The writing prompt I’m using today comes from Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg. She asks, “What religion were you brought up with?”
I was raised in the Catholic faith. We went to church every Sunday and abstained from meat on Friday. We always gave up something for Lent. The sacraments were an integral part of our lives. Babies were baptized, all of the girls sharing the same flowing white baptismal dress right up until Darla, the seventh baby girl in our family, died in infancy and was buried in it. When Amy came along, she had to have a new dress. We practiced for our first Holy Communion, with discs of white bread flattened to resemble the host. We studied for out Confirmation, and took great care in choosing a saint for our confirmation name.
We all went to parochial school. Bishop Kelley School was the only choice in our small town, and it only went through the eighth grade. If we were to continue in Catholic school for high school, the boarding school at the convent in Oxford was the nearest option. A few of us considered it, in those pre-pubescent years when we imagined we wanted to go into the sisterhood, but in the end we all stayed at home and went to public high school.
When I think of it now, it was amazing that my parents managed to send all of us to Bishop Kelley. At some time that I was attending, I knew that there was a ninety dollar per-year, per-family fee, plus so much for each child. In the 1950s and early 1960s, that was a huge sum, for something that could be had for free. It speaks to me of my parent’s commitment to the church, and to the education of their children. They were never very vocal on either of these topics, but they obviously made them a priority.
Attending Bishop Kelley School, we started each day at the Immaculate Conception Church, for mass. Each class sat in a group with the teacher. When mass was finished, we walked back across the road to the school, to begin out classes. Religion class was a part of our daily curriculum, as well as history, geography, arithmetic, handwriting, phonics, English, spelling and reading. When I see that schools often cover all of those last five subjects in one “language arts” class, I know we received a superior education!
In our family, we attended mass every Sunday, said grace before meals and prayers before bed. My mother was a member of the St. Jude Circle, and went to regular meetings. We attended Catholic school. For the years we were in Bishop Kelley, we usually went to church for mass six days a week! Beyond that, there were Stations of the Cross, rosaries and devotionals in the various seasons. We went to evening catechism classes through our high school years. Still, the Catholic faith always seemed to easily fit around our lives.