago with people gathering their unwanted possessions–their books and CDs, coffee mugs, unused popcorn poppers, china figurines, and Christmas decorations–and bringing them to the church. The donations piled up in the office, the basement, and the garage. As the time drew nearer, Father Brian started his post-Mass standup routine about the important of buying raffle tickets. You don’t have to be here, he said. We’ll mail it to you—I hope you don’t win a sofa. And if you don’t want any of the other prizes, we have money! For weeks, after Mass, people walked around with strips of gray raffle tickets and signed their names on big posters for donations and volunteer tasks.
Then the baking began. Zucchini bread, pumpkin bread, banana bread, scones, muffins, and thousands of cookies, not just chocolate chip but peanut butter, sugar cookies with green sprinkles, snickerdoodles, and Rice Krispy treats.
Halloween and All Saints Day came and went, pen scratches on the calendar compared to what was coming Saturday: the Sacred Heart bazaar.
On Thursday, workers took down the holy pictures and posters in the hall and the adjoining classrooms. They rearranged the tables, covering them with red and green cloths. They carried load after load of books, CDs, coffee mugs, popcorn poppers, china figurines and Christmas decorations from their hiding places into the hall. They set up signs for the Book Nook, the Country Store, Odds and Ends, the Cookie Walk. They set up tables near the kitchen where people could eat Chinese lunch or homemade pie.
On Friday, parishioners with dough and colored sprinkles embedded in their fingernails came in a steady stream delivering their home-baked contributions on holiday plates, in plastic bags, in aluminum foil.
On Saturday, parishioners, garage salers, and bazaar lovers were waiting at the doors at 9 a.m. With borrowed grocery store baskets in their hands and twenty-dollar bills in their wallets, they shopped and shopped, and, like the loaves and fishes, there was still more to buy. They bought raffle tickets and signed their names to spend hundreds of dollars on silent auction items, including paintings, quilts, and a dinner with Father Brian. They filled boxes with all kinds of cookies, filled them so tight they could barely close the lids.
When the bazaar ended at 3 p.m., there was still more left to buy. So on Sunday, the workers opened the doors again, and parishioners swarmed out of the 8:30 and 10:30 Masses to snatch those half-price bargains, not minding that the usual donuts had been replaced by leftover pie.
Then, sated, clutching their treasures to their chests, they went out into the rain while the exhausted volunteers counted the money and returned the hall to its usual holy appearance, knowing that Sacred Heart would thrive for another year.