(Continuation of the interview. Hope you enjoy)
SM: - So we planned this pilgrimage trip to Ireland and we made arrangements we actually stayed with – and now I'm not talking about the Vatican,but I will. I'll get to it, I promise. We stayed with the original convent I don't know if that's already on there anyway.
SG: That's OK. Keep, keep going.
SM: [-?-] And so, anyway, we visited the different places. A couple of the sisters didn't go to all of the places - they were more interested in shopping. (laughter) And you get that in every society-
SG: Yes, you do.
SM: -and so but I, I went to every place that I could go by walking. I walked to some places and I went with the the Superior - Sister Unis was the one who kind of planned the trip and everything that she planned I went to. We actually sang the prayer -the breastplate prayer of St Patrick on the site where he first recited it. And it was beautiful. But anyway, because we were already over there, we decided -each year we have a certain allotment for our vacation so we decided since we were over there that we would take a plane trip over to Rome. And our bishop made an arraignment so that we could be there for the big mass. And it was the fourth of July of 2001 that I was there and we were in -we were like from - lets' say the pope would have been right where the stove is and this is how close I was (pointing from the stove to the table a distance of about six feet) to him. That, that, that was for the big assembly and in order to do, that our bishop had to pro- write to Rome and get a tickets for us. And someone had to go so I was the adventurous one. I got to Boston and found the North American College and got the tickets and I got there in plenty of time so, but it was hot and exhausting and so I sat in- the they had a little stairway going into the thing and I sat saying my rosary and this sister -she was a Sister of Mercy of Alma, that was its some place in Michigan. And they were working in the Vatican at the time (some of their sisters) so she came in and she said “oh sister, you look so hot. Come on in.” And I said, “Well, I came” - you know, I told her what I had come for. And she said -she got me a bottle of water and she got me comfortable and then she said “They're getting the tickets ready”, but she said “I want you to stay near the phone when you get home because there’s a chance you can attend the Mass at the Holy Father.” And she said, “But I can't tell you for sure yet.” But she said stay near the phone so I did when I got back home, back home - back to the hotel. (mutual laughter) That was my home for the week. I did and we got the call and she said -unfortunately, she said- we, some bishops came in so they are going to attend the mass, but you can have a private audience with them afterwords. So you had, we had to be at the big door- the big bronze door. That was for the year of the jubilee. They had, they installed a big bronze door and it got opened at the beginning of the holy year -every so many years they have a holy year. And that was, that was from the year before so we had to meet at the bronze door and the knights were there and, and the, these knights were not in the whole- full regalia. It was just a neat suit, but and then there was another one there in the garden. If you move -he moved the staff like 'no don't do that' and we were given instructions. They said “When, when you can go in, all your coats and things will be left in this out - separate room.” You can't take any camera with you, but they they took a picture obviously (showing me a picture)
SG: Oh, yeah.
SM: “We have our own camera person.” And then they told us where we could get the picture afterwards - a little, a little store around the corner. And so, so we went into the room and I -it was all so awestruck. And then he finished mass and out he came. And when he did, it just was like- ahh, it was just awesome. That was the highlight of the trip. It was awesome just stepping in to the Vatican the first time. I, I just - I don't know, it's just like this is the whole root of our whole religion, you know. But, but when he stepped in there and he- he said a few words and then I was at the very end and this sister- that's not -hold on. (gets up to point at the tapestry) That the other sisters in there, but she was -the person that printed that for me took her out of the picture. If you come right here- see this is Sister Eunice and she was the last one in the line and she had already been there, so she, and she - I think she considers me like you know a protegee or something because she was she was right with me all the time making sure that I enjoyed every bit of it. But look at him [-?-] and we weren’t supposed to say a word, but guess what! (mutual laughter) The Holy Father gave us a rosary and that’s what he was passing me there and you – normally, if there’s a bishop or a priest, you would kiss the ring of the Holy Father - he’s the bishop of Rome. So I said, “Holy Father, you didn’t let me kiss” - he was reaching for the next rosary for that sister. That would have bothered me “I didn’t get to kiss your ring.” Well, I was rewarded with the biggest smile and he put his hand down so I could kiss his ring.
SG: Oh, wow.
SM: I wasn’t going to be there- all, all that distance -and not get to kiss his ring. I mean that would have been horrible! (laughter) And, anyway, they didn’t throw me out. (mutual laughter) I thought “OOO, I did it” and it just happened, you know, but it was -it was a big smile that came on his face. I just will never, ever forget it never.
SM: And then I went to the -they have a museum and the big room where they always gathered to let the pope - I can’t think of it, where Michelangelo’s big, big paintings are-
SG: Sistine Chapel.
SM: Sistine chapel - thank you! (laughter) See, you’re doing better than I am! (mutual laughter) I just, I’m getting excited so I’m going, you know, have these senior moments. Anyway we, I went there and that was awesome, but - it was just- a priest had told me if you go to the Sistine Chapel, don’t stop to see anything because you’ll never get through it. I mean, you’ll never ever - you’d have to be there for weeks to see everything that’s there, but the important thing is the Sistine Chapel. And so he said just keeping moving; people will stop and you just keep, you know, moving through which I did. And I just sat there- just awww. It was just awesome! I was the only one in the whole group that went to the Sistine chapel- they didn’t, they didn’t want to go through all that.
SM: And, but it just was beautiful. And the other thing about that trip was- a lot of the priests that were there - at least, this is a comment, or some of the sisters- they said they weren’t very friendly. Or if you talked- see a priest and you talked, they’d say, they’d indicate they didn’t speak English. But I met the present pope, but he was Cardinal Ratzinger.
SM: OK, I met him. I carried a little tiny notebook with me and if I met somebody, I talked to them - I’d write their name down so that when I was by myself or now I pray for all those people that I met on that trip -because I’m a people person, remember? So I, I had this little notebook and I, I – he, he spoke to me first and I said, “Oh will you sign my book?” And then when the election time came and I was watching it on TV and they were saying that Ratzinger might be a possibility, I was saying that’s the one I met! (laughter) I was so excited when he was elected. I said “Oh, I've already met him, but he wasn't pope then.” So I've met two of them.
SG: (mutual laughter) Yea.
SM: So anyway. Yeah, and he was very pleasant. And he asked where, you know, where'd I'd come from and about my order and everything - it was just, he was wonderful. I would love to have a trip to go and see him now, but that- it just, see if he would remember. And I almost believe he would remember, I really do. Well, if I took my little notebook with me, he'd see the name - (mutual laughter) he'd know, he’d probably say “Oh yeah, that's that crazy nun that wanted me to write my name in a book!”
SG: No, he probably would have said, “Hey it's that-
SM: [unintelligible phrase] (laughter) He'd say, “Now have you been praying for me?” ( mutual laughter) Does that answer that question enough?
SG: I think it does.
SG: So we only have a few more.
SG: How was being a nun today different from when you started many years ago?
SM: Well, I think I, I already answered that-
SG: I think so – most of it.
SM: I can't -except that- most things we had to do, we had to have permission. And because I live alone, it's so different. I do call my Superior if it's going to be something different that’s going to happen, I do call and you know-
SG: Did you call about this interview, for instance?
SM: No, I didn't! (laughter)
SG: No, I just wondered...
SM: I thought about that last night - I'm saying, “Well, it was too late to call her,” but yeah, right. If it was going to be something different- I don't think, I don't think that she'd have a problem, but anyway. I should run it past her before you turn it in. (mutual laughter)
SG: Go ahead and do that. (mutual laughter)
SM: I hadn't thought of it until last night, like actually to tell you the truth, but I don't think its a problem. No.
SG: So how do you think your order has changed in the last fifty years to keep it viable?
SM: Well, ours, ours has changed because the 'Sisters of Mercy of Maine' and the 'Sisters of Mercy' all over the United States studied over a period of ten years -in fact, it's twenty years ago now I think. I’m not sure. Anyway to, to see the possibility of amalgamating in some way. Because of the loss of vocations. If they combined resources, they might be able to better take care of the sick and so things like that . But there were some of us -quite a number of us in the community in Maine- that did not feel that that should happen, OK. And actually there were probably about twenty eight and we had to actually do a vote- Some of this I don't think should be recorded, but I'm answering it for you OK? And maybe you can -
SG: Well, I -
SM: -put it right-
SG: I will give you the transcript and I am more than happy for us to-
(recording stopped at the request of the interviewee)
SM: But I knew I did not want to -because in the course of the study -they had a big gathering here in Maine. They had them in different places, but one of the places was in Maine. And a lot of sisters came and most of them were not wearing a habit -that is very important to me. I feel that it's important because it makes me accessible to people who want to talk to a religious. If I didn't wear it, they might not know I was unless I told them, OK? Sometimes by your actions I suppose people would say, “Well, there’s something different about her.” And they ask, you know, why you're different or something, but I feel the habit is important. Not the way it was when I first entered- that probably should go in that other question. (laughter) Because we had eight yards of material around a yoke and that was heavy and hot in the summertime. And then we were- it was like this, this is the only part of your face that showed. (SM arranges her hands around her face) And when it was hot, it would melt and then it looked awful. (laughter) I felt that looked awful. We didn’t have many mirrors to look at, but if you saw -if you did come across one, you knew you looked awful. Anyway, but that's an aside -
SM: - but to answer that other question, you might want that in there. But as far as the change now, get me back on the question. (laughter)
SG: How has your order changed in the last fifty years to keep it viable.
SM: OK, to keep it viable. So anyway, for us -we felt that it was in -viable to me meant the way Mother McAuley intended it. And when she first started the order, it, it, if a bishop would ask her for sisters, she no longer was in charge of them. She sent them to that dioceses or this place- to England, to America, they went there. But she was no longer their - she was the foundress, but she didn't not demand or, obedience. It, it -the superior she appointed was the one that was in charge and the bishop was the ultimate authority. And that’s the way it is with our community- my community that I belong to now. So we, we were told that we would either have to leave the order or become, you know, just lay people. Or become a [-?-] -another type of, I can't remember the word- I'm sorry. Anyway, and well, a few of us just got together and one of them was Sister Eunice. She really did a lot of research and so forth and she talked to a canon lawyer who told us if we wrote to Rome and explained the situation, maybe we could get permission to remain as Sisters of Mercy the original way they were. Which we did - we each wrote our individual letters about what how we felt about religious life, how we felt about not joining that, and how, why, and so forth. I remember, I think I wrote about twelve or fourteen pages handwritten and all of those were packed up and they were sent to Rome. And then we got a letter back -then the information was sent to our bishop. And we received a, we have it framed at our house- the fact that we were officially the Diocese Sisters of Mercy and there were twelve of us and now we are down to seven.
SM: We desperately need vocations and that's (transcription stopped to to wishes of SM and then restarted)
SM: I think their fear comes from - a lot of people as they get older, they fear, are looking for security and well, and that’s not the right reason to join the community. But that was not the case with this woman and I think when you interview her you will find that's true. She was, was not looking for security. She had worked for many years as the post office, in the post office here so she has a good pension. Her pension would be contributed to the funds, you know, for the community so she wouldn't be totally dependent on us to provide. She certainly can run circles around me and I'm pretty active. (laughter) And you don't even know half of what I do! (mutual laughter) That has even come in the interview yet.
SG: It hasn't?
SM: Yeah. (laughter)
SG: How do you think the hierarchy of the church in Maine has changed over time?
SM: I'm, I'm not sure if that. Other than the fact that what I've described earlier about how the church is is being set up with, like ten churches for one parish now. We are the Parish of the Precious Blood- these ten churches, we have ten worship sites other than that-
SG: [unintelligible phrase]
SM: - that’s the only change that I would say exists. I don't understand hierarchy and it's not important to me. (laughter)
SG: It's OK. (mutual laughter) So, there is a thought among some church members that nuns and priests should be allowed to marry?
SM: Yeah, I don't have anything- I don’t have any thought of that one. I, I mean, I have a thought on it -I don't agree with it I should say. I, I do not -I know in scripture and that’s one argument that people use for the marriage of priests. I don't even consider nuns doing that -that’s kind of counter active of what a description of a nun is; it's a celibate person, you know. And I don't, I don’t see any point in that. But as for priests being married, I don't really accept that idea and I would never want to have - and the other controversy which isn't there is women priests- I wouldn't accept that either. I would not want, desire it for myself nor could I see that happening just because of the personality of a woman. Woman- some women can be confidential, I know. I can keep a confidence, but not all women can. Most women can't -they've got to tell a secret as soon as they, you know, can breathe it out -they want to. So, you know, I just don't think that's proper. And I also, as far as the priests being married, that is, causes strain on a marriage. A marriage is a man and a woman together and if he has to had a lot of confidential contacts with other women, that's going to cause a strain on a marriage. A lot of priests get into trouble because some woman has this problem and this problem, this problem, this one, pretty soon you know you hear of some scandal or something that has happened. And so I just don't think that- I think it would definitely cause risks between a marriage. I don't think that would work.
SM: I know originally in the scripture -in the only proof you have, is Jesus. You know, Peter's mother in law. So we know he was married, but you never hear anything about his wife so I don't know - maybe she died? We don’t know.
SG: Can't argue that.
SM: Yeah. (mutual laughter) I don't know, you just never hear anything about her. I don't mean - we don't even know her name- we only know he had a mother in law.
SM: That Jesus healed so she could get up and cook a meal for them. (laughter) So I bet that's what I , people will use for that. I think women can be helpful and we do have in the state of Maine- in the church - the deaconite program. A permanent deaconite program is what they call that. Deacons are a part of the steps, of the steps of becoming a priest, but a permanent deaconite /deacon is a person -can be married. And they serve the church -they can't say mass, but they can baptize, they can marry people and they can be a great assistance to an area like this where you only have three priests for ten churches.
SM: We don't have a deacon, but they're hoping to get one.
SM: Now the deacon, the permanent deacon- if he's married can never marry again. If his wife dies, he can never marry again.
SM: He's permanently a deacon and so he would be held to the vow of celibacy as far as keeping that life.
SM: - and no other afterwords, but that life can be very helpful to him. Because a lot of the things a deacon does would be educational things in the parish and that wife could be involved in that. And when a deacon is training, the wife is required to have classes also in the church. And they, they are obliged to the, the office the - what did I say before? (laughter) 'Liturgy of the Hours' as is the priest and the sisters -we're obliged to do that each day, but that’s them. Several lay, many lay people do in this day and age too -the liturgy of the hours. They could for their own spirituality, especially in places where you don't have a mass every day and then we often will gather to do the liturgy of the hours.
SM: But I jumped-
SM: -into that one backwards way.
SG: No, that's just fine.
SM: (laughter) You're going to have fun doing this!
SG: I'm having fun already! (laughter)
SM: Oh, OK.
SG: So tell me, tell me a little bit or a lot about how you spend your time.
SM: From my work here?
SM: I am the director of the social action programs. That, that’s an arm of the church that- it's called social justice and peace, but we call it social -our program is called social action. And we, I, I do it here for St Mary's, but now that we are ten churches we're also working to get all of the ten churches on the same page. And maybe I do some fund-raising together so that we can better help the poor of the area. One of the things that I have had to do in the past and now we're going to try to combine it with the others is have a big fundraiser each year so that we can do the things that these calls [-?-] - help with lights and medical needs, clothing -we don't have a clothing store. We used to, but I sometimes can provide a voucher for certain events or whatever -getting to school, getting kids ready for school in the fall and so forth. And then, we had originally in the basement of the first convent that I was in St Mary's, and in this basement we had a food pantry. And that pantry out there is very cold -it always is, even in the summer. We had freezers for our food pantry, but that has evolved into an inter-faith one which is called GIFT and I'm the volunteer director of that and that is over on industrial street. And that’s, I think I said a little bit about that before. We have it set up as a store. People come and actually shop, but its dread – we, after we were there two months we were outgrown it. And the board is dragging their feet (laughter) and I'm praying hard against them.
SG: How many people do you think utilize the food pantry?
SM: We have, we serve well over two hundred people. It's a very poor area.
SG: Two hundred people a week or -
SM: In- over, they come once a month sometimes.
SM: They can come, but there's well over that. I don't know any set number in my head, but I'm sure that’s a on a pretty regular basis, there's well over that that. Some people will come once or twice, but we don't - we just ask minimum- name, address, and telephone number, verify that they're from Presque Isle, Mappleton, Chapman, or Crouseville -that's the area that we serve. And then, we give them the guidelines that the stamp food stamp program gives and if there within that guideline, then their eligible. But even sometimes, I tell them, you know, there may be other circumstances like somebody's ill for a long extended time. That's not going to - their income may remain the same, but they have added expenses.
SM: So we- they just have to add that comment to the paperwork and that's it. And once they've filled that in, then they can come whenever they need it and come and shop. But it's, we can only bring one person in at a time -especially if it's a mother with children, she's got to bring her children in. Well the room, the shopping area is probably like these two rooms here (gestures to kitchen and office space - maybe 400 feet square) and then there's a little office that would probably be about the size of that room there too (gestures to office space – maybe 100 feet square) added on, where I can take somebody privately, you know, if they need to -they have questions or I need to make sure I have their information verified, so it's private.
SM: But it's, its not big enough. It's definitely not big enough.
SG: It definitely sounds like if you're having that many people go through-
SG: -the (unintelligible phrase)
SM: Well, we think- the government just recently started a program and you probably have it too. It's called 'Commodities for Elderly.' I believe people are entitled to -they, they give you these two bags that are all prepared which is totally against my idea. Because I like them to come and shop, but gradually those -we, we started with thirty of those those bags laying there. If our regular food comes in the same time, we have I literally took a picture of it. We had like a little path from here to here to my office. (gestures) Another path over here so they could shop.
SG: Oh, no. (laughter)
SM: (laughter) That’s' the way it was. I mean, we had no space for anything then. I took pictures to take to the board so they could, that's what it looks like (shows me a picture) once a month. So the first two weeks, we had these commodities. We started with thirty-two of those- now we have fifty-two and so they, my workers, came to me and said, “Sister, do you mind if we do it on Wednesday also? We'll cover it, you don't have to come because what will they” - On Monday, people are there for the telephone. They make appointments and if, if, we have like time in the course of the day for twenty people or families to come. OK. Well, if you've got fifty two of those and you're supposed to get them out in two weeks you can't so they do some on Monday and, Monday and Tuesday of those first two weeks. And then the regular people that need to come, I tell them to come before their food stamps come are used so that they can better spend their food stamps. You know, because if they come with a list and they need meat and we don't have it, then they're gonna need their food stamps to get that meat.
SMK: You know, we, we, we, I fight with them- the Catholic Charities -because they want to send me ice cream and cakes to fill up my freezer with. That, that's not nutrition and I finally got them to not send that stuff to me-
SM: -and I said give me meat! Protein and vegetables, I don't care what, but you're not going to fill my freezers until I have lots of them. When I have lots of them and lots of space, OK, you know I'll take the cakes and yeah-
SM: -that's good for them. You know, they have birthdays, they have, but it -(laughter)
SG: Yeah, you can't give it to them every week because-
SM: No! So I fight. I fight, fight, fight-
SM: - all the time (laughter) and then, but, but most of the time it's calling. I bring people in, if they call in because they have this huge electric bill- I usually bring them in and I ask them to tell me everything that they have to- what their income is and then we put down everything they have to pay to see why is this is continuing to happen. And then try to help them set up some kind of a budget even if they are paying just a little bit more than what they've been doing and then encourage them to use the food pantry so that's why we keep getting new people because of my work here. (laughter) Its and I then -when that happens, then I find out the best ways that I can help them and it's -I always try to do it. Because I don't actually write the checks -I have to send it now to Caribou. Well, I – but it used to have to go next door and the lady that was the secretary there was too (transcription stopped to to wishes of SM and then restarted) (mutual laughter) And she would say, “That one doesn't need it; they have a good car” or “I don't” - comments like that and I -how do you know where they get the car, probably a rich uncle gave it to them because they knew they you can't exist without a car. You can't exist in this county without a decent car.
SM: You know- and maybe they're paying up the- too lots of money and whatever, to keep that car and sometimes they lose it. Because I get calls and they say, “We can't come today, we don't have a ride,” You know.
SM: And so I don't know. Right behind me, there's a place that - it's a Christian organization too and they're -they do food too, but they deliver. They're not big enough so that they can set it up like ours but I have their number. And if somebody calls and says, “I can't get a ride today” I give them that number and say, “Maybe next week you can come, but they'll give you enough so that you won’t starve this week.”
SM: And so we work together.
SG: Wow. That's wonderful.
SM: And I don't know what else I do. I also, I was on the board for Habitat for Humanity, but the bigger group kind of was going to squash us out so we decide- we talked to a lawyer and we had built three houses and the income is still coming. And so, in order to keep the moneys here in the county because they were raised here with the idea that they would help people here, we got the, got that, ourselves dissolved rather than have to turn the money over to international and have it go someplace else. And so we have another - it's another group called 'Housing, Inc'. I think, Housing Incorporated and the moneys that are still coming in from the mortgages from Habitat -are you familiar with how that works?
SM: We use that for providing oil for the people, the three families that have gotten buildings. I think we have four- the four we had built, we try to keep their buildings heated because of the high price-
SM: - of oil so each of those. And some of the moneys goes for that and then other organizations. We've helped the shelter - the Sister Mary O’Donnell shelter. We've helped them with projects that they needed to get improved and -
SM: Its an organization that can apply for a grant and and so I'm still on that board. On the RCIA in the parish -that's, that's the education, christian, for adult education. And then I am on the the this through this book. This thing about, because I'm on the team to do retreats which are called ACTS and its based on the Acts of the Apostles- how they gathered together. And ACTS - it's an acronym that stands for adoration, community, theology and service. Those are the four aspects of the retreat and the course of the retreat and its, its struck- I don't know, have you ever heard of Cursillo movement?
SM: No. Cursillo is -also there's a non Catholic segment so I thought maybe you might have any- Cursillo is an organization that developed in Mexico. It's a Mexican name and it's a, its a spiritual retreat in which you- in the course of that time you review all of your religious faith and , but it's something that's personal. And then there were people men who had made Cursillo and they - once you make it, you’ve made it. And well, they have little follow up meetings and prayer, sharing things. They wanted something more and so they devised this ACTS retreat and so it follows from the Cursillo but it it emphasized the community aspect so that we - as each time we have a retreat, there's a whole new group of people. It's like building the church from the beginning with the acts of the apostles. You know how they preached. They went out and preached after-
SM: -Jesus died
SM: So we had over one hundred women in the county that have made this retreat. You do not have to be Catholic to make it. You have to know it is based on the Catholic religion so if you ever want to make one, your you
SG: Wow, that sounds-
SM: You'd, you would be welcome.
SG: Well, thank you!
SM: But we've had one non- Catholic make it, but she's more Catholic than she even knows. (laughter) She really is. I know her, she's a personal friend of mine. I was so thrilled when I heard that she was coming to make it. I, I've got to get in touch with her because I haven't seen her for a long time.
SM: But anyway, she's a doctor at -what do you call it? You talking about your diet thing- she works with people need that kind of a diet.
SG: Oh, OK. The gluten free-
SM: The gluten free yeah. Then she highly recommends that that diet for anybody and I’m trying I've been reading about it for so long. I wanted I really think it will solve a lot of problems (laughter) for me-
SG: It certainly has for me.
SM: Yeah so, but anyway. With the retreat, I started, I -part of my talk from the beginning I end up as a - I'm a spiritual director on the retreat. And that, that and so I ended up, I made every single retreat that we've had. I made the first one and then I was asked to be on the next one and everyone since.
SM: For the women and, but as being a spiritual director, you end up giving a talk about spiritual direction and sacraments or theology. Either one or the other. And, in the course of my talk, I share my story about Beatrice that I shared with you.
SM: And somebody said you ought to write that, get it in a book. And I was taking a creative writing class through the learning center here in Presque Isle and my teacher up there – excuse me-
SG: No, its OK.
SM: My teacher up there encouraged me to write and she she would bring me things about mice so I would write more stories about Beatrice. And so I had enough to put together. So I was in the mall one day and I saw this book publishing company- it's monkey publishing- and so I called. I got the telephone number and I called him and the gentleman said he would meet me and I showed him my prayer journal -because that's where I'd written the original story. And then I also had some manuscripts of the stories I had written for my class. And I said, “what do you think about my you know publishing this?” “Is there, what would it entail?” So he told me that, he told me that he thought it would work. I don't know where my original drawings are - I did not do the art work. I know the girl who made the ACTS retreat actually did these.
SM: This is her picture here (shows me a copy of the book with the picture of the artist) in the back. Her name is Linda Ayotte and her sister is, lived in this parish and I kept looking at her during the retreat and I said, “You look familiar.” She said, “Well, you must know my sister Diana.” “Oh that's- (mutual laughter) Anyway, Diane has moved away, but anyway. So she didn't like my mouse story at the retreat and so she just quietly told me that it bothered her and she told me why -there was a personal experience that she had. And so I said, “Well, that's OK.” I said, but I've always liked mice and she said the lesson is good- she liked the lesson. So I, and I told her that somebody had suggested that- do the book, but I said, “I've got some artwork, but I'm not satisfied; its very primitive.” And so she said, “Well, why don't you bring it out and show it to me?” So I did. And she said, “Well you gotta do this, you got to have perspective, you got...” She's ticking off these things. I said, “OK, Holy Spirit said to me-
SM: -this is the girl whose going to write, do your artwork so she did- (mutual laughter)
SG: (unintelligible phrase)
SM: She did the artwork for me and she writes in here and this is cute - she says the experience has been therapeutic for her and desensitized her. She told me that she didn't like the mice and overcoming her fear of mice and “developed her God given talent of art. It also served as a purging of blocked emotions and feelings. She's proud and grateful for God's graces in giving her the courage and confidence to pursue this endeavor. She's also very proud of the fact that God used her as an instrument to increase Sister Mary’s virtue of patience.”
SM: Because every week I'd call her up. “How many pictures did you get done?” And she'd say, “Patience.” (mutual laughter) “I probably only have one done.” (mutual laughter) So she had to put that in there.
SG: Oh, that's wonderful.
SM: Yeah, so anyway. This was done with the purpose of raising money for scholarships so because I was finding people that couldn't afford to go to that retreat, but they needed it or they're-
SG: Well, yeah.
SM: -for the heartaches they were going through and so I was in a position to say
Side one of the tape ends mid sentence
Part two of the transcription/interview.
SM: So if she - the baby's OK I'll look into it. I didn't know how, but I would try to. Anyway I walked in the next morning to see how the baby was when I first reported in to work and she passed me the baby and the baby's bouncing and smiling. And then she said “Here” and she gives me this piece of paper with the telephone number on it (laughter) and that was all [unintelligible phrase]
SG: [unintelligible phrase] (laughter)
SM: So I called and she said “Is there any sister in particular that you know well?” And I said “Well, I had - I could have said Sister Holsteier, but I - the one I thought was Sister Mary James because she had -was actually the last teacher, homeroom teacher I had, and she had been encouraging me to, you know, pray. And then she had been praying for me so I asked for her. So I went - we didn't have a phone - and went to the back of this little store which was probably no bigger than this kitchen and well, maybe extends back to the rest of the house. But back of the store there was a payphone so I put in the dime and called and I could hear the singing in the background and somebody got the Sister to come to the phone. And she -it was the end of a procession they had for the Feast of the Assumption - it was actually the Assumption when I called. And - that feast and she said “Oh, we we just finished mass.” She said “And the sisters are processing out and they -and the Sister that answered the phone grabbed me on the way out.” And she said “Oh,” she said, “I'll -I'll make an appointment. Call me at this time tomorrow and I'll have an appointment for you.” So she - she made the arrangement and I called her at the exactly that time so she was near the phone and she made the appointment and two weeks later I was in the convent. I went for the interview and they gave me a list of what I needed. Sister Denise took care of - she got the trunk for me, got everything in it, and the trunk was at the place when I got there. (laughter)
SM: (Laughter) They really wanted me. She did that - Sister Alto said they had been making an novena to Saint Joseph because they hadn't been getting very many vocations. And she said “You were the start, the first answer in that,” but they ended up being twelve of us by the time I entered that week- two weeks later. There were twelve that entered with me and that was the (partilant ?) that year and that extend -that was probably about nine months. And then we had two years initiate we would - were received so we had actually as a (partilant ?) we wore black dress with a -not a veil like this, but we had a veil a thin veil like a wedding veil but black. Or like a first communion veil, not as elaborate as a wedding veil, but a black simple veil. And then as a novice, we had -well more like that picture of Mother McAuley (points at picture on the wall) that they we have the actual habit. We would receive the habit, but it - we had a white veil. If we went out, we would have a black one over the white veil just so that we wouldn't stand out - if we had to go like to a doctor's appointment. Otherwise you didn't go out anyway as a novice unless it was an emergency -or a doctor's appointment or something.
SG: Yeah. So... have you ever actually lived in a full time convent?
SM: This is a convent. (laughter)
SG: Let me rephrase that. Have you actually lived in one with lots of sisters?
SM: Yes. Well that's -that mother house in Portland. Oh yeah, we had probably up to two hundred there and then our smaller missions we've had up to thirteen. In Augusta- my first assignment was in Augusta - and my - actually first convent that I lived in after the mother house was in Biddiford. And when I did my practice teaching - I think there were about nine or ten sisters there and including myself, but I was there as an - actually they didn't have a bedroom for me. I slept up in the attic with the bats (laughter) which I did more for the room so it didn't matter. But my bedroom was like on this end of the attic and the bathroom was the other end of the -and to go through there I always put something on my head cause I was -I did have the fear that if they got my hair -if they get stuck then (laughter) they would. So I always put something on my head, but other than that I didn't fear them. (laughter)
SG: So in your practice what particular spiritual practice is the most important to you and why?
SM: It's still Eucharist. Yeah. That's what -because its, its both life giving- I mean it's the life giving power of the Catholic church to me. The, the second most important would be the 'Liturgy of the Hours'. There are two forms of prayer that are important in church - the Eucharist which is the mass in where you receive the communion. And then the Liturgy of the Hours which is the - those two are the official prayers of the church. And that the liturgy of the hours and -for us developed in various ways because we used to say the 'Little Office of the Blessed Virgin' and we - when I first entered it was chanted in Latin and remember I told you I didn't have a good voice. The Reverend Mother soon discovered that because I when it was my turn to chant she stood with me – Oh, trying to get me to get this tone or that tone and it didn't work so she finally gave up on me. (laughter) So I didn't have to do that, but sometimes we would just recite it in English and then I could -she'd say “Well, tomorrow we'll just recite it.” (laughter) That was so that I could have a chance to do that position, but it couldn't -
SG: That's (laughter) [unintelligible phrase]
SM: - but they couldn't change that. I did chant with them -with someone on either side doing it, I was OK. But they - the best friend of the Reverend Mother was the musician and she played the organ. And she -anytime a new group came in, she would cast each one of them and myself and my best friend that entered were declared tone deaf and we were supposed to pantomime. Well now, the set up of the church is not the way it is now, but they had two rows that faced each other so that we - the voices would reverberate back and forth. It was really a monastic type of setting. I don't know if you have ever seen it, but - and so we would sit on the top part of the (choser ?) bench and you'd sit on that facing. I lost where I was going with that. (laughter) I'm sorry.
SG: No, no. (laughter) It's OK we were -we were actually talking-
SM: Well the, the -
SG: We started talking -
SM: What was important I know -
SM: I'm sorry.
SG: No, no. That's OK. (laughter)
SM: If I think of it later.
SG: We'll come back. (laughter)
SM: There was something I was going with that though. If I think of it, I'll tell you.
SG: So what does the typical day look for you - look like for you?
Well, I always begin with prayer. This last month I have been ill so I have it hasn’t been typical at all. And actually this morning, like I said, I overslept but - but normally I'm up, up about 4:30 and I have at least an hour of prayer. And then that bag right behind you is my swim bag and doctor's orders is to get some exercise and swimming is the best, so I would go to the pool and swim. And then come back, change into this habit, and go to mass at 8:30. That's the normal thing here and then from nine o'clock on that's my work day more or less. And that's when the phone calls would come and then there would be prayers at noontime. Meals are considered a part of our spiritual life as well and then then would be evening prayer and mostly for me if - I watched TV or I usually get movies that are wholesome. I have - get the net-flicks for myself right now. Back in our early days, we didn't have television - the first time I ever saw television was when Kennedy died. (laughter)
SM: They, they hauled in a TV and had it on the stage and we end - connected with our building was the academy and so the academy girls got to sit in the front. We were, like, way in the back like more like the stage would be and over where that rectory is. (motions toward the outside church buildings)
SM: - and we'd be up here with this little tiny TV, but you could hear it -they put the sound near the mic so you could hear the proceedings, but you couldn't see anything. (laughter)
SG: What an introduction to television!
SM: That was my – well, for growing up, I never had television either. I saw television when I visited my cousin in Westbrook, but we didn't have one.
SM: So, (laughter) it wasn't any, it wasn't a hardship for me. But and now mostly what I watch - it would be only wholesome and there’s not much on TV now. That's why, I know, I'm sure that's why you don't even bother with having it. (laughter) It isn't worth having it unless you can - but I get it so I can watch the WTN - that canonization will be on this Sunday and things like that. So, but other than that I don't much bother.
SG: What is -for the most part what does the typical year look like? Pretty consistently the same?
SM: Well for, for my mission, like when I was teaching school, you'd have the summer months off and we used to - that brings another story. (laughter) We used to - in the summertime, we would go to a mission like this. This is a year round mission I have. I am allowed six weeks off someplace, but I usually take it throughout the year. For example, when I go down to Portland for a meeting, I'll take a few days before for the traveling and like that and I get my vacation time that way. But with the school year, we would have from September to June that's when we would -be work time and then you'd have the summer off. And then they used to ask us to kinda fill in for the people on the year round missions so that they would have a yearly retreat. So that's one thing that we always have -a week out for vacation and a week out for a yearly retreat. No matter what mission we're on we're allowed that, so I do go someplace for a retreat and the last few years I've been going to Ender's Island in Connecticut. It's near Mystic, Connecticut.
SM: It's a beautiful place. If you want to go to a quiet, peaceful place, go there. And even though they have a lot of active things, it's - you can always find a quiet spot for you, you know.
SG: Right. That sounds wonderful.
SM: So that's where I usually go. I haven't scheduled that yet for this year - That's one thing I've got to get done (laughter) before they don't have a space for me.
SG: What have you found the most delightful about becoming a nun?
SM: The most delightful - I don't know, I have a problem with that because everything about it's delightful.
SG: Well, good! (laughter)
SM: (laughter) I guess that's my answer. I don't -can't have found anything that I didn't like about it ever. Well, yeah, there can be some conflicts of personality not but -no matter what you're in.
SG: Yeah, you can have that. (laughter)
SM: (Laughter) Marriage life I'm sure you do. But, but living with a group of women -right now, I'm living alone. If I suddenly went back to living with, you know, a group of nuns that might take a little adjustment time. When I go down for the weekend the -for these meetings sometimes, that's a little adjustment because there - just not used to - I'm not used to having someone around me that's going to interfere with my plan. (laughter) Which is not necessarily good, (laughter) but I'll get over it. (laughter)
SM: Well, there isn't, but I I I can't think of any one thing that -I don't know. I enjoy people - I'm a people person. Maybe that can be the answer.
SG: OK. (laughter)
SM: OK. (laughter)
SG: And no, you don't have to try and think of anything bad just cause I asked a question. (laughter)
SM: I don't care. (laughter) I'm open.
SG: What do you think has been your most rewarding experience in religious life?
SM: Most rewarding. I think, I think seeing people come back to church and I've seen a number of people come back to church. And I've seen a number of people -a lot of times people will come here because they have too. They got into trouble with the law and they have to do service time and then, in that process, somehow they get talking about their spiritual life. One young lady came in she had been baptized as a small child- I thought she had made first communion but she hadn't and she hadn't been confirmed. And the strangest part was that her mother -she had a hard bringing up and her mother had been an alcoholic. In fact, we found her in sleeping in an entryway in the original convent which was over right beside the church -not there anymore.
SM: - Been torn down and anyway, her mother when she did get on her feet. She moved to Connecticut -before she left, she said “Will you watch out for my Danielle?” But I didn't know Danielle’s last name - I didn't know where she lived. I mean, she just said keep an eye out on for Danielle, but I didn't know where she was. Well, this Danielle ended up coming to help me and in that process she used the little bathroom in there and I have little fliers and there was one - 'How to Go to Confession'. So she asked if she could have it and I said “Sure”. I said, “Did you need to go to confession?” She said “Yes” - I did not know that she had never been to confession before (laughter) so I gave her the flier. I called and made an appointment. Well, anyway, it turns out she needed to go through the CIA -which is, its the right of Christian Initiation for Adults. It's like cataclysm classes for the adults and so she did. And she - in the end when she had to have a sponsor, I was asked to be her sponsor. And she also had an addiction problem like her mother which was natural -
SM: - because you fall into it. Anyway, she's been sober for a number of years now and she's that -that is something that I really do feel is what the question was.
SG: - is rewarding.
SM: It is very rewarding. I also had a couple that did the same thing - the woman would come because she needed help. And it was - she was on the verge of getting a divorce with her husband, but she - in order she came to, for help for her lights or something like that. She said “But I want to repay you” so she came to help. And then, in the process, she said and began asking me questions about the Catholic church. She was interested in joining so she went to class. She said “But will you pray for my husband because I don't want to become Catholic unless he does.” I want, she said, “I think that might help our marriage if we both do it” so we prayed together. Every day she came, she prayed and then she'd help me clean around the house and do whatever she could do. And one day, he said “Yeah, I think I'd like to become Catholic too and so (laughter) I became their sponsor.
SG: Oh, wow.
SM: And so those are the rewarding things.
SM: You know and their marriage is mended and he's still a little -what do you call it 'overpowering' to her. She's very submissive -very, very. I mean, there needs to be a balance in every marriage and when, but we work on it and he talks openly to me about it and she does too. So someday maybe well have a gooder, better, gooder, better balance but - (laughter)
SG: (laughter) Have you ever experienced anything that has made you re-evaluate your decision to become a nun?
SM: That was one of the questions I didn't quite understand. I can say that I experience - I never questioned that I didn't belong in the convent. Never, ever once. OK. So whether to answer that. But I did -well, like I mentioned or alluded to a little earlier about living alone, I kind of like things my way and you know. But God is really supposed to be the one in charge and I had had two years in a row that I had several assignments- I'm kind of a flexible person. And back when we first entered, if the Reverend Mother said “Go here” you went there- she said this. And then with Vatican II that was changed and they had to ask you, but I was so used to saying yes that I always said yes and it came to a point where I got another change of assignment. I, I was stationed in Benedicta and I loved that place- it was to me, it was heaven on earth when I first went there. And the first day I was there, I knew everybody by first name- it's a little small town, I don't know if you -you probably pass it on the road on 95 coming in or 295 whatever it is up here- (laughter) that part of the highway.
SG: One -one and 95 I think.
SM: Yeah, yeah. Well, anyway, so I love that place and -but we had, we had to close that convent because there weren't enough nuns so gradually people were dying and people weren't entering. I know that answers - (phone making noise in background) Sorry this phone.
SG: That's OK.
(Tape stopped for Sister --------- to use phone for convent business. Then restarted.)
SM: Where were we? Oh, Benedicta.
SM: So anyway, I had had -I was down in Benedicta to fulfill this commitment that we would go for two or three summers once we closed. We would go for two or three summers, do bible vacation, do some teacher education so that they could set up their religious program without us. And that- I think I mentioned earlier that in the summer time we would go to a mission and I was in Eagle Lake and I was supposed to go to Eagle Lake Nursing Home and I like the elderly people and so I had agreed to go there, but on condition that they would make sure that Benedicta for that scheduled bible vacation which they did. So down in Benedicta, my heavenly spot, and I would, I'd be up early in the morning and I would go out and I'd pray. But then I'd pray out in the fields and I went out walking the fields and I found fresh strawberries in the field and so I picked the strawberries and then I came back. And I was making pancakes for the sisters with the strawberries and the little wild ones you know.
SM: Those are the best. So anyway, I was making those and the phone rang and it was the Reverend mother. So I told the sister, I said “You talk to her. I'm not going to burn these pancakes- you tell her that.” So they did and so then when I got on the phone, She said “I hate to do this to you, but I'd like to - I want to change your assignment.” And so I was supposed to -I had been in Biddiford teaching first grade and I loved it and I loved the people there. And anyway, but I said “Yes” because I was in this environment where everything was like heaven, you know. And then, when I got back to Eagle Lake, I felt that I was there for, to cheer up the sisters because they were in their own little rut. They was a older sister who was a pharmacist in Eagle Lake -they knew- there was the administrator of the nursing home and then there the third sister was, took care of the finances for all of the patients and Medicare and Mainecare -whatever they had. And so, I - and that's all they did. They lived that day in and day out and they just that's all they ever talked about, you know.
SM: And so I felt like I was there to cheer them up, give them new life. And I get back to Eagle Lake after getting this assignment and all of a sudden I'm plummeted. And I'm saying “That was not fair” and I was in the chapel - and then I thought somebody's gonna come by and hear me talking (laughter) I don't I talk to God out loud and (laughter) so -
SG: You're not the only one. (laughter)
SM: Yeah. So I said OK we're going for a walk so I took a walk out into the field and I was really chewing God out - I mean I was really had it with him. That was you know not good and I mean to get me in that night comfortable environment and ask me and so I say yes and then 'annn' I'm going to another place and I didn't like it. So- but I'm walking the lawn and the men were doing bailing of the hay and they were over on the side. They took a break, but the machine was there and I decided to take the path where they worked because it was cleared- it wasn't walking in all the high grass. So I looked - I saw this little motion on the ground and I looked down and a little tiny baby mouse no bigger than my thumb and I picked it up and I took it in the palm of my hand. And I was going to take it to the edge of the woods where it would be safe because that machine started up they were going to- it would be mincemeat and I didn't want that to happen. I love all animals so I carried I'm carrying the mouse talking “Don't worry I'm going to take you to-” and I could feel the little heartbeat in the from the mouse and as I'm walking along all of a sudden I felt like I was in lifted up and then (the phone rings) [unintelligible phrase] (laughter)
(interview is halted for telephone call/ convent business)
SM: Sure so anyway I felt like God was lifting me up. I could feel motion like I was in in this hand, the hand of God. And I heard this voice “Say can't you trust me'? because you know look at this mouse the mouse had fallen asleep in my hand and see how she trusts you. 'Can't you trust me?' and I named her Beatrice and I ended up writing a book.
SM: So I before you go I'll sign it and you can take it with you.
SG: Thank you very much.
SM: That way you can read the story. Then I wrote other stories that go -they're fictitious but this first one is true- she wrote this from her point of view.
SM: She didn't like me using 'tale' so she crossed it out. (discussing the illustration on the book cover)
SG: (laughter) That great.
SM: So that's basically that story so we don't need to go there, but that really happened. But from that point on, I felt OK. God's the one that’s in control and anytime I feel myself going away from that then that’s my cue, you know. Sometimes I'll see a mouse - I actually, when I was walking along the beach one time I had a problem. I found this piece of driftwood and there was a little bit, you know, the wood where the sticks would come out of the wood. Well, there were two little round circles where the twigs would have grown out and it looked like a little mouse and I, it, it became a reminder and anyway
SM: OK. Let's go one to the next one so you won't (laughter)
SG: OK. Well, this one - this one is sort of a hard one. One of the things that somebody brought up in my class was they felt that the vow of poverty was the hardest vow you could possibly have to make in your entire life.
SM: I don't think it is.
SM: I really don't. I, I probably because I grew up poor so I didn't learn to cling to things so nothing- I own nothing. I have the use of that phone. (pointing to cell phone on table) Actually it was a gift from one of the parishioners when my car wasn't working properly and I was getting stranded on the road and they said 'you need a phone'. And they bought the phone and paid for it for the first year. Then my community realized the value of it and they paid for it, but it's - it doesn't belong to me, its to my youth. And - but I didn't have a lot of those things when I grew up so I never found that a problem. Probably I can't even say that chastity isn't because I had decided that I didn't want to have that kind of love. And obedience may be -might be the hardest one because of my wanting to be in control because the obedience is to your Superior, but ultimately to God. The Superior is the voice of God and that's probably would have been the hardest for me.
SM: OK. But I never found -at least, well I don't know. You might find that different for, you know, if you have a chance to ask anyone else. (laughter) I don't know, but I never found that a problem.
SG: How do you feel that the church today is different from the church when you were twelve?
SM: Well, a lot of the things have changed in it. Rules I guess I should say. For example, we used to have to fast from midnight until you went to mass and then afterwords you would have your breakfast. Now it's an hour before so that's a big change. We used to during Lent and Advent used to -well, all during Lent if you -I didn't have to because I was not of age, but adults always had to fast all during Lent. And on Friday’s, we were known as fish eaters. That -there's -on the computer there's a fisheaters.com and it will tell about these different customs so we always had to have fish on Friday or non meat - not necessarily that you had to have fish. In fact, a lot of times we didn't have fish because that was expensive. And, and that with Vatican II that changed, but -except during Lent. You know it used to be all year round before that on Friday for Catholics. But now it is just during Advent and Lent, and they expressed that you substitute another penance instead because of the expense of fish that was one of the reasons that change came. It, it's logical, but you're expected to substitute another penance. I preferred on Fridays to have fish or to have a non meat meal myself and many many of the religious I think really do most of the (penance ?) we usually do not have the meat on Friday. But its not obliged - I mean if some, if I were invited out to your house and you were serving meat, I wouldn't - I would eat it. And that would become for me a penance because in my mind I would prefer to not do that, but I would not insult you, you know, by you know (laughter) and that would be allowed.
SM: Does that answer it? Did I, I don't know, there were other changes. One of the things I don't know if it's that question or the next one- no, I think it's that question too. Another change is like in the early Christians, there were not large numbers. The twelve apostles were the first priests and then the - some of the disciples were priests- were the first bishops and some of the disciples were priests and then they ordained-
SM: - and so forth and so forth and so it came down. Now in the early history - I did my term paper on history of the church in Maine in high school -that was my term paper. And the early days of the church in Maine, there were very few priests or even in the whole United States there were few priests. They had to come in from Europe, Ireland and so forth and so many priests would be assigned to three or four or several towns and people would have to travel -well like my father's, the nearest church is in Calais and they were Jonesport and Beals Island that was a good travel distance.
SM: And for the church in Benedicta, the priest that used to live in Holten and they traveled down as far as Benadicta and Millinockit and they would be on the run. So the people would be on there own for weeks and weeks and the priests would come once, you know, once a month or something to there little church so in between time they would do that. Now but, then by the time I became Catholic and entered, there was there were like at the cathedrals there were lots of priests. And most parishes had a priest or maybe they might have two churches or they'd have a mission church, but now today we are discovering a shortage of vocations and I think that’s kind of intertwined in another question so we will be able to cover it. But so, that - right at this point we have one priest. He has two assistants -one of them lives in the house right next door to me. The pastor lives in Caribou with the other priest and he is responsible -they - three of them, but the pastors responsible for ten churches - from Portage, Ashland, Washburn, North Caribou, South Caribou, South [unintelligible phrase], Mars Hill and us. I don't know if I named them all- oh New Sweden, Stockholm. Yep, ten churches so its almost like its going -history repeating itself and I don't know how they do it. I really and truly, I pray for them everyday I feel that's my mission now is to pray for the priests because they are being so stretched. And for the holy days now, there were some of the churches that didn't have any -for Easter did not have any mass. They had to Mars Hill- people had to come here or [ - ? -] or wherever they could find mass. They'd - because there's only three of them they could only, you know, the Easter vigil service at three places and so they chose three biggest ones and that -
SM: -put distances so we had one here, there was one in Caribou and then they had it in Ashland.
SM: And so the other people had to find - if they wanted to go to the Easter vigil, you know- you're not obliged, but if you wanted too, you had to travel.
SM: To do that and that's like it would have been in the olden days.
SM: And then for Easter Sunday itself each of the priests had two masses - there would be one at nine and one at eleven and on a regular weekend I -they had four masses. They do one at four, one at six, one at nine, and one at eleven on Sunday.
SG: [ - ? - ]
SM: Saturday is four and six and that takes care of all the churches. Now some of them will only have one. - St Mary's is a little bigger so we have a four and we have a nine so people here have a choice, but when I first came here there were like three masses on Sunday and two on Saturday here in this church alone -so yes its changed a lot.
SM: Just because of the shortage of vocations I guess that's the main reason.
SG: Do you have any particular ideas as to why vocations have gone down?
SM: No, well yes - society in general has become very -hmmm what's the word I want -I got to think about it. It's just a lot of things have deteriorated -I think that’s the word as far as morals and things like that and so. And I think there's a whole a large group or segment of our society that is unchurched. Because of the various -the changes that came about in Vatican II, some people were disillusioned by that and so they kinda of dropped out of church for a while and when that happened, their children were not brought up -like this young lady that I told you about that she-
SM: -found my flier about confession-
SM: - and decided that she wanted to go to confession and come to church. Now she comes faithfully- she comes down, she gives me a hug every Sunday (laughter) or when she catches me out. I'm involved a lot in retreat work and so sometimes I'm not here, but when I am here she'll come and find me.
SG: You also mentioned that there was a period of time where nuns had to travel together-
SM: Oh yes. When we, when we first entered we weren't allowed to visit our family unless we went with a partner. There a there’s a funny story you can have in between -there were - when we were first allowed to vote they didn't they didn't have us go out from for very much, but when they decided that we could vote we had to go two by two and one of the sisters -we had some sisters who joined us from Canada, but its not. Oh anyway, she was from these - one of these sisters was from Canada so she wasn't eligible to vote OK. She did -never have taken our national, you know, citizenship so, but she had -she went with this part- with this other sister who was going to vote. And so the lady said 'name' and she said 'I'm her partner' so the girl wrote Ima -IMA- (laughter) Partner. So that really happened - Ima Partner. (laughter) Anyway, that's just a little side thing- you don't need to put that in there. (laughter) But it really happened. I laugh -every time I go to vote, I think of Ima Partner. (laughter)
SG: So why do you think they changed that because clearly - if they- if at least in my mind-
SM: Changed what, dear?
SG: Changed where you don't have to go two by two anymore. 519
SM: Oh, well that came with Vatican II too. It -they just felt, I don't know, I think again it goes with the changes in society and that got put in- I don't know why. I think they did it originally as a protection, but its -was kind of - this Mrs. Feeny, I remember her saying she would fix this scrumptious meal. The two the sisters would eat, but she couldn't join them. That was one of the things that would happen, you know, because we weren't supposed to be seen. Maybe we weren't supposed to be seen eating? (mutual laughter) I don't know -It didn't happen to me so I don't - I didn't experience that. I just heard the stories, but I did experience the having to have a partner because my mother lived - when I went to college, I was at Saint Josephs in North Windham and my mother lived about fifteen -ten or fifteen minutes away from there. And oftentimes if I wanted to stay a little longer to use the library because I was a math major and there were a lot of things I needed to have for my paperwork so mom would take me home, but I'd have to get a sister who wanted to stay too. And so one time my mother came to pick me up, but well -that got changed, all of a sudden they announced that we no longer had to do that and it came from Vatican II. And so I hopped in the car and mom still was waiting and I said “We're ready to go.” She said “Well, where's your partner ?” (laughter) I said “Oh, they took that out -we don't have to do it any more.” But I was glad to tell her. (mutual laughter) So, but I, I, I think it was just because of some of those things came in and they were almost ridiculous- I mean: example not allowing you to eat with your family if you're visiting somebody -you should eat with them.
SM: Or have tea with them or whatever they had. She had to set it up and then they could eat and then come back and they could visit- it was a little ridiculous.
SM: But those are customs that just got put in - it wasn't that way in the beginning. They just gradually got in there and so in Vatican II, we were supposed to look at the signs of the times and study that and then they would make recommendations at the chapters and then that's when it would get changed.
SM: So again it wasn't actually coming from Rome- it came from within, but with the direction from Rome saying, you know, change some of these customs because they're not right.
SG: Do you think that the church is getting enough of women's religious views on church related issues?
SM: I think so, in this day and age I think so. I - maybe not in the beginning, but I think they are- I mean, we have women who are parish assistants. The priest is still -we can't -I do a lot for the church I do eucharistic service. I cannot consecrate, I can't say mass, I can't hear confession -I hear a lot of confessions let's put it this way-
SM: Lots of people tell me all their sins and then I'll say “OK sweetheart” -
SG: Yeah (laughter)
SM: - “You've done the easy part. Now the hard parts done. I'm gonna make you an appointment with a priest because I can't give you absolution.” (mutual laughter) And they're OK with that, you know, that was like a rehearsal for them. And they know I'll never tell (laughter), but yeah I think -I do think that our views are listened to. My pastor I feel is very open to whatever I will suggest so I don't have a problem with that.
SG: What advice would you give to somebody who is considering a vocation that you wish someone had told you before you made this choice?
SM: I couldn't -that was one of my hard ones too. I, I, I think that I would encourage them to come and pray with me for a long time before. I, I, I wish that that had happened - that I had been - Sister Mary James gave me books and helped, but I wasn't sure what I was doing with it. And if we -and if I had been allowed to come and, you know, pray with the sisters before I entered I think I would have liked that better.
SM: And that -and anybody that tells me they're interested I always invite them to come and pray with me.
SM: Before, you know. And I, I also -I also give them books about Mother McAuley, but I also tell them that, you know, they need to look at and find their own gifts and make sure that they match up with what Mother McAuley gifts were or-
Side two of the tape ends mid sentence
SG: It is April 27th I believe and I am sitting with Sister ----- ----- for our interview today at approximately 10 am.
SM: (laughter) Yes, [unintelligible phrase]
SG: (laughter) So we'll go ahead and we'll start with our questions. Tell me a little bit about yourself?
SM: Well I am Sister ----- ----- and I am a diocese Sister of Mercy and I was born in Westbrook, Maine which is in the southern part in the - right near Portland- in the Portland area. I think they call it the suburbs of Portland. And I have, let's see a brother younger - I'm the oldest of three and my brother is next a year and a half younger and his name is ------ ----- and I have a sister, Anne -----, and she is married to a Freeman so she is Anne ----- Freeman. And my brother lives in Wichita and my sister lives in well I'm not sure exactly where she is at the moment. She lives in the northern part of California, but she is very ill right now - actually in the hospital and I'm not sure which one. I think she's near Reno right at the moment and actually dying I believe [unintelligible phrase].
SM : Yeah. It's - she is the youngest and she's a year and a half younger than my brother. And I, we - I was born in Portland- Westbrook and then my father went off war or came back – I can't remember for sure. Actually, I was conceived he went off to war and I was born before he came back that’s the way it goes (laughter) [unintelligible phrase] things got a little mixed up in there. And then I should have been Catholic - my mother was Catholic, my father was [unintelligible phrasezx], but they wanted to marry before he went off to war and they planned to so they were married by a justice of the peace. And then they planned on being remarried in the church when he came home, but that didn't happen and various things happened and by the time I was nine years old they were divorced. And my mother cried constantly. I - She used to have the radio on and she said she was listening to soap operas - those had just started about that time - I should have said that I was born January 8th, 1944. And so apparently they were just beginning so she blamed the tears on the soap operas, but I now know that was not that and she I think realized that because of the divorce she was out of the church and so I think that was a big part of her sadness. She was separated from her church that she grew up in as a young person. There was a question later about we can go through that later about the church part.
SG: Um, -
SM: So yeah we leave that for now I guess unless you there's something else you want to know about.
SG: What was your religion growing up?
SM: There was none at all until my mother - oh that leads into the next question (laughter) I should have looked at that. When I was about eleven - ten or eleven - we moved around different places and back and forth and when I was - I would say I was probably in about third fourth grade, there was a priest in Old Orchard - we lived in Old Orchard Beach near a [-?-] store or a brother of my grandmother's. I lived mostly with my grandmother because my mother after the divorce tried to work so we lived in Old Orchard and she lived in Portland to work and then she'd come weekends. And this priest died and my mother - my grandmother knew we should be Catholic - we weren't baptized or anything but she knew we should be Catholic and they announced on the bus that all the Catholic children would be allowed to go to the funeral of this priest. And that was my first experience of other then just going into church to make a visit with my mother - we went to this mass. They got us off the bus - school bus - and we went into the church. I was totally frightened of those Knights of Columbus - you know with the big swords I don't know if you're familiar with them, but they -they marched in and then their swords came up and then the priest went through and I was scared to death of that. I had no idea and then then I got back to school, the teacher asked why I got off the bus and I said because my grandma says we - you we should be - we are Catholic. And she said, 'Well, were you baptized' and I said I don't know. (laughter) You know, that kind of thing. So anyway, but then from there we moved into Portland and a couple places and we ended up in the shadow of the Cathedral church in Portland. And a the - at that time, there was like a church - the Catholic churches would have missions, people on missions and apparently my mother heard about that and so she'd dragged us to the mission and during that time she went to confession. And in that process, of course - she was married by the justice of the peace she really wasn't considered married in the Catholic church or married period or recognized in the church I should say- and so she went to confession and the priest said “Well, if you're divorced you weren't married to begin with so you can attend church and receive - come back to the sacrament.” And so her whole demeanor was like night and day; she was at peace. And they, the priest, told her to go to her pastor - the pastor there was once a [unintelligible phrase] and to ask him about the children and he said you should provide education for them, especially the oldest one – myself - should make that decision on her own whether she should be baptized. And because I saw the change from her crying everyday to the peace and happiness, I said “Well I want whatever it is that made that-
SM: -for her. And so I chose to become baptized - I mean Catholic. My brother and sister - my mother - they kind of - my mother asked them, but they just kind of followed what I was doing. But they didn't stay in that religion, but neither of them did for various reasons - and that's more about them so you don't need that. (laughter) I guess they are - I think at heart they're Catholic, but they’re not. I mean they were baptized, but they don't practice.
SG: So was there any period of time in your childhood years that you attended Catholic church regularly?
SM: Starting from that point.
SG: Got it.
SM: In fact, I lived in the shadow of the Cathedral. I used to go to mass every morning.
SM: Myself - I just took myself there. I'm - I don't think my mother even knew I did.
SM: I, you know, I found out that there was a mass up in -I went to Cathedral High school. Once I was in high school, I did that. Junior High, I think sometimes I could get there early enough to do it, but I couldn't get away with receiving communion because you had to fast back then from midnight. And so I couldn't receive communion, but when I was in high school I could control that- I could say “Oh, I can get lunch, I can get breakfast at school” because they had like a little snack bar that the Cathedral high school had.
SM: So I could get away with that. (laughter) But long ago I don't think my mother even knew I did that. I don't know, she could. (laughter)
SG: Did you - Did you attend a Catholic school when you growing up? You just mentioned a Catholic high school.
SM: Cather- I, I attended Cathedral Grammar school from the sixth grade on. Well, I was in fifth grade when I was baptized, but the pastor suggested that we wait until and not change in the middle of the year and so I didn't start until I was in sixth grade. And I, I met the Sisters of Mercy - the order that I joined.
SG: -that you had mentioned.
SM: Yea, yea.
SG: How, how did your family celebrate religious holidays?
SM: Well, we did celebrate them - I don't, I remember my grandmother before we were baptized taking me once to -I think it must have been Ash Wednesday or - that's the ones, a lot of people go to Ash Wednesday and Easter and Christmas and I remember there being a lot of people. And we always had to wear a hat, but I didn't have one so she put a hankie on my head. (laughter) That totally threw me, but anyway. (laughter) My [unintelligible phrase] when we would make these little visits to and my mother would take the handkerchief and wet it with her mouth and wash my face first with it and then put it on my head. (laughter). Those are things I remember, but and that was just for a visit. One time - I think I had rheumatic fever when I was about, I'm not sure I was probably in first grade - first and second grade in there. And so I had to go to the hospital for tests and one of the times we went to Mercy hospital or it was near there - and that's where the chapel was. Or we went to the monastery which is right up the street - I don't know if you're familiar with Portland at all, but anyway and those were the times that we would make a visit and until then she was crying. There was no soap opera. That's when I figured out it wasn't connected with a soap opera. It was connected with the church. (laughter)
SG: What really stood out to you about the church as a child?
SM: As a child? I think the, the biggest part of it was when I was allowed to receive Holy Communion. That was very important to me. In fact, I remember one occasion when I had a cousin that was like six months older that I was and I used to - once we started the Catholic school on Friday afternoon, I would take the bus by myself and go out and I would stay with -I would stay with my aunt at her which was her grandmother -and there wasn't room in her house, but we'd spend our whole days together, but we were going -it was in the fall -and we going on a fall foliage trip and my aunt insisted when I came down and she insisted on my having breakfast which included coffee. (laughter) That was the first cup of coffee I'd had in my life because I grew up on tea - and it was really a weak tea - my grandmother always favorite tea. (laughter) But anyway, I don't know where that came from, but -and she, but she insisted and she had toast and tea and I forget what else she gave me, but I didn't want it because I wanted to receive communion when we were going to Mass, but I didn't know how to tell her that. I just- so I ate it and then I went to Mass and I and that all regurgitated with me all day long -the whole trip was - it was sad, sad to me because Eucharist was so important to me and I, and that's where I used to go to Mass as often as I could.
SG: Did you, Did you - besides that specific ceremony did you participate in choirs or-
SM: No. (laughter) I don't have a singing voice. When I get there, I [-?-] be my first gift that. But I can't carry a tune in a bucket - you wouldn't, don't ask me to sing. (laughter)
SM: You don't want to -it would ruin your day.
SG: No, you can't be that bad.
SM: Well, I did belong to - once I was in school I want to belonged to (sedality ?) and I belonged to Legion of Mary and one of the things we did there at the Legion of Mary was to visit the sick and the shut ins. And there was one lady, a Mrs. Feeney, that I used to visit and she was right from Ireland and I loved her accent. And I used to -there was like an open guard right across the street from where we lived on the other side of the park- it was Lincoln Park. And I picked up flowers and I, I made my own vases from the Joy bottle or whatever kind of soap we had - I think it was Joy at the time and I made a vase and I fixed the flowers and I'd take them to her to visit. Well, it turned out that this Mrs. Feeney was -who as you know the sister's last name was Sister Mary Holsteier's mother. And one Saturday, I was visiting -we were having a happy time and she showed me a picture of her daughter, but she was a skinny little nun and you know. And she called her Mary because that was her family name Sister Marian she said. Well, I didn't know any Sister Marian and I didn't recognize her in the picture (laughter) so one Saturday the doorbell rang and I could move quicker than Mrs. Feeney so went to the door and there standing there was Sister Holsteier (laughing - my teacher at school. And she said “What are you doing here” and I said “Oh, I'm just visiting Mrs. Feeney. I come every Saturday and bring her flowers and we visit.” and I said I belonged to the Legion of Mary and that's one of our things that we do. She said “Well, Mrs. Feeney is my mother, but that's our secret.” (laughter) I remember it- she said it exactly like that. So, of course, I went in and I said to Mrs. Feeney “Look who's here” and she was all excited - and back then they had to come by twos so she had another sister with her and I can't remember- I knew who it was, but I can't remember exactly- but they had to go two by two. And so I remember Mrs Feeney the next Saturday when I saw her why -I excused myself because I knew they didn't get to see their famil, their family very often. She had gotten permission, so I excused myself and as soon as I left - I was told by Sister Holsteier after I entered the convent. She said “Do you know that day that you came to the door and let me in.” She said “My mother scolded me royally because, because I, I made you leave” and I said “But I didn't make her leave, she very politely left”, but she -mother wouldn't by it (laughter) but, we became closest of friends and that -she's the one that I took to Ireland on that trip-
SM: Because that's -the Reverend Mother said, “You know, Sister Marian has always been kind to you, why don't you take her? So and -she got the trip, she and -I was allowed to do that. (laughter)
SG: Oh, wow. That's wonderful.
SM: Yeah, yeah. So, where are we?
SG: Well, I think the next thing we're looking at is - what kind of role in your community did the church play? It sounds like it played a very personal role with you.
SG: Do you feel that the church - how do you feel the church was in the community?
SM: Well. I think they helped a lot of poor people and myself included. We had very little and I know that we were helped by the church with clothing and food and I know they did a lot to help the poor. And yet I didn't feel poor because - because of the love that I felt in my - with my grandmother and my mother. I didn't have a father figure, but I had godparents you know, and I spent a lot of time in Westbrook with my cousin and her parents were my godparents and so I had that support there. And I also at the same time, when I used to go to Mass in the morning, there was this man that was - he was a street person or vagrant, I don't know exactly. I only know that he -you know was looking for food - and I used to have a sandwich or something with me - my mother would insist on my taking something to eat. Oh, I always shared it with him and he came to Mass with me. He came and stayed at Mass -he didn't receive communion, he wasn't Catholic that I know of, but I never - I always used to wonder what happened. And so anytime I saw -I felt that drawing of one to help the poor way back then. That's why I chose to enter.
SG: [unintelligible phrase]-
SM: - because that was the drawing right there. I had, I had written that up someplace, but I don't know what I did with it. I looked for it the other day when I was reading it, but I think it was that the church was a caring church for the poor - at least in my my sight.
SG: Do you feel that the community that you lived in was a mixed community in the sense of -
SM: - It was.
SG: - in the sense, in the sense of poor and rich and middle and -
SM: For that and religion too. I, we lived in a three -in the second floor of a three floor apartment - the owner lived on the first floor. She was Jewish and the people on the third floor were Jewish and across the way there was a Jewish family. We, we went - and we would play with those children and then, when that- if we were there when they were going to light the candles we'd be there for that and they'd, they shared with some of our, you know, customs that we had if they were at our house. And we said grace -they'd partake, and so it was there was a good mixture of you know. Well, whether you in in my mom, my grandmother and my, mostly my grandmother I'd say had a sense of who needed something. And she'd say “Here, take this over to Mr. So and So” or “take this” you know. So we were always participating in that you know what. So that's why I didn't feel poor because we felt like we were giving to somebody that needed-
SM: - that was poorer than us.
SG: It sounds almost more like a shared kind of [unintelligible phrase] -
SM: Yeah, Yeah.
SG: so as you got some you were also able to share and -
SM: Yeah, Yeah.
SG: - most people were able to share as well. Do you remember your confirmation? It sounds like you do?
SM: Absolutely do. That was probably the following year after I was baptized as soon in (stuttering). At the Cathedral, they had confirmation every year and in these smaller areas -it's well, they actually do it every year now, but the bishop -when the bishop was the only one that did the confirmation. What is that doing? (At this point, SM notices that light on my phone flashed and asks about it.)
SG: Oh, it just told me that someone tried to call me.
SM: Oh. (laughter)
SG: Don't worry about it.
SM: I thought you were recording over there too.
SG: No (laughter) It says “You have one new missed call.” (laughter)
SM: One new missed call. (laughter) The bishop -anyway back then in those days was the only one that confirmed and so, at Cathedral, it was done every year. And then if you lived in these smaller places it was like a - you had a rotation of his visits and so people would, the people in the parishes when I first started going out to teach we trained them and then this would be the year there would be confirmation. So mine was the following year after I was baptized and I remember it. I remember it well. I remember more of my brother and sister's -they had to wait a year because they didn't receive communion. So I was baptized and then on Holy Saturday went to confession and was baptized on Easter Sunday and then made my first communion- All of that in the same weekend, OK. But my sister and brother were not quite ready for the first communion and confirmation so they, they were enrolled in classes and I used to go. Well I think my brother made his first communion the same as I did, but my brother and I went and we were considered helpers when my sister was learning so she made her communion with her class -we made ours privately.
SM: OK, and because we were older. And she was the age of the first communion class so she was put in the class and got to wear the white dress and veil which I didn't, but I - mine was special too because my mother had made a blue satin dress for my sister and I for our first communion and it, of course, it still fit because it was, you know, the same weekend or the same period of time. So I -and it still fit for confirmation which would have been on Pentecost so I wore that for my Pentecost. No - for confirmation it was with the class and my cousin went in her dress The cousin that was six months older I could wear hers. Yeah, so-
SM: So I did get to wear the white dress and veil at the confirmation. (laughter)Yeah.
SG: Did you have a special meal or any kind of special celebration around [-?-]?
SMK: We did. My godparents were there and they provided because we didn't have a lot, but they brought things for us the (stuttering) occasion. And even for - like at the time of the baptism we went out to Westbrook and they had a party there.
SG: That was nice.
SM: Because they -all of the different relatives were godparents to one or the other. My Aunt Mary was my brother's, my sisters. My Aunt Anna and Uncle Tom was for my brother and and then, Sue and Bob Rachel’s, Rachel’s parents were my godparents. So, so we had the party out there. (laughter)
SG: Is there any one thing which you remember the most about your confirmation?
SM: Well prob - No, I just remember the (laughter) long hours of practicing and the - oh there was one lady who was always the godmother for the girls and then they have one man that was always the godfather, instead of nowadays, each individual gets their own. They ask for their sponsors so that's different -that's a change and this lady was the teacher for the first communion class. Mrs. McLaughlin and her brother, her son was in my class at school.
SG: OK. (laughter)
SM: Yeah, I do remember that. (laughter) He was a nice looking guy. (laughter)
SG: (laughter) Do you remember your father ever telling you much about religion?
SM: Basically that God loved me - he wasn't a Catholic because he - he should have been, the family actually was Catholic, but he lived in Jonesport/ Beal's Island and that was an isolated area. The nearest Catholic church was Calais and unless you had -he lived on an island so you had to have a boat to get to the mainland, there was no bridge -there is now, but at that time there was no bridge and then you had to have a horse and buggy and means of storing it on the mainland if you were going to go beyond Jonesport.
SM: And they were not rich and so that part of the family never stayed in the Catholic church and the Seventh Day Adventists moved down there and that was became the church that he went to. He- It was obvious that he loved God and he instilled that in me, but there was no going to church kind of thing with him.
SG: What about your mom? What do you remember that she kind of talked to you about religion?
SM: Mom never did. My grandmother is the one who to -she read to us from the Bible every night and taught, but see mom most - Most of the time mom was, I don't know, she was crying probably because the divorce was about to take place, but not - I don't recall a lot coming from my mother except that she apparently cherished her religion but didn't know what to do about it and so she hence the tears.
SG: That that sounds like a very hard thing to, to try and deal with at the age you were at …
SM: Yeah, and I know, I just know from my grandmother that God watched me all the time and if I and I (there is a small section of tape here that was erased and not transcribed due to the wishes of Sister ------------. The interview then continued.) (laughter) And of course I did not tell the truth that I was the one that did it. I made my brother swear to secrecy -my sister wasn't old enough to understand so she couldn't say anything. (laughter) So that was my -I remember that clearly when I went to confession. That's the one sin that I remember that I confessed. (laughter) And I've never lied since, but I do remember that clearly, but that can not be in there. I'm sorry. (laughter)
SG: At what age did you decide that you wanted to become a nun?
SM: Actually, it was shortly after I was baptized and received those sacraments. Every year, they would have missionaries that would come and talk in the church about the, and encouraging vocations. And there was a I don't remember if it was a priest or a sister exactly, but that person was there talking about the missions and how important it was that we have vocations -people that would go and take care of the poor and that’s where that desire first came. And it I it was it had to be almost like a week after confirmation because I have pictures of myself in the white dress and veil and on the back of it, I had written that I was going to become a nun.
SMK: So, that was written at that time so I know that's when I had decided. I, I never told my mother and then when I was in high school the next part of it came -there was a girl from Cathedral High school who had joined the Marinol (?) and I think it was Marinol (?) or Marris (?) - one of those things, missionary things. And she came and spoke to the girls at the high school and my sister and I used to - at night we would walk and say the rosary and so we'd walk. We lived right, right at the foot of the hill for the [-?-] and we'd walk up Cumberland Avenue over and then back down saying our rosary. And then we'd finished the rosary, my sister and I were talking about the Sister that had come to school and she decided that (laughter) she slipped right out of her mouth -we lived on this one way street, little tiny I mean, just one car could fit there you couldn't really even park cars on the street. If you had a car and most of us didn't in that neighborhood, but if you did have one you had to have a garage and I don't know where they put- I think there was a parking garage up the street. But anyway we were walking down this little alley and she said I, I think I'd like to, you know, join Marinol or whatever the order is - I'll say Marinol. And she no sooner got those words out -of out of this little alley way came this dog woof woof wooof arf woof (laughter) and she ran and climbed the tree -there was a little tree there (laughter) and I just stood there in the street laughing my head off. I wasn't frightened by the dog, she was. I had long ago got over the fear of dogs because I figured they're not going to do anything if I don't fight back.
SM: But anyway, I stood there. I said “Oh yeah, you're going the mission - first mission, first native you see will be in a tree” and of course that hurt her feelings so she went home and told my mother that what I said. And my mother said, “Oh dear”, she said, “You'll make a wonderful sister. I can't see Mary being one but I can see you.” So I never ever told her when I even began thinking seriously about it until I was really sure I was going to do it because I wasn't gonna have her say I don't I can't see that. So-
SM: that gets to the other question about who didn't support me. (laughter)
SG: Yeah. (laughter)
SM: You'll know that one. (laughter)
SG: Do you feel like the idea of becoming a nun kind of came upon you over time or do you feel when the idea entered your head you're probably like “Wow... I hadn't thought of that.”
SM: Well, I think it was more or less over time because like I said, I kind of was conscious of what the church did, what the sisters did - the ones that I had at school about helping us and helping. I saw them help others and I just felt drawn to helping the poor in some way and visiting the sick and those were all things that Sisters did. You know the old visits that I did and part of the Legion of Mary was they would give us a list of Catholics who weren't going to church and we would visit them and try to encourage them to come back to the church and that's something that Sisters would do and several people did. You know, just this little kid going to say (laughter) “How come you haven't come to church”, can, “Is there something that”, “Can I find someone that can give you a ride or something” and we did.
SG: (laughter) That's wonderful.
SM: Yeah, so I think it was -I think it did come kind of gradually. I did normally date. I, in fact, I was dating a, a young man - I worked at Holy Innocence, it was an orphanage, but they also had day care services there too and I think that was a source of income to take care of the orphans. And that was run by the Sisters of Mercy and I worked there all through high school. But one summer, this big family left - they had ten children. They left the five youngest ones and they were going to [Saint Anne de Belfray ?] Well, it turned out these five younger ones belonged to this boy that was in my class in grade school. His name was Roger and Roger, when he was talking about going to St Anne's, I said “do you have five, did you leave five younger children at Holy Innocence.” He said “Yeah” so that we became more friendly and he's the one I went to my junior prom with. And we dated- he said, I, we had attended an all girls high school so we had to ask the boys out - that's who I thought of because we had become friendly because of his brothers and sisters so I (laughter) -
SM: And if you, if you went to his house, you had to take him out for a walk because there was kids [unintelligible phrase] (laughter). So we went for a walk and I asked if he would go to my prom. He said “Yes, if you'll go to the (severus ?) dances with me” because he said I think I need practice to dance. And my little sisters taught us how to the steps of the dance at school and then I went to the dances -he even took me to Old Orchard Beach one time and I got my first kiss so it wasn't that I was a totally -you know decided to do that -but, you know I just - life went on too. But, when I discovered that he was a little too serious, was that he asked me to go to Lewiston with him because he wanted me to meet his grandparents and we all packed in this one station - ten kids, myself, the mother, and father in this station wagon and went to Lewiston to meet his grandparents. (laughter) Well, that's when I decided that he was a little bit too serious so I gave him to my best girlfriend for the senior prom. I never went to it - I just wanted the experience of knowing that I -
SG: I [unintelligible phrase]
SM: -had gone to my junior prom but I wasn't really interested in that. I, I, by this time I was deciding I am really going to enter. So I told him “Well you know, I'm going to enter the convent” and I said “My mother doesn't know it so this is between us.” He said “I can't believe it, but that doesn't mean you can't go to your senior prom”. I said, “I know, but I just don't want to lead you on and I feel that you're a little too serious” and he said “Well, I really do love you.” (laughter) I said, “I know, that's the problem!” (raised voice with laughter) “And I like you very much, but it's not that kind of love for me” and so I remember that conversation with him. So he went with my best friend Anne and they- I don't think they married, but he ended up - ended up having the youngest- his youngest sister in the fourth grade at Cathedral when I taught there and she went home at lunch because it - she lived near there too he lived in my neighborhood so - and she came back and she said, “Was your name Sis- --------?” and I said “Yes, but that's our secret: just like my Sister Holsteier. (laughter) And she said OK. And I said “By the way, whatever happened to Roger?” And she said, “He married -he lives in Lewiston and he had twin girls born on my birthday. (laughter)
SM: Isn't that something? (laughter)
SM: And when we had - you know how you talk and she had - we had talked about that. There were twins on my side of the family - twins on his side so it was possible (laughter) that we would have had twins. And we even talked about it you know – well, we could, yeah, have a big family. I thought I - I envied him having the big family we were only three. That wasn't big enough for me. (laughter) Oh dear.
SG: So -
SM: You're going to get more than you want here probably. (laughter)
SG: I'm, I'm very happy. It's all good.
SM: OK. OK.
SG: So it sounds like some of your family was pretty surprised when you made this decision...
SM: Uh, yeah. (laughter)
SG: How was it? I mean, were some of them supportive? Were some of them not supportive?
SM: My father was very supportive- he was very proud of me. My mother said -wanted to be sure that I really wanted that and I didn't really feel her support. She may have liked the idea, but I think she just wanted to be sure that's what I really wanted. I guess - I don't know, that's the way she expressed it. But it wasn't supportive to me - I mean I didn't feel the support.
SG: Did anyone actually -
SM: My grandmother really loved it and she was absolutely proud of me. I had a cousin, Sister Mary Denise, who was the principal at St Dominic's school in Portland. And they always had a big St. Patrick's Day show -this is a funny story too and so my grandmother said “You know, your cousin is the principal at the school.” We were allowed to walk from Cathedral -it would be like walking from here to the mall, OK - and but we went two by two and the teachers went with us and they - you know, are parents or somebody, we weren't just on our own, but we walked there to St Dominic's for a dress rehearsal of their St Patrick's show. And, of course, we landed in the hallway at the school and out the door and I was supposed to -according to my grandmother- said “Be sure you introduce yourself to Sister Denise.” Well, I happened to be right near the door, out she comes with a big bell and she said “If anybody so much as opens their mouth, you're going to be shipped home or back to Cathedral.” And so (laughter) guess what, I did not bother to tell her that I was her cousin. (laughter) And my mother - my grandmother was so disappointed, but she was very supportive when I was going to enter because she knew what I had to have to bring with me and, you know, for the preparation. So she -she had friends and probably some of those relatives in Westbrook that, you know, provided some of the things cause as [ - ? - ] and I think that's another question. I don't know if we are there yet, but you can skip over that one. (laughter)
SG: That's fine. (laughter)
SM: Nope, gonna have to stop.
SG: Go ahead and get it.
(Phone ringing. Tape was paused to allow for completion of convent business.)
SG: OK. Did anyone actively try to dissuade you from taking the vows?
SM: If anything it would have been my mother - you can't have my green one.
(I picked up a pen off the table, a green one)
SG: I wasn't going to actually keep it. (laughter)
SM: I know, but nobody uses my green one. I'll tell you why in a little bit.
SG: OK (laughter)
SG: So I think you mentioned that your grandmother was probably the most supportive.
SM: Yes, absolutely because she -she herself was a convert. She was English Protestant and she was a convert when she was -she married my grandfather who was French Catholic. And so, she was very faithful to going to church until she became older and wasn't able to go and we didn't have a car, but other than that she did go to church.
SG: What was the process like once you - once you made this decision to actually join an order?
SM: Well, actually I started to join another order. I read it -like in the Church World or Catholic magazines - I saw different orders and in my mind I knew that I wanted to have a deep spiritual foundation. And so I knew the word contemplative meant that, but yet at the same time I wanted to work with the poor. And I found this order out west someplace - I cannot remember and I wrote to them and they send an application. You had to write a biography of your life so far which I did and I sent that and the third piece of it was you had to have a letter of recommendation of your pastor. So I made an appointment with the pastor and told him, gave him all that I had sent so far to them and we talked about it. And he said “Why are you going way out west?” And he was thinking of my mother getting older and that, you know, your mother is here- you probably won't get to see her very often. And I, so I explained that I wanted a semi contemplative order so that I would have a good foundation in prayer life and yet still work with the poor. And he said “Well, the 'Sisters of Mercy' you have in school are semi contemplative -well, they never advertised themselves that way, but how would I know? I didn't know that they had a prayer life - all I knew was I saw them in school. So he said “But, you know, maybe attending more towards the contemplative part.” So he made an appointment right there on the spot with the 'Sisters of the Precious Blood' which was right there in Portland and I was going to spend a weekend with them and then see if - if it was that or whichever. So anyway in the meantime, I think I told you earlier that I worked at Holy Innocence home which was run by the Sisters of Mercy and I didn't tell the Sister about this plan. I think she knew I was thinking about becoming a religious, but I was just praying about it – you know, because she had all the Sisters always asked you those questions and - but anyway, I went in the room and this was in August for the - Are you Catholic?
SG: I'm not.
SM: You're not. OK. I say all these Catholic things and you seem to be a little bit familiar with it-
SG: Well, I did a lot of research -
SM: Well, I guess you did – wonderful!
SG: - for this interview because I wanted -
SM: - But, anyway- this was in August and the feast - there's a very special feast for the Assumption of Mary - our Mary, our Blessed Mother assumed her - God took her body right to heaven so there's no remains of our blessed mother on the earth.
SM: And the same with Jesus - so anyway they - the church always had an novena before that feast and I was going to that so I had mentioned that to the sister. And then I kind of turned and went and then I heard “waaaa” - this baby cry - she was changing a baby. Well, Sister had turned thinking that I was still there standing by the baby, but did - not realizing that I had exited and the baby had rolled off the table. So, of course I ran back. I said “Oh my goodness, you thought I was still here!” And she said “It's OK, do you hear that wailing?” I said “I sure did; that's why I'm back here.” And she said that means the baby will be OK, but she said “If you want to be sure when you go to the novena tonight, promise our blessed mother something very special and that baby will be fine.” And I thought “What can I promise to her?” She said “Promise that you'll look into joining the Sisters of Mercy.” Now she had no idea of what Father
(Side one of the tape ends mid sentence)