Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall at sunset

Sunday, January 31, 2010


My 40th High School reunion is coming up this year so I have been thinking about Tonawanda, NY, the Polish-Italian suburb of Buffalo where I grew up.

I went to Catholic school for 12 years, first at St. Amelia's, then 4 years at Cardinal O'Hara. Nuns were a big part of my childhood.

When you're in 1st or 2nd grade, it seemed all the sisters looked like the sister below. I think this might be a Carmelite nun.

In reality, they looked like these sisters. Felician nuns. They had all been born in Poland. Their habits included that high starched white forehead piece with the veil draped over it. They all had names like Sister Amabilia, Sister Conceptia, Sister Anthonille and Sister Beatrice.

The nuns ruled. I mean they RULED. You did not talk back and every response had to have "Sister" added onto the end of it. "Yes, Sister." "No, Sister." "Right away, Sister."

I loved my 1st grade teacher, Sister Laurentine. She must have been close to 70 at the time she taught my class but she was very kind. I think it must have been Sister Laurentine that made me want to be a nun.

Both my sister Bernadine and myself wanted to join the religious life. At the time I thought you had to be a nun or a priest to be closer to God. Later on I learned that wasn't so. But the desire to become a nun stayed with me up until high school.

Bernadine wanted to be a Sister of Charity, founded by St. Catherine Laboure. They wore the big starched flying wimple sort of habit in the first photo at the top. Sometimes she wanted to be a Maryknoll nun because in our tiny school library there was a book called Bernie Becomes a Nun. We checked it out frequently and perused the many photographs that showed Bernie going into the convent and becoming a postulant, then a novice, and finally taking her permanent vows.

There was another book in our library that listed every order of nuns in the world. I think there were about 1000 different orders. The order that fascinated me the most was the Pink Nuns. No kidding. They even had a picture and their robes were a pale pink. I am not making this up!

Nuns have been popular subject in Hollywood, even up to the present time. When I thought about being a nun, I pictured myself something like the nun in the photos below. Contemplative and holy and beautiful all at the same time.

Like this nun.

Or this one.

When I was little I used to take all the white towels in the house and dress up like a nun. No lie. Thank goodness there aren't any photos of this, although I must say my parents sure missed a good photo op.

I begged my Dad to let me go into the convent after 8th grade. He was usually a pussycat but this time he put his foot down and said no. There was time enough to do that after I graduated from high school. Of course in the 9th grade I discovered boys and my "vocation" flew out the window.

I am grateful for my Catholic education. The nuns taught me about God while they taught me to read. We learned to respect them and to respect others.

And they taught me about Pagan Babies. But that's another post.

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