By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
ALLEN — A range of expressions from fastidious to facetious, and from sly to serene, crossed the 24 faces gathered at six card tables in the Youth Room on the St. Jude Catholic Church campus.
On this day, everyone in the “youth” room was between 60 and 94 — which caused some of the retirees to grin as they examined their cards at the parish’s weekly Monday bridge gathering that the players said helps them stay sharp in mind, body and spirit.
Now and then, bursts of laughter and chitchat emanated from the foursomes.
“I think I took up bridge to hone my memory skills — but I can’t remember!” a player said with a wink as those at her table snickered.
But the players said that among bridge’s benefits for mental acuity and concentration, the gatherings rewarded them most pleasurably by helping them to meet people and make friends.
“Bridge makes the seniors think and it gets them out of the house,” said Ann Roemerman, a St. Jude parishioner and the coordinator of the bridge ministry, which she said began in 2005 with the support of Father Tim Church, the parish’s Pastor Emeritus. “Father Tim liked it for the idea of fellowship. People also come from other parishes and a number of North Texas communities.”
Many in the Monday group, which plays “American Standard” bridge, moved to North Texas from distant states to live near their children and grandchildren.
“I’ve met a lot of people since I moved from California to Wylie last November,” Dale Witham said. “We enjoy it, even when I can’t win for losing.”
Roemerman, who coordinates the parish’s bridge games for about 70 players at six levels, has the players rotate among tables after each round to increase the social aspect. Many have set up lunch dates after meeting at the bridge table.
Bridge, which is played by millions around the world, is recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Roemerman said that she would rejoice if bridge’s bid for full Olympic-sport status ever comes to pass.
Beverly Beck of McKinney said that she regretted not learning to play bridge earlier in her life.
“Every time you open your cards, it’s like getting a Christmas present,” she said.
Her partner across the table, Katie Johnson of Fairview, injected some reality as she looked at her cards: “Sometimes, you get coal in your stocking,”
Roemerman, who teaches beginning bridge at St. Jude on Fridays, said that 65 billion different hands are possible in bridge.
Her father, John, 93, is a regular at the Monday gatherings.
“He remembers his cards like crazy,” said Roemerman, 65. “He’ll discuss it a week later.”
For those seeking a friendly social activity, the card games bridge gaps and, occasionally, generations. Roemerman said that one player’s grandson learned the game and comes home from college to play with the St. Jude group.
“There’s always a place for you at a bridge table,” said Johnson, a St. Jude parishioner who is a widow. “Nobody is a cut-throat.”
Roemerman said that only rarely has a player not observed the courteous atmosphere.
“We ask that people be friendly,” she said. “We want no cutting down of your partner. The players can ask questions whenever they want.”
Bridge gave Beck a quick way to fit in.
“I moved from Kansas to McKinney on a Saturday,” she said. “And I was playing bridge here on Monday.”