“Hey, how are you?” a woman visitor to St. Ann’s Community in Rochester asked Frank Fontana, a 77-year-old resident.
“I need the money you owe me,” he said jokingly, adding that he had to pay off bets on racehorses.
A jovial character, Fontana is in good mood, possibly because he just received an artificial rose from the Catholic Women’s Club of Rochester, located at 494 East Ave., Rochester. Fontana was one of several residents who smiled and thanked club members for the gift.
The club’s members visit St. Ann’s, a long-term care facility, every year to distribute the roses, according to Mary O’Keefe, a parishioner at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Greece. She noted that, as a member of the women’s club, she has participated in the floral distribution for 37 years.
O’Keefe was joined at St. Ann’s on June 9 by club members Rose Greutman of St. James Parish, Irondequoit; Lina Hill of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, Brockport; Terri Robach of Holy Cross Parish in Charlotte; Joanne Fracassi of Christ the King Parish, Irondequoit; and Nicky Carlisi of St. Thomas More Parish, Brighton, who is the club’s president.
Robach said that they distributed artificial roses because some residents don’t like to watch real roses die. O’Keefe added that some residents have collected several roses from the club members over the years.
Carlisi said that the women’s club members organize the annual rose distribution to show the elderly residents that they are not forgotten.
“Some of them in their 80s and older don’t have any visitors,” she said.
“They love to sit and talk,” Greutman said of the residents.
“Some of them want to pay us, and we say, ‘Absolutely not!'” Carlisi added.
Robach noted that the club members also benefit from visiting the residents.
“We really have to appreciate our older people and the wisdom they have,” she said.
The club itself is in its golden years, having turned 85 this year. Bishop Matthew H. Clark celebrated the club’s anniversary by presiding at a May 7 Mass at Pittsford’s St. Louis Church. The Mass was followed by a luncheon at Oak Hill Country Club attended by more than 300 people.
Distributing roses is among the many activities the women’s club has undertaken over the years. According to a club history, the club has helped African nurses obtain real bandages to replace the banana leaves they were using on patients. The club’s card parties and fashion shows have raised funds that have enabled many Catholic-school students in the Diocese of Rochester to receive scholarships. And members have delivered various types of donated items to St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality, a Catholic Worker men’s shelter in Rochester, and Bethany House, a Catholic Worker women and children’s shelter.
The women’s activities are symbolized by the club’s logo, a six-spoked wheel, according to press information provided by Marion Ramsey, publicity chairman. The spokes represent the club’s spiritual, cultural, charitable, social, civic and recreational activities The club’s members also attend a monthly Mass together.
Throughout any given year, various new causes may arise in the community, and the members are always ready to provide funds and/or volunteer their services, the press information stated.
Ramsey, a parishioner of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Brighton, said she belongs to the club for a variety of reasons.
“I have enjoyed the friendships,” Ramsey said. “There’s a definite underlying spirituality there. The good works that are being done are definitely meaningful, so I feel there’s a deeper purpose being served here.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: For information on the Catholic Women’s Club, call 585/461-9173.