When we came back
from our trip to Canada, Dor and I found that we had been separated. I
was sent to our college to teach, and Dor remained at Noll, where Christopher Marie
(Eleanor Fails) had been assigned to take over drama with her (and did
a marvelous job, I must add). It was a major disappointment for me. I
didn't think going to the college now was anything special. St. Mary's
students' lives now seemed dull compared with the lives of the students
at Noll. No, I would rather have remained with the eager high school students.
After the success of our joint productions at Noll, we wondered that the
the superiors would separate such a winning combination. But our local
house had never so much as complimented us for our efforts there (perhaps
Sr. Holy Innocents did). I noticed the difference when the reception of
our summer play at St. Mary's was so favorable.. There was a mission ethos
that discouraged involvement with the students--involvement with the nuns,
on the other hand, was seen as wonderful.
Why had I been transferred? Did the sisters complain that Dor and I were
not spending enough time taking the older sisters to their doctors' appointments?
Sr. Cecile Marie told us that the other nuns regarded Dor and me as "a
whirlwind". We had too much energy; they couldn't take it. I worried
myself much over this transfer. On the one hand I had failed to convince
them of the value of what I was doing ; and they on the other hand had
failed to appreciate it. It seemed like they set out to thwart young sisters.
Why could the older nuns do "their thing" , as I had observed
from my earliest days on mission, and not I, especially when "my
thing" was working with the students and bringing them out? Were
indulgences allowed only the old? Was working overtime with students something
that needed an indulgence? Why were they allowed their pets and cliques
and escapes on shopping trips to Chicago or South Bend with their friends
while I was not allowed to spend my time with the students. Did they sense
I was critical toward them for not doing something? Was that it?
Working with students was freeing; they had no complexes or problems.
They raised no objections but were always eager for new projects they
might participate in. I felt a positive energy flowing from and into them,
but with the older sisters I felt negative energies that depleted me.
Perhaps my later choice of living alone was produced by those years living
in community, I did not want to be impeded by to others' negative energies.
this process of digging up memories can be dangerous
|Going back and opening
up old memories is a dangerous pastime; stirring up old unresolved feelings
is opening a Pandora's box. One re-experiences all the buried emotions,
but once they have broken loose and resurfaced, after the pain, a new perspective
may come. They may even vanish under the light. As I look back on those
times, I see how easily I felt rejected. I always wanted what I did to be
approved by authorities. I realize now that I granted "rights of approval" too broadly. Approval from those who were closest to me and counted most
wasn't enough; for some reason I could not discriminate and persisted in
hoping to please people who would never be pleased, people who had problems
of their own. I also now realize that I wanted to control everything-not
only my actions but the responses of others as well.
I am also finding that summoning the memory of these former students is
revitalizing. Their energies are still there, especially where I have pictures
to bring them back.
I found out about Christian Culture at St. Mary's, 1960-1961
from Noll was one of the hardest changes I went through during those years
on mission; perhaps it was my first step out of the community. I had loved
the students at Noll, had enabled them to become successful, had identified
with them, had given them the best I had to offer, but, without consulting
me, Sr. Madeleva had stepped in and chosen to put me into the Christian
Culture program, now that I had a Master's Degree from Notre Dame.
The Christian Culture program was new at St. Mary's, started by Bruno
Schlesinger. It was based on Christopher Dawson's idea that universities
offered students a lot of historical knowledge about the unity of Graeco-Roman
culture (philosophy, art, architecture, history, literature, etc.) but
nothing about the the unity of Western Culture that came after that, which
he called "Christian Culture." He hoped some colleges would
remedy that, and gave his blessings to Bruno when he founded a program
called "Christian Culture" at St. Mary's in 1956. The program
covered the Medieval period up to the present, showing how Christianity
shaped and influenced art, architecture, philosophy, theology, literature.
It was an ambitious program that aimed at looking at the various disciplines
in the humanities from the perspective of historical Christianity.|
The fact that an MA in English was no preparation for a program that was
essentially history didn't dawn on me at the time, for I knew little about
the program. There was a certain literature component, e.g., an Irish
Dominican (probably a theologian) was teaching a course on James Joyce's
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, a work which I had studied and
written about, and was actually prepared to teach. Did Sr. Madeleva imagine
that I might eventually fit in there? For the time being, where would
Bruno put me? He knew I wasn't a historian, though I was good at art history--but
that was his field. He or someone assigned me to teach the Fathers of
the Church. (Why hadn't one of the Dominican priests taught it, I wondered
later. Was this another case that the youngest got assigned the classes
no one else wanted?)
Broadly educated though I thought myself to have been, I had never taken
a course in Fathers of the Church at Notre Dame, if they had one, or anyplace
else. (This was perhaps a first time undergraduate offering on any Catholic
college campus.) Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Tertullian were probably
beyond the knowledge of all but those who had gotten PhD's in Church History
at the time. It was all very mysterious. Other faculty in my age group
were being sent off to graduate school, even to Louvain. Yet I was given
not even a semester to get acquainted with the program. I was just assigned
into it as if I were an expert in Church history. I trusted the Holy Spirit
to fill up my deficiency as usual. While I was teaching the course, I
was also taking other C. C. courses with the students whom I was teaching.
Once I learned what the program was all about in joint seminars and was
taking the Christian Archaeology course, of course I loved the program.
It was just the systematic approach to learning that I had loved. Cardinal
Newman would have been delighted. But just before exams, Sr. Loretto the
superior told me sweetly that the students ("the cream of the crop")
thought I was teaching the course wrong ("like a literature course"),
and of course they knew the difference, and the program was trying to
get off to a good start ("the fair-haired child of the curriculum").
The Holy Spirit had let me down. I was going to be switched to the English
department second semester.
The English department
|Since I had left St.
Mary's in 1952, the chair of the faculty of the English department had changed from the
kindly Sr. Miriam Joseph to the condescending Sr. Franzita. She could see
no need for new faculty at the time, and had probably not been consulted
about my appointment, so she was not happy with my sudden appearance on
her doorstep. She told me that since I had to teach something, I could teach
the World Literature and writing components of the Trivium course to freshman,
where, presumably, I could do the least damage. "Don't worry,"
I tried to reassure her, "I have taught this before to the postulants."
"I am not worried," she told me coolly, to let me know how little
she concerned herself with me. I felt like a high school teacher (mostly
a math teacher at that) who has been thrust in among the college English
teachers, most of whom had PhD's and took themselves seriously. I threw myself into the new course with my usual zeal and
got up syllabi on world literature. I assigned relevant papers and enjoyed
teaching the class. I thought my lectures were inspiring, and one student,
June Root, said wonderful things about my class to Sr. Mary Immaculate.
But I imagined Sr. Franzita, who had a certain cachet for sarcastic wit,
rolling her eyes and putting it out that she had gotten stuck with me. I
was a liability as far as she was concerned.
I realized that many of the nuns on the college staff did not actually have much respect
for "nuns." Though nuns themselves they could scarcely bear to
spend any time with the rest of the community; they retired to their cubicles.
Sr. Madeleva gave occasional talks in which she too seemed contemptuous
of nuns. Sr. Marie Renata replaced her that year, I believe, as president,
and she too spoke contemptuously of us. I was beginning to get an inferiority
complex at the very fountain of my vocation. Sr. Mary Immaculate, Sr. Verda,
Sr. Rose Ellen and Sr. Marie Rosaire were my only close friends among the
college faculty. There was a clique there, that included an old college
classmate Marg Habig, known as Sr. Michaela, dean of students, and her best friend
Sr. Anne Monica, (Mary T. Egerer, who was later to be my colleague at Chicago
State for many years). She had a PhD from Harvard, and was Madeleva's traveling
companion. I still remember Marg telling me one night in the college community
room, that I had to "stretch" myself. Did she mean that I should
stretch myself from being a high school teacher to a college teacher? Or
did she mean that I still had the "good sister" mentality (of
my Miss Lutz and Sr. Frances de Sales days) and should stretch myself out
of my nun straitjacket and have a drink with them? If I were going to become
sophisticated and worldly, why stay in a religious community?
Forsaking all of them, I spent my time in the art studio with Norman Laliberte
and Sr. Marie Rosaire, and there I was happy and felt like my old self.
Jim Cronin was then teaching theatre at St. Mary's, directing The King and I and he and Laliberte had collaborated on a film, influenced by the Canadian film
maker Norman McLaren. Laliberte went on to make a wonderful film Venezia, with
the many domes and spires and artistic motifs of Venice, set to lilting
Venetian music. One day Sr. Loretto came in and found me working on some
art project that Norman or Marie Rosaire had going, possibly making things
for the Art Fair, and she said, "Ah! At last we've found what you're
good at." Needless to say that wasn't reassuring to someone who thought
she was an intellectual. I felt she meant that I couldn't be a scholar but
I could be a craftsperson.
Besides the art studio, as usual I found diversion with the students. I
was assigned to be on floor duty in the evenings overseeing freshmen in Holy Cross Hall. Into my little
cubicle at night wandered the most delightfully silly and irreverend freshmen
girls, whom I got to know well and who shared their stories with me. Ellen
and Mary were my darlings among the freshman. Among the seniors in Christian
Culture I remained close to senior Patty Crotty and even had something to
do with her marriage to Tim Crowley after graduation.
I was transferred to Schlarman H. S.in Danville, Illinois, 1961-1963 and
how I fared there.
Needless to say,
I was not surprised when, after a delightful summer of 1961 at St. Mary's taking theology courses and playing the French horn in an all-nun orchestra started by Sr. Selina
the saxaphone), I was transferred from St. Mary's to Schlarman High School in Danville, Illinois, not far from
Urbana, the campus of the University of Illinois. It was a small house,
and all the nuns were familiar ones I knew and liked: Sr. Leo Blanche
(Latin), Sr. Celene (chorus and band), Sr. Cyril (math and science), Sr.
Lenore (library and Spanish, football players), Sr. John Joseph (senior
sponsor , history ). New unprofessed nuns were Sr. Johnilda (Freshmen
sponsor and English 2 and 3) and Sr. Conrada (math). No, the problem in
Danville was not the nuns, but the priest, Father Charles Kelley, the
I was assigned to the yearbook, The Summit, and was given the senior class
as my homeroom, where I recognized right away another group of talented
seniors. Seeing their energy and talent, hearing that there was nothing
going on but sports and music for extra-curricular activities, it wasn't
enough to do the yearbook with them, I would put on a variety show, sponsored
by the yearbook. To get them interested in drama, I took them to see My
Fair Lady at the Schubert Theatre in downtown Chicago. Class president, Pat Wolgamot,
became the yearbook editor and assistant producer of the variety show. When I look at the
yearbook pictures of the talented students there, I remember them well
from the variety show. The cast included Pat as Shelley Berman, Tim Sullivan
as Jonathan Winters, John James as Bob Newhart, Mike Gordon, Dave Mayoras,
John Meyer, and Dan Jackson as The Four Winds, a chorus line of
dancers: Pat Ready, George Girouard, Tuck Meyer, Tom Grites, Mike Gordon,
Dave Kirk, Dan Jackson, Bob Lang, John Meyer, Tom Young, Dave Mayoras,
Mike LaTourelle, Virgil Campbell and Sue Federspiel, Susanne Wise, Rebecca
Wilson and others. The dances included a Charleston number and a Black
Bottom, as well as a Sailors' dance, and a rousing When the Saints
Come Marching In finale.
It was a big hit, but probably too much for Fr. Kelley. He had focused
entirely on sports at Schlarman and neglected all these other talented
people. And here they suddenly burst out their senior years, singing and
dancing. He decided to put a stop to me then and there. He told Sr. Marie
Jeanne, our superior, that I was a worldly nun who had been seen hoisting
my skirts and teaching the students how to do the charleston. Was that
anyway for a nun to behave? She gave me a talking to, making me feel that
I wasn't even ladylike, much less nunlike, in my behavior. She was too
late. I no longer respected nunlike behavior; I no longer wanted to be
like Miss Lutz or Sr. Frances de Sales. I wanted to be like Sr. Joseph
Frances at Noll--a creative force drawing out the students' creativity.
She campused me. The only social event I remember outside the convent
for the rest of that year was a visit from my old high school friend Norman
Shetler, who was living in Vienna where he had established himself as
a concert pianist and accompanist to lieder singers. His visit cheered
me up and depressed me at the same time. I began reading Russian novels.
I worked on my modus vivendi at Schlarman
After another summer
in the orchestra at St. Mary's and some further classes at ND, I was sent back
to Schlarman. There the restrictions continued. I was made to conform to hours
that only the oldest sisters observed--leaving campus right after class
and staying at home in the convent. Fr. Kelley had told Sr. Marie Jeanne that he wanted
me to have no further part in any extra curricular activities involving
students. What could I do? |
In confession I told the priest that I hated
Fr. Kelley, and the confessor asked why I was letting him dominate my
soul. He told me to get a modus vivendi that ignored him. I worked
on my modus vivendi, I retired into art and literature. I practised
the French horn. I read more Russian novels, identifying with the suffering
Russian soul. I must have taught the juniors, for I knew Earlene Gaudio
and her boyfriend Dick McIntyre. At Christmas I decorated the community
tree with blue and green Christmas ornaments and made a chain of blue
and green links with help from the young math teacher, Sr. Conrada. For
Valentines day I made a Valentine castle (a fort in which I was confined)
with pictures of the faculty that I had from the yearbook hiding behind
every window. I still suffered from Fr. Kelley's rejection, for I had accorded him the right to be an authority over me and wanted his approval.
Teaching Sophomore English was another part of my modus vivendi.
Probably it was not part of the requirement, but I wanted the sophomores
to be exposed to Greek myths and epics, so I did cuttings from the Iliad as well as some favorite myths-Cupid and Psyche, The Twelve Labors of
Hercules, Echo and Narcissus, Orpheus and Eurydice, Daedalus and Icaus,
Prometheus, the story of Atlanta, the Bride of Pluto (Demeter and Persephone).
We acted them out in class, with a narrator. We acted out Julius Caesar
too. One of my favorite students in that class was Mike Filisky, who did
the narration of the myths. He had a way with words and he and his pal Jerry Pubantz made me laugh with their clever banter. Mike has gotten in touch with me again after all
these years. He reminded me that I passed out mint lifesavers and had
the students write a description, from the viewpoint of an alien. Mike
and pal Jerry Pubantz composed monographs upon the lifesaver. Both now
have PhD's and are at universities in the East. Michael reminded me also
that I had slipped him a clandestine copy of J D Salinger's Catcher in
the Rye, banned at that time (1962) in Catholic high schools. He claimed
it changed his life; he switched from science to theater. And he wrote
a paper about me in a graduate class. (Note: Mike passed away in 2007, but I am in contact with his wife Ingrid Bartinique and his charming and talented daughter Marina Filisky, who is at Skidmore.)
A savior arrived that year and helped my modus vivendi. My brother Joe was getting a master's degree in architecture at the University of Illinois, and with
his wife Pat and their son Michael, was living nearby in Urbana. Joe and I had become
very close during my annual home visits to Kansas City. I drove over to Urbana one Satuday morning with Mike Filisky and
Jerry and we spent the day painting the walls with
characters from Alice in Wonderland. Their daughter was born in Urbana
that spring and given the family name Mary Rose.
Finally my modus
vivendi could take it no longer. I couldn't stand the thought of going
back to Schlarman another year, so I got a ride to South Bend to talk
to Mother Verda Clare to tell her my feelings and ask her to transfer
me. She advised me to pray. I did and it worked! The next August I was transferred
to Marian Central in Woodstock. I was replaced at Schlarman by Sr. Benedict
Labre (Pat Geraghty). Fr. Kelley suspected her of being as bad as I was;
he listened to her classes and tried to interfere with her too. She left
from Schlarman the next year, when the freshmen class I had know, with Patrick Grady, were seniors.
Marian Central H. S., Woodstock, Illinois, 1963-1965
That summer break
was marvelous. Film societies were the latest thing; ND had one, showing
foreign films in Washington Hall. I had always loved films, even before
I went to St. Mary's, so I jumped at the chance to take a film course
at ND from Ed Fisher. Through that class I met John O'Hala, the editor
of the Notre Dame Dome and the head of the Notre Dame film society. He was very knowledgeable
about foreign films, yearbooks (he introduced me to the mosaic layout that I used on the Schlarman yearbooks), depth of field in photography, Chinese
poetry. He expanded my imagination. He became friends with Marie Rosaire
and the art teachers and students at St. Mary's.
I carried that expanding
self with me to Woodstock, Ill., in McHenry County, northwest of Chicago.
The superior there was Sr. Elizabeth Ann, who had been my superior before
in Michigan City and whom I admired. She was open, interested in all the students and a supporter of creative teachers. There were a lot of familiar faces:
Sr. Maria (history), Sr. Lenore (librarian), Sr. Marie Imelda (math),
Sr. Rose Vincent (physics and chemistry), Sr. Pauline (French), Sr. Alberta
Marie (English, History), Sr. Ruberta (Latin), Sr. Marie Emile (French,
English), Sr. Dolorine (Latin), Sr. Holy Innocents (commerce).
I think of Woodstock as "county." People around that area, in McHenry County, have horses. There was (is) even a Woodstock Opera House where Tolstoy
had lectured. Connected with the Opera House was a group of enthusiastic
culture mavens headed by Esther Stewart, the manager of the House, who
thought my idea of showing art films at the Opera House was great, so
we founded a film society. At school I found a congenial group of sophisticated, mature
and creative seniors to work on the yearbook Memorare, including Sue Pawlikowski,
Mike Linder , Margaret Gallagher, Ron Reckamp. I still have the two yearbooks
I oversaw while I was there. We used the mosaic layout that John had taught
me. Senior Mike Linder, an artist, on the staff of the yearbook, (one
of the students interested in forming the film society), became
the yearbook's photography editor and went around with the photographer,
arranging the quirky poses that made that yearbook win an award and making
sure that there were deep shadows and odd angles, a la Citizen Kane. Mike
later went to Hollywood and became a film producer. John O'Hala came out
occasionally from his home in Highland Park to visit me and talk to the
By then, my creative self was completely revitalized, thanks to the Art
Department at St. Mary's, to Sr. Marie Rosaire, John O'Hala, and the students
at Noll, Schlarman and Marian Central. I carried over Sr. Marie Rosaire's
art fair concept to Marian Central. I taught a "humanities"
course that sponsored the art fair. We made "ticky-tacky boxes," stuffed dolls, banners, and other items similar to ones Sr. Marie Rosaire
and her students had made to sell at the St. Mary's Art Fair. Mike Linder
was especially delightful, hilarious and helpful. The Memorare had a booth at Mardi Gras, entitled "Le Café des Jeunes Artistes," with a chanson singer, an artist painting portraits, and Mike Linder as
a starving artist.
The students at Marian Central shared my enthusiasms, meeting one of
my deepest needs. For many years my style of relating (and teaching) was to press upon
others my enthusiasms--whether it was for art, plays, movies, writers. And these
students responded! I believe it was that year that I took the seniors
to Chicago to see Tom Jones. In Schlarman Father Kelley would have
balked, but no one in Woodstock batted an eye. The next semester
we went to see A Man for All Seasons at the Blackstone.
I got caught up into psychology
years I had had at Schlarman made me turn within to try to understand
myself psychologically. I longed for self-knowledge and understanding and control of my emotions.
I needed counseling. Fortunately, help was on its way.
This was the year of the Second Vatican Council. Religious women were
all being asked to answer questions about religious life; we heard about "sister formation," and "reforms." Seminaries were
beginning to reform--Fr. Putz became rector of Moreau Seminary and changed
everything there. Our band turned out to have some great reformers, including
some right there with me at Marian Central--Sr. Alberta Marie with Sr.
Kathleen Dolores (Gretchen O'Brien). Everybody had good ideas and we talked
about them constantly. Among the chief reforms was the realization that
we were more than just cogs in the wheels of big community enterprises.
We were persons. On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers was the
number one best-seller at Marian Central that year.
Pop psychology was becoming big. These were the sixties, after all. Right
there at Marian Central there was a group that read Carl Rogers and discussed
their feelings with Fr. Daniel Tranel. Seniors like Margaret Gallagher,
Sue Pawlikowski and Ron Reycamp and faculty members like Sr. Kathleen
Dolores had already been in it for a year.. I joined the year I arrived,
feeling emotionally about the same age as the seniors who were in my classes.
I felt emotionally retarded in their company; I knew about art and literature
but I knew little about counseling or psychology. The seniors were way
ahead of me. They understood and could talk about their feelings freely
and eloquently. I couldn't. My solution as always was "take a class
in it." So I went to Loyola.
I joined Fr. Curran's Language Study Group
|At Loyola Father Charles
Curran, a Jesuit, had a discussion group, perhaps the prototype for our
group at Marian Central. The group, which had been running for five years,
was composed of lay people, several priests (Fr. Tranel and his brother),
some seminarians, but no nuns. It wasn't just a plain old discussion group.
It was a language-learning discussion group. Members were learning Spanish,
French, Italian and German -all at the same time. Of course, everyone was
at different levels; beginners were like children; those who were more advanced
were like counselors, while the most advanced were experts. We were allowed,
even encouraged to regress to whatever infantile level we were at in each
language. Fr. Curran hoped that we would thus get in touch with our elemental
feelings, learn to trust those more "grown up" than ourselves.
We all had permission of the group--indeed, we were expected-- to tell each
other how we felt about what the other did or said, as children would, honestly.
Through Father Tranel I got into this course in the spring, continuing on
into the summer. Realizing I needed one-on-one counseling, I went to Fr. Tranel, who was counseling others in the group. It was
okay for nuns to talk to priests about their private thoughts and feelings--was that different from confession? Fr.
Tranel was trained professionally in Rogerian psychology to listen to whatever people said to him, to understand, and reflect his understanding back to them. I read up on this method was explained in
Carl Rogers book, On Becoming a Person.
I got into "helping relationships"
I was the only nun
in the language group, but that didn't bother me a bit. It has always
been easy for me to join groups that share an interest I have, irregardless
of age, class, gender, identity, status, etc. . I affiliate more on an
interest basis than on anything external. I looked forward to the class.
Little did I know what I was letting myself in for.
Around this time
I began keeping journals, so I know a lot--too much perhaps?--about what I was going
through during that time. The language study group had been together five
years. I came in way behind the rest and didn't know the rules. I didn't
regress to an infantile level as Fr. Curran hoped. I stayed behind the
barricade of my habit. Fr. Curran especially wanted to break down my nun-like
equilibrium. He couldn't break me down or throw me off balance. I kept
the barricades up until I felt I could trust; I wouldn't give my trust
without a lot of assurances and the way everyone talked so freely in the
class about what they felt frightened me. I was not prepared
to drop all my defenses before people I had just met. But that was Curran's point-we had
to trust. I was a tempting target--a nun hiding behind the barricade of her habit. Fr. Curran harried me,
tried to throw me off balance. I felt he was labeling me, projecting onto
me his stereotyped image of a nun and jumping on me for that; I didn't
let him get to me, however, so he called me "aloof and inaccessible,
an iceberg." He wanted to "get my wimple flying," i.e.,
get physical, like the drama coach. Didn't he know that the community
had made me smooth down my wimple and conceal my bodily feelings or energies,
that I could express them only when I needed to. They weren't simply available
to be called up by anyone, not by him.
But I was learning something about myself. Perhaps, as he said, I was
too aloof, too Cartesian; my body and soul separated. If anything, he
made me dislike my nunliness even more. I would have liked to break down
before them all. But instead of breaking down or even flying off at him,
I questioned him, probed him, nagged him, which made him mad. He claimed
I was "sadistic." But he had put me into a position where I
had to probe. I was put on the spot to reveal my feelings; instead I gave
my ideas. He wanted my feelings, not my ideas. When I said I didn't know
the difference between an idea and a feeling, he said I was selling myself
out to win an argument. He said I probably would always use as an excuse
that I didn't understand. I picked on him for answers until he put me
onto Fr. Tranel to dig out of him what we were up to. At the end of each
session we were supposed to tell the group how we felt during the experience
of the class. I finally said I enjoyed it. It was fun. They weren't satisfied;
I should have said why. I wondered if they even believed me.
When a member, Mary Mills, objected to his insensitive way of baiting
people like me, he turned on her. She called herself a "conscientious
objector." He wouldn't let her hide behind a label. She had to explain
why she was objecting. We all had to explain why we did or said everything.
We couldn't hide behind our own labels or use cliches without thinking.
We couldn't assume the group would pardon us. Mary couldn't get at her
feelings either, but her way of dealing with it was to not show up for
next class. Fr. Curran called her a "suicide," who left us to
make us feel guilty, make us hold a 'wake" for her, he claimed. I
felt like my personality, or the personality I had constructed to protect
myself, was under attack, was disintegrating. Later I reassured myself
that because Fr. Curran was keeping after me, investing a lot in me, he
must have wanted to save me, must have felt I was worth the effort. I
didn't feel worth all this effort. I wrote in my journal, "I felt
like a drowning person and every time I came up for air, he would push
me down under again; he was trying to knock me out of commission. In
a way I knew I could lean on Fr. Tranel's forgiveness and understanding.
Mary Mills--he pushed her under and she just sank to spite him; she stayed
down." But I couldn't say that in front of the group. I couldn't
trust them all, only Fr. Tranel. The vulnerable way that I felt made me
turn to Fr. Tranel seeking reassurance. Knowing that he was there watching
me take the attack made me seek to talk to him privately. When Fr. Tranel
asked me how I felt in the class and I told him I felt like I was drowning,
he said that was a description, not a feeling. I could only convey feelings
through images and descriptions or through attacking by questioning the
object of my fears (Fr. Curran). I only wanted to know in self-defense.
Usually I tended not to consult people, not to reveal my needs, not to
"become incarnate," as Fr. Curran called it. I asked factual
questions to get information. From years in the convent, I was afraid
to ask deeper questions, perhaps, for fear of hearing the answers. I opted
for safety in conversations, not for dangerous open-ended questions.
Fr. Curran's class was having an effect on me. He called me "that
tough nun." He told me I had a hard time accepting that people were
really angry at me. It was just getting to me by trickles. Was I screening
it out and only slowly and selectively letting in what people thought
of me? What I was hearing was that I should be weak, let people see me
stripped of my props (my analytical mind), show people my need for them,
rather than appearing strong as if I didn't need anyone. My main defense
was what I knew. Should I act as if I didn't know? Was allowing ourselves
to regress and show infantile feelings really a good idea? Once I tried
to reveal my true feelings to my parents during one of their annual visits.
They thought I was crazy, talked about me as if I were a mental case,
as if I weren't there, asking if something had happened to me, if living
in seclusion was getting to me When I visited my family that year and
played with my nephews, I who used to play the guitar and sing-their very
own singing nun, was tentative and unsure. My sister thought that I wasn't
as much fun as before. I was groping with my own innards, twisting my
own mind. My courage at this time was all stoic: My head was bloody but
unbowed. Outwardly I kept a rigid control; inwardly I was seething with
anxiety and fear.
I became worried about myself
I read Emotional
Hazards in Animals and Man and was alarmed to see analogies between
my situation and those of animals whose nature had been suppressed, their
movement restricted, and their inhibitions stimulated by fear. I felt
that I was reading about myself and the effects upon me of restriction
and fear and daily conditioning. I was like the sheep so conditioned to
restraint that even when the restraint was no longer there, put restraints
on itself and was no longer free. "If the experimenter subjects it
to the hazards of monotony, confusion or overstimulation, the development
of various emotional incapacities can be expected. (Me?)" I had many
emotional incapacities . "Under the stress of daily conditioning,
he is at the experimenter's signal thrown into a state of rigid immobility.
Then at other signals the animal reverses itself and responds explosively
with vehement movements and aggressive behavior." Wasn't this similar
to my controlling myself rigidly in conversing with the sisters about
trivia and at other times exploding in manic anger or laughter. I was
becoming an emotional mess.
Back at Marian Central
the next year, we were all trying to form "helping relationships".
I saw Kathleen Dolores
having a helping relationship with Father Tranel, long confidential talks.
It must have helped her, for at the end of that year she left; she just
disappeared. I was angry at her, feeling that she had abandoned us. We
didn't give her any chance to explain why she was leaving; we denied that
she had any valid reasons. I talked to Fr. Tranel about her leaving; he
said she would have to work out a solution "out there," and
perhaps a more realistic one. He said she would have a lot to offer in
the future. Little did I know that my situation would be like hers within