By Barb Arland-Fye
Cheryl Costello led the Bunny Hop dressed in an elegant outfit she’d worn at her son’s wedding. Middle-aged adults and senior citizens wearing corsages and fancy outfits and young teens dressed in white and black formed a train behind her, kicking up their feet to the rhythm of the music. Who would have thought Our Lady of the “Moon” River Senior Prom would become an intergenerational party?
Jennifer Hildebrand, who leads the parish’s Health Cabinet, suggested the idea of a senior prom for people ages 60+. She figured a senior prom would be a great way to serve that generation with an opportunity for faith, fun, fellowship and food. Building community, addressing loneliness and caring for the mind and spirit are key components of health ministry.
Cheryl and the rest of us on the Health Cabinet supported Jennifer’s idea and built on it. We’d have a DJ playing oldies, a photographer taking “senior” photos, someone pinning corsages and boutonnieres on our guests, and parish youths serving as wait staff. We each agreed to personally invite parishioners of the 60+ generation and to assist with the festivities. Jennifer recruited the Knights of Columbus to prepare dinner. She encouraged us to at least consider wearing prom clothes, purchased from a thrift store, like she planned to do.
Shopping for a prom dress at thrift stores was like going on a scavenger hunt, I confided to one of our guests after complimenting her on the scarlet prom dress she wore. She returned the compliment. My fuchsia dress cost $4. She said I got the better deal; she paid $15 for her dress.
We counted about 55 guests and 17 helpers at the May 16 prom. Guests had RSVP’d from our parish, Church of the Visitation in Camanche (our sister parish), Davenport, Bettendorf, Clinton, Fort Madison, Iowa City and Washington, Iowa. Fortuitously, I recruited parishioner Mary Anna Parris to snap prom photos. The retired teacher with oodles of creativity and people skills endeared every guest whose picture she took.
Health Cabinet members Kathy Bentler and Kathy Moetsch made corsages and boutonnieres to give to guests before Mass. Some were already wearing a corsage, which has long been an icon of prom. Rita McRoberts made sure all tables were festively set and Kris Marwin was the event’s clean-up batter.
My husband Steve and other Knights of Columbus — Mike Hames, Marvin McRoberts, Tom Costello and Mike Trujillo — prepared ham, sweet potatoes, cheesy potatoes, corn, fruit cocktail, rolls and ice cream. Guests said dinner was delicious. Boy Scouts and confirmation candidates served as waiters. In my mind, they deserve bonus community service hours for attentiveness to the guests, even socializing with them.
One of my favorite memories that night occurred on the dance floor. The DJ duo, recruited by Brian Dugan, played all kinds of music, including the unforgettable disco song “YMCA.” The teens joined the seniors and everyone in between dancing to the pulsating music, raising their arms to form the letters “Y-M-C-A.” Janis Smith, our Health Cabinet member responsible for recruiting the youths, was in the thick of the dancers. Everyone had a look of pure joy on their faces.
The next morning, a couple of Health Cabinet members delivered leftover care packages to those who couldn’t make prom, and corsages and boutonnieres to a local nursing home.
The Catholic Church sometimes gets a bad rap as being boring. Our Lady of the River proved that perception wrong with a senior prom that sent spirits soaring into orbit.