On Being Catholic
I remember my outrage when the Catholic Church transferred Cardinal Bernard Laws
to the Vatican after he was exposed for transferring pedophile priests in his diocese. I
was even more infuriated when the Cardinal was allowed to participate in Pope John
Paul’s funeral. For the first time in fifty years I questioned my devotion to the Church.
AND THEN I REMEMBERED:
A young black child attending and receiving communion without any fear or hesitation
in all-white Catholic Churches in North Carolina and Virginia in the 40’s and 50’s.
Four Catholic nuns who traveled ten miles every Sunday on dirt roads to transport
three young black children to Mass who had no other way to get to church.
I remember an elderly Catholic priest who brought communion EVERY Sunday for ten
years to my disabled paternal grandmother even though she had nothing to contribute
to the Church as she lived on $85.00 a month after my grandfather died.
I remember a big Irish Catholic priest who chose to work with the African-American
community in the south in the 1950’s and organized a youth group among a handful of
young black Catholics. That priest led this group of “rag tag” students down the main
streets of a small southern city to protest segregation. One of those students, Joseph
McNeil, went on to A&T State University where he organized and began the sit-down
demonstrations at lunch counters in the Woolworth Stores. His actions initiated the
integration of public facilities in this country. That lunch counter is enshrined in a
museum in Greensboro, North Carolina.
I remember that same priest procured full scholarships for several young African-
American women to attend the prestigious St. Mary College in South Bend, Indiana in
I remember requesting from the Josephites (priest’s community) a photo of Father
Richard Swift to include in a book that I am writing and being astounded at a short bio
included with the photo that chronicled his remarkable life of service.
I remember a wonderful Catholic priest who counseled and consoled me during my
years of life with an alcoholic husband and severely asthmatic son.
I remember a jovial, happy priest who provided a full scholarship for my son to attend
the local Catholic school when I couldn’t afford the tuition.
I remember contacting a quiet Catholic priest, whom I had never met, and asking him
to visit my son away in college in the hospital with a broken jaw that he sustained
playing college football. Monsignor Thomas Hadden went to visit my son without any
hesitation and reported back to me. We became lifelong friends.
I remember a kind and gentle priest who helped me get the diocese to accept my
divorces from two unhealthy marriages without any criticism or judgment.
During that second marriage, I gave birth to a daughter; and I remember a very
elderly Monsignor who held my hand, prayed with me, and counseled me when my
husband walked out and left me with an eighteen month old daughter.
I remember two priests and two nuns who traveled with me to Wake Forest University
to see that young lady graduate from college.
I remember a kindly Catholic priest, the son of a Methodist minister, who encouraged
and supported a community clinic, food bank, dental clinic, and an unbelievable social
outreach that turned no one away: all run by the Sisters of St Ursula and volunteers.
I remember all of the Catholic clinics, food banks, and outreach programs sponsored
by the Catholic Church throughout this country and the world that are supported by
local priests and staffed by dedicated Catholic nuns and lay people.
I remember my years of involvement in all Catholic ministries, from training and
assigning lectors to starting the first ever youth program at the St. Mary Cathedral in
I remember a jolly, happy-go-lucky Irish priest obsessed with Notre Dame Football
and a quiet, stern, holy priest with a wicked sense of humor; they changed my life
forever. Their presence makes heaven a better place!
Pedophile priests should be excommunicated and so should those who continue to
protect them. The behavior is unconscionable as young lives are destroyed. I weep
when I learn of priests who continue to commit these horrendous acts and I again ask
myself if I can continue to support the Roman Catholic Church. THEN I