The Nun Files: Part One
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)