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A Transformative Journey Out, Beyond, and Back: My Evolving Relationship with Tradition

A Transformative Journey Out, Beyond, and Back: My Evolving Relationship with Tradition

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A Transformative Journey Out, Beyond, and Back: My Evolving Relationship with Tradition

Lunghezza:
385 pagine
5 ore
Pubblicato:
Feb 22, 2018
ISBN:
9781370265947
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Author John P. Martin was raised in the New York Irish Catholic culture of Ascension Parish. In his childhood, he was inspired to buck his Tradition that sent him on a transformative journey as a Maryknoll missionary with cross-cultural and inter-religious ramifications, into realms of spiritual growth beyond imagining. And a successful search for his Dad that marked his whole life. And back again to savor the joy of sharing these riches with one and all.

Pubblicato:
Feb 22, 2018
ISBN:
9781370265947
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

John Patrick Martin was born of Irish immigrant parents in New York City in 1939, partaking of their Irish culture, proudly. At age twelve his inspiration to become a foreign missionary carried him through 11 years of seminary to ordination in 1966 and a first assignment to Mexico. He dedicated himself to his priestly ministry including a variety of social and spiritual developmental activities until 1975. He then answered his leadership’s invitation to join the new Bangladesh Unit for insertion, through Christian testimony, into the Muslim environment as brother and friend. Through the influence of Father Bede Griffiths, he became enamored of the many opportunities for living dialogue with believers of other religious traditions in South Asia. He relished the call to share the fruits of this rich life with folks in Mexico again for fifteen years, for more of the same as above, and at home through mission education programs, inter-religious forums, and his new career as a writer.

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Acknowledgments

During my sabbatical from 2012 to 2013, I must acknowledge the inestimable assistance that I received for this writing project from my teachers at the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies for my Diploma in Creative Writing: Carol Bergman, Katherine Dykstra, Elizabeth Henley, and Glenn Kurtz. Plus the critiques from my fellow students.

Simultaneously, I received excellent guidance for my writing in the workshops from the teachers at the Hudson Valley Writers Center in Sleepy Hollow, New York: Susan Hodara and Mindy Lewis. Plus the critiques from my fellow students.

A good number of good friends helped me in various ways along the way: Dwight Baker, Theresa Baldini, Frank Breen, Robert Ellsberg, Tom Fenton, Donna Ferrantello, Harry Florentine, John Gorski, Diane Harkin, Irene Kabot, Jim Keane, Paul Knitter, Robert Lloyd, Jim Marsh, John Sullivan, and Beverly Tobin.

I am grateful for the leaders in my Missionary Society, the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, for their support and encouragement for my newfound writing career, especially Father Ed Dougherty and Brother Wayne Fitzpatrick.

Contents

Acknowledgments

Milestones

Opening Story

Preface

Voices of Tradition

1: Born and raised in conflict

2: My family from Ascension

3: My vocation story

4: Leaving home and Ascension

5: September 9, 1955

6: College years at Glen Ellyn

7: What Southern Baptists taught me

8: Getting through the Major Seminary

9: My first rebellious act

10: Growing up in Mexico

11: The Núñez family and I are one

12: No moon landing for me

13: What else Southern Baptists taught me

14: The golden years

15: I believe in me

16: Maverick missionary

17: More on Dad

18: Living under a veil in Bangladesh

19: Learning not to see

20: Getting back to Sri Aurobindo ashram

21: Work? You asked. Oh yes, work

22: And after working hours?

23: Ascension Parish, 60 years later

24: Non-dualism

25: All together now!

26: A word after

Milestones

1939: Born Dec. 28, in N.Y. City to James and Mary Martin

1941: Moved to 109th Street, Upper West Side of N.Y. City

1945: Entered first grade in Ascension School

1952: Vocation calling to be a missionary

1953: Graduated from Ascension School; entered Bishop Dubois High School

1955: Entered Maryknoll’s Venard Minor Seminary Sept. 9 in third year of high school

1957–1961: Attended Maryknoll College, Glen Ellyn, Ill.

1961–1962: Attended Maryknoll Novitiate, Bedford, Mass. First oath to Maryknoll

1962–1966: Attended Maryknoll Major Seminary, Ossining, N.Y.

1964: Attended Summer Institute of Linguistics, with Wycliffe Bible Translators

1966: Ordination (June 11) and Mission Sending Ceremony (June 12), Maryknoll, N.Y.

1966–1967: Language School, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico, Aug.–Feb.

1967: Parish of San Juan de Aragón, Mexico City, Feb.–March

1967: Arrival at first parish, Colonia Yucatan, Yucatan, March 31

1969: Left Colonia Yucatan parish to Yucatecan priest, Christmas Day

1970: Arrived in Maria Reina parish, Mexico City, New Year’s Day

1970–1971: Clinical Pastoral Education, Central Islip State Hospital, N.Y., Sept.–June

1971–1972: Parish of San Juan de Aragón I, Mexico City

1972–1973: Parish of San Sebastián, Merida, Yucatan

1973–1975: Founded Parish of Colonia Arenal, Mexico City

1975: Arrival of Bangladesh Unit in Dhaka, Dec. 2

1975: Culture Shock, Barisal, Bangladesh, Dec. 6

1979: Visit to Father Bede Griffiths, Shantivanam Ashram, Trichy, Tamil Nadu, India, in Dec.

1981: End of my commitment to Bangladesh Unit in Nov.; arrival at Shantivanam Ashram; start of six-months’ pilgrimage to sacred places of Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Sikh traditions

1982–1983: Transition back to the States: family, Maryknoll, priesthood

1984–1988: Mission promotion work, Los Angeles, Calif.: Hispanics and interreligious events and encounters

1989–1991: Harvard University, acquired a master’s degree in world religions (Islam and Hinduism)

1991–1994: Living with Hindus, Calcutta and Shantiniketan, India

1995: Mission promotion work, Chicago; began writing my memoir

1996: Mission promotion work, Jacksonville, Fla.

1997–2012: Merida, Yucatan, Mexico: pastoral and missionary activity; became permanent resident of Mexico

2012–2013: Start of permanent residence at Maryknoll, N.Y.; New York University, Creative Writing diploma

Opening Story

A four-lane limited-access highway connects Merida, the capital of the State of Yucatan, Mexico, with the tourist center of Cancun, which is 325 kilometers eastward on the Caribbean coast. In the late 1990s, a major repaving project on this highway slowed down the traffic considerably. At one point, I was forced to ride partially mounting the newly laid roadbed with the left tires of my 1992 Volkswagen Golf, while coasting along with the right ones several inches below on the road surface of the old adjoining lane. Then I would alternately find myself driving only on one or the other roadbed as I continued on my journey, according to the progress of the repaving project.

This is exactly what I have felt my whole life to have been, off center and askew! jumped into my mind. What a wonderful image it was…and still is.

Yet, things were not askew at the beginning. My life seemed a lot clearer then.

As time went on, a good number of experiences in my life seemed to leave me with that sensation of something always askew, some dissonance always. Not always comfortable at first, but in the end yielding some great fruit. Things didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to, but that’s the way they were.

Now I do know and I do remember well, and everything has changed.

Preface

This is my memoir from a missionary life. I have used this latter phrase from a missionary life in the title of several compilations of my earlier writings. It seems good to include it here also, by way of emphasizing the continuity of my purpose in this writing project of my mature years, namely, to continue to share with folks the fruits of my rich missionary life, as many describe the contents of my letters, stories, and communications.

I trace the origin of my missionary life from an unusual calling in my early adolescence at twelve years of age to be an overseas missionary. By a restrictive set of circumstances in the Catholic Church of the decades of my youth, I could not become a missionary without entering the seminary, which is a formation center for those becoming priests. So, in order to become a missionary, I had to become a priest, thus creating an existential tension in my heart and spirit, due to the overwhelming preeminence given to the latter over any other role for a male in the Catholic Church. Thus my missionary calling got relegated to a secondary position by the Church’s Tradition, when it was primary in my own heart.

This memoir will span my entire life, seen as a journey of transformation and maturation. To this day, I continue to live out these same two roles in several new ways in my mature years with greater harmony and integrity than in my youth.

I have a keen awareness of my roots in the New York Irish Catholic Tradition of my birth, inherited from my Irish immigrant parents, James and Mary (née O’Donnell) Martin. This is the milieu in which I was born and raised, and it will have a dominant voice from the beginning of my memoir. In fact, the whole memoir will be encased in the shell of Tradition, with the peculiar voices of the various religious and cultural environments where I have lived and worked as an overseas missionary priest. So as the memoir progresses, I will be seen to live out my various roles and functions with a wide variety of peoples, as a priest and friend in Catholic Mexico, and as believer, brother, and friend in Muslim Bangladesh and Hindu India. I will be interacting, implicitly, with the peculiar voices of Tradition of these several milieus.

I recall hearing these voices speaking to me over my shoulder, as it were, all my life.

Out in the title refers to the development of my personality and my life as a missionary-priest, with some normal rebelliousness going on from my youth, and some hard to explain.

My personal story will be told from within this overlay of Tradition, so that the purpose of the memoir is to illustrate my evolving relationship with Tradition.

Over time, as I have been composing this memoir, I have been become aware that our American culture, in some manifestations, does not share my conviction of the prominent role of one’s Tradition in the development of one’s life. It seems that many folks prefer to focus on their individual or egoic development, while paying scant attention to the persons or values or customs of their dominant birth Tradition. Not hanging on to one’s Tradition and moving on into an individualistic assimilation of modern society’s values seems to be a dominant theme in society.

It has occurred to me that unconsciously in writing this memoir with my focus on the preeminent role of Tradition in my life, I may have written a book that could be described as countercultural. In effect, I mean to say that it is possible to retain one’s attachment to Tradition, however that manifests in one’s life, and also move on into an assimilation of the values and customs of the other encircling milieus of one’s ongoing life.

I recognize that I have retained a great attachment to my birth Tradition, as parochial as it was, and have opened my mind and heart, body, and spirit to the assimilation of the values of several cultural and religious Traditions. There is a great paradox in all of this, and I firmly believe that my lifelong adherence to the values of my parochial birth Tradition, literally and figuratively speaking, has enabled me to become a person of the world, a brother to all people, an evolutionary believer in god, with a universal perspective that transcends but does not denigrate my parochial birth Tradition. Beyond in the title refers to this movement in which I transcend the peculiarities of my early life Tradition to create my own tradition.

After my family and friends, I certainly would have the members of my Catholic Tradition in mind as potential readers. Then also, readers from any branch of the Christian family of faith. In addition, I would foresee the dynamic that I have revealed about my own life, consisting of being born and raised in a particular Tradition, then detaching myself from the strong bonds of my childhood with a resounding rebelliousness to carve out my own individual tradition, and then to see this tension resolved in a non-dual embrace, may only be my illustration of a more common dynamic in the lives of many other folks. Their dominant birth Tradition may be social, cultural, ethnic, political, or religious in nature, and thus their story line would differ from mine, but not in the essential underlying theme that I have outlined, or so methinks.

Back in the title refers, in part, to my present goal of sharing the fruits of my missionary life with other folks, after moving into a phase of integration and harmony in my relationship between Tradition and my own tradition.

This evolving relationship will be illustrated as an implicit dialogue between these two voices, that of Tradition and my very own. I envision the dialogue as between myself and the non-embodied voices of Tradition. Since I never have countenanced a complete separation from my Tradition, in the bold face of the voices of Tradition, there will always be at least one voice that is open to understanding my development or overtly affirming of me, even when I seem, in my storyline, to be bucking Tradition altogether. My story will be in normal text, and my inner voice or understanding or reflection will be in italics.

I must explain why I have chosen to use the capitalized word Tradition in such an exceptional way.

The Tradition in which I was born and raised in the 1940s in New York City partook exclusively of that of the Catholic Church with its stress on the bishops and priests being the divinely ordained channel for us faithful to be instructed and nourished and healed in our faith, principally through obeying the dictates of those hierarchical personalities, receiving the seven Sacraments, and going to a Catholic primary school, with a Friday fish diet ever! (Catholics were expected to obey the weekly penitential rule of abstinence from eating meat on Fridays to remember the day that Jesus died.) The Sacraments were the Church’s ritual life par excellence, so that participation in these rites came to define a good Catholic. Well, come to think of it, obedience did play a good part too. Going to a Catholic school only added honey to the mix. This occurred for me in the Parish of the Ascension in Manhattan’s Upper West Side (of Central Park, that is) in the decades of the 1940s and 1950s. Only stock prayers from a book were around and lots of images of the saints, who had made it all the way. Owning and reading a Bible at home were not encouraged nor widely practiced. That’s what Protestants did.

As a young adult, I learned why Tradition played a key role in the makeup of the life and thinking of the Catholic Church. In the centuries after the European Reform Movement in the sixteenth century, adherence to this element by the Church’s hierarchy became highly accentuated precisely because those Reformist churches rejected the dominant importance of Tradition over against that of reading and preaching the Word of God in the Bible, whether by clergy or laity. The latter became the Reformers’ leitmotif to counteract the deterioration of its role in the Church up to that time, with the intimation that only clerics and not the laity could have direct access to the Word of God. As a caricature, the Catholic Church heralded the supremacy of Tradition, while the Reformers that of the Bible as a true source for their Christian faith. Without a doubt both churches gave due importance to the Bible and Tradition, respectively. While the Roman Catholic Church emphasized the indispensable role of the hierarchy in channeling the Tradition to the faithful, the Reformers emphasized the direct accessibility of the Word of God to the ordinary believer.

Adherence to the Tradition of my Church was unquestioned and I along with my family became faithful members of our parish. Adherence to that Tradition and faithful participation in our Church’s sacramental life did not guarantee that we would be growing in understanding and taking responsibility for our daily lives, but no one ever talked to us then in such terms. Our universal human condition meant that we were bound to be tempted to bypass these moral and spiritual boundaries or to act in defiance of them, as we forged our personal journeys, under our own personal responsibility. The constant harping on us all to be sure to go to confession regularly was eloquent testimony to the Church’s understanding of our universal human condition. The harping here below was meant to assure we would be ready to enter those pearly gates when our time was up.

So…they knew I was going to fall off the wagon, they did! There was an expectation that I would commit sin just like anyone else. And I did. Could they have known how far from the wagon I would fall?

There was scant expectation and greater fear that I would grow up and away from their paternalistic pastoral ways. And I certainly did.

Where did I get this other challenge to go off and become a professional missionary? Family and church and school and street had no such phrase. They embraced me and kept me indoors, safe to grow. Too young to look outdoors and beyond! By the eighth grade, how could l look to China?

The specifics will come out in the description of me accepting to forge my tradition and living with it and out of it.

The Tradition was just there; my drive for my own tradition was making me all the time.

I have discovered that my own personal journey had some unusual origins in my early adolescence when I could not have had any appreciable influences from outside of my Tradition. The first of many dissonances it became. Two tires up, two tires down. My search for reasonable answers to my questions led me to delve into my family history and culture, which my parents brought with them from rural Ireland.

A significant sub-theme of this memoir is my journey of searching for my father who raised me, never having become my friend, but ending up as a strong presence of faithfulness and good humor.

I intuited that a strict adherence to the norms and boundaries of the Tradition that saw me born and raised in Ascension Parish would never have allowed me to become the mature integrated person that I am were it not for my insistence on carving my own tradition out of the initial dictates of Tradition in my upbringing. Could I have been influenced yet by that Protestant tradition of allowing for direct individual inspiration? What a laugh!

It seems like Tradition/tradition will be the theme of this work. It roots me in my past history and it projects me forward as my life unfolds. I have reveled inside at being a liberal and a maverick, and certainly with great pride in my traditional roots of being Irish, a New Yorker, Catholic, and a Maryknoller priest.

They never do part company altogether. No way for it to happen. Not even if I chose to. Not really good to allow a fight to go on forever. No smiles. No fun. No joy. No way.

Yes, I have insisted on carving out my tradition from the teachings and inclinations of that Tradition. I prized being a maverick and nonconventional for many decades, gliding under the radar screen of those in positions of authority for the Tradition. I preferred to lie low, to go unnoticed, and to live within my own veil-space of the good life, heavily idealized for sure.

The irony of it is that I have become more conscious of the dominant role of my own ego to suggest ways to go and things to do and boundaries to overcome. And so I have come to see the invaluable role that these illicit meanderings also played in the formation of my personality and role in life and level of happiness. Could I or anyone get beyond an infantile or an adolescent level of faith without them? God knows we could not, inviting us to laugh too at our perfectionistic and judgmental attitudes that could stunt our innate drive for living more and better according to God’s Spirit-in-us.

The Voices of Tradition

"’Tis a grand time to be alive and around and astir. Come together with me for a while. There is some good news for us all. There’s not a soul in Ascension Parish in Manhattan but that we can count on. Now that is a grand place to show off our glories: a rectory full of four priests and the pastor is a bishop, no less; the convent is full of those good nuns, all teachers in the school, with the Sister principal a protégé of Bishop Joseph Donahue; and the nearby house for the Brothers forming the upper-grade boys in their Christian model. Look at those sheen black robes on all of them, keeping them pure and chaste as can be.

"The ordinary folks don’t have those protections, so they can go to confession on Saturday afternoon to any of the four priests. Only then can they get Sunday Communion to nourish their souls. And mind you, they do go to confess. Sunday Masses are parades of coming-and-going Catholics, all in families, mostly so Irish and faithful and true. And dressed up for Sunday they are. Up-and-downstairs churches, Masses hour by hour all Sunday morning. Home for breakfast and the newspapers, out in the afternoon to the park for a stroll with the brood, or swarms of kids on the streets at play.

"Monday mornings at school see those same kids swarming in lines to begin early classes, always with prayer and devotions and holy images and of course, the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of these United States. Good citizens are our people. Their kids get good study habits and a strict discipline to live by. School gets out early on Thursdays to let the Catholic kids in the public schools to come for much-needed religious instruction. The least we can do for them poor ones, to keep the flame of faith alive in those heathen schools.

"Father John Larkin, now, is a good priest. See how well he shepherds the young boys to learn how to serve at Mass, and then help with baptisms, weddings, and funerals too. They too have their sheen black cassocks and white surplices. They even come obediently for weekday devotions in church. Some good priests and Brothers in the making, for sure!

Just look at what our Catholic Tradition has created for all these faithful people. Now aren’t they a grand sight? Good hardworking men and hardy mothers at home rearing their families in the shadow of Holy Mother Church. Well warned have they been not to mingle with the Protestants. We cannot let them get distorted by those unbelievers. Well protected and nourished by their Holy Mother Church they are. How well they listen to us and obey.

We have been doing a good job of it, haven’t we?

Yes, indeed, you picked a good place to show off our proud Tradition. It would be interesting to follow up on one of the children later in life, don’t you think?

Chapter 1: Born and Raised in Conflict of an Irish Kind

I was born and raised in conflict of an Irish kind.

A Martin was Dad, who was James was Jimmy was Red from the generous topping over the map of Ireland he wore on his cheery round ruddy face. Built up to medium height, he ported a lower-round belly amply maintained with the hops of his favorite Schaefer beer over his meat and potato diet. Too bad that the neighborhood sported a defunct German brewery or Dad might have been a Lion’s fan. Not to worry, Dad became a faithful attendee at the Church of the Ascension that those industrious German immigrants bequeathed on 107th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, before scattering elsewhere for the Irish to inundate the Upper West Side in the mid-twentieth century.

Dad, born in 1903, was never one to get embroiled in much education, although he had been sent from home in Ballydehob, County Cork, to Dublin to study a career at the time of the Troubles, in the late 1910s, the understated way the Irish typically talked about the intense guerrilla warfare against the English occupiers of their ancestral homeland. School would be too much of an obstacle to getting into this fray, given his upbringing in Rebel Cork, the southwesterly rugged rocky corner of the country awash in the battering seas and storms from the next parish of Boston. So, once in Dublin, teenage Dad helped the rebel cause by carrying messages incognito back and forth among the leaders of the radical nationalist and the guerrilla movements.

A disappointment as a scholar, he nonetheless learned the lesson of sticking up for the dream of a free United Ireland from the 800 years of English tyranny. The Treaty of Peace of 1921 with England stopped the violence since the Irish Free State was created. But it did nothing to stop the internecine tension that ensued within the Irish Republican Army. The realistic ones got the best deal possible in the treaty, whereas the idealistic ones felt betrayed by not getting the North in one United Ireland. Dad belonged to the latter. All his long eighty-nine years Dad remained a cheerleader for the dream squad of the Irish Republican Army, shunning the later barbarities of the two sides, probably never having held a gun in his hand.

Having landed in America in 1928 to his sister Nellie’s boarding house on West 94th Street, just in time for the Great Depression, this dream plus a nickel would get you on the subway in New York. So Dad took what was offered, occasional hard labor on the docks or on construction jobs with the Works Projects Administration.

Years later, on a visit with him to Fort Tryon Park in Upper Manhattan, he would boast: I met Mr. John D. Rockefeller here several times, I did. He’d cum to visit the project ta see how we were gowin,’ by which he referred to Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters that Rockefeller was building for the city with the labor of Dad, and yes, of course, several hundred other penniless immigrants. Sure, ye kids are a bunch o’ narrowbacks, ye know. Ye’ll never have to carry the loads I did, he would taunt us occasionally. His menacing longshoreman’s hook was stored high above the kitchen cupboard. Dad couldn’t even volunteer for the Army: Too many kids to support, go home. Then that job that lasted, all the way to retirement, out at the Brooklyn Naval Depot. Just in time for younger sister Mary’s birth in 1941, joining Kitty and me, Irish twins born in January and December of 1939.

Wait a second.… Where is it?… Where did it go? Ah, the dream. Yes, there it is alive and well into five children by 1949, with Maggie and Nellie then in tow. With Mom, of course, but she never seemed to be interested in the dream or talking about it or letting him know that they shared something so Irish. So off we would go to the parade with Dad on Saint Paddy’s Day on Fifth Avenue eternally blazoned with England get out of Ireland from start to finish. Strange, but I never picked up hatred for the Brits from Dad, but to hold on to the dream. Yes. Then back home for Mom’s corned beef and cabbage dinner. Mom, proud of her study of the history of her adopted country, became very Americanized in her way; Dad, an avid reader of the weekly newspaper, the Irish Echo, remained staunchly Irish in his own way.

I remember how Dad would sit in the only easy chair in the living room of our two-bedroom Manhattan tenement apartment reading the Irish newspaper, with us kids playing on the floor, or doing homework on a chair, while Mom prepared supper. How we kids used to be uncomfortable with his many heated and discourteous rantings: Dose goddamned Brits are at it agin, and de da de da de da de da, when he heard of recent news from Northern Ireland. "Daa-ddy, please stop that," we would plead. I think that as good Catholic school children we were mostly objecting to his choice of obscenities that we knew not to use or tolerate. After all, being a good Catholic was the only game in town.

But despite these mild curses, I never knew Dad to act out his angry feelings on us or anyone else near us. He was seeing the erosion of his dream all the further away from coming true, as the years went by and the struggle continued and he was nowhere near.

Mom was Mary O’Donnell and her part in sowing conflict into my life and heart and DNA had to do with her traumatic childhood, during the same Troubles of the late 1910s. The political goal was to gain home rule for all Ireland. In January 1919, the nationalist Sinn Féin had formed an underground assembly for the Republic of Ireland and the Irish Republican Army started a vigorous guerrilla war against the overwhelming English military presence in the country. Their disparate disunited potshots at the ankles of Giant England could not be tolerated. A ruthless paramilitary police force of unemployed soldiers after the war, the Black and Tans, was sent by the English to quell those ever-rebellious Irish who were courting the Germans for arms.

And so the Black and Tans kidnapped Grandfather Tom O’Donnell the freezing night of January 18, 1921, looking for arms as they ransacked his house. They found none. After stripping him naked in front of his family, they took him outside, firing off some shots to scare him and threatening him with a gun to his head. They left great-grandmother Muddy (née Catherine Burke), grandmother Maria (née Gurley), and Mom, their oldest daughter Mary and sister Agnes, sleepless in tearful prayers until he returned the next day, tortured for what he never thought possible, being an Irish farmer on a remote hillside in western Galway. He was never the same again, said Mom, oh so lamentingly in a snippet of conversation with an Irish neighbor I overheard decades later. There was a subtle rage in her voice as she told the story. I was already in my fifties. Somehow she had lost her father at age eight and she knew that the Brits were responsible for his lifelong debilitating anxiety and nervousness.

The enormity of this emotion-laden story came home to me precisely because it was duly buried once again in a culture of silence at home about anything so bad and so sad. I too got covered by this culture of silence as I never approached Mom to talk about this revelation, or any others either. I nonetheless perceived that Mom had let me in on a key event of her life, and therefore for mine, too. Veils hung around our family dwelling early on and I got used to living with them.

Mom only knew about escaping the dreadful poverty of her family farm on a green hillside in rural west Ireland.

She had wanted to go to the head of a classroom to teach. No chance for that for a Catholic girl from Drim: oh, it is south outside Loughrea in County Galway; oh, it was England, you see, not really Ireland then. A good teacher’s aide she was after finishing sixth class herself. Only cows for all to milk to earn a few bob to buy food and clothes.

In 1927, grandmother’s sister, Aunt Bina (née Gurley), came to visit from

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