“I needed to buy some time to build my credibility with the people. So I developed a strategy.”
( #14 The Law of Buy-In) John Maxwell
Perhaps the most notable Seventh Grade act of mine that relates to leadership unfolded in the spring of that year.
I believe I mentioned that in 6th grade I kind of awakened to the gender equality issue and went so far as to address my favorite nun as “Father” rather than “Sister.”
Additionally, you might see a trend of producing/directing shows that started for one section of the fifth grade, carried into both sections of sixth. So my 7th grade vision naturally continued it’s expansion.
Now it was for the whole school. What was it? I dared to envision a ceremony in the church led by a female. Now at this time, women were not allowed on the altar.
Our church was built in the form of a cross with the altar in a large circle at the crux. The “North” section behind the altar was the sacristy and rest of the priest’s rectory. The congregants sat in the other three sections of the cross.
So, the entire circular altar was surrounded by a beautiful altar rail which effectively defined the area when females were not permitted. My brothers were both altar boys and I was so envious. They got to shake bells and bow in their altar robes, and prepare the incense, light candles and beat their chests for all to see.
I began early in the year cultivating a relationship with one of the priests. After developing some level of trust with him, I espoused my dream. He was not very encouraging and suggested that the Monsignor was the only one who could allow such a notion. It had never been done before.
I began to cultivate a relationship with the Monsignor. This was challenging but came along slowly. I participated in choir and helped fold programs for church, and any other volunteering possible.
Eventually, I made an appointment to see the Monsignor in the rectory. It was a pretty scary idea but I just had to ask for the order. I had a plan that I thought was saleable and that would not violate the altar, and yet it would break through a glass ceiling.
I asked for a big order, ready to adapt. The Monsignor listened to my idea and refuted the possibilities with objections that I had already met from the other priest. I step-by-step adapted until I achieved an “I will have to discuss this with the rest of the staff and get back to you.”
I had been led to understand that Monsignor alone held the final sway. And I knew I had the support of at least one of the staff, so I felt a victory was possible. And when I didn’t hear back, I pursued it. Monsignor looked quite surprised at my tenacity and knew he couldn’t justify a No and finally said “Yes! You may create a special ceremony to Mother Mary for the School Mass on the first Wednesday in May. You may lead the procession through the church to the Altar of Mary.”
Woo Hoo! The Altar of Mary was beside the sacristy door, outside of the circular altar railing. It was a beautiful day, floating down the aisle with flowers and candles for Mary, singing Ave Maria.
I still love candles and flowers (like these from my garden) !
I created and led the first female inspired celebration in the history of the parish. I was 12.
The priests bought into me and then they bought my vision of celebrating the Feminine in a deeply entrenched masculine tradition. Change had begun. When the church switched from Latin to English, they also had women read scriptures or make announcements eventually from inside the altar rail. Who knows, maybe a little inspiration from Mary had crept into the rectory.