|36. Re: catholic school
memories - Newman's
Own 1953 |
|I'm quite a bit older than some of you, so I can remember when all of the nuns wore the traditional habit. The order which taught us was semi-cloistered, and I imagine that is why the kids had all sorts of practices to adopt. We had to walk to church or cafeteria with our eyes down; keep silence in the halls, lavatories, and nearly every place except the playground. Since the nuns had times during the day when they had to read the Office privately, we had tedious written work to allow them to do so.|
However, the nuns who taught me gave me an outstanding academic background. Overall, I never had regrets about Catholic school.
Here are a few memories:
Each year, our school and church had a "May crowning" ceremony, which was held in the evening. (I cannot remember exactly what the devotions were - this was before it was allowed to have Mass at night.) The classes which had made Communion or Confirmation dressed in the clothes they'd worn for those ceremonies, and the rest of us wore our uniforms, the girls with white gloves. It was very impressive -especially since there were 900 kids in my school, and we were (I say this with esteem, not derision) taught impeccably good manners. We'd process from the school building (about half a block away) to the church, then back again after the service.
Well, one year, the temperature dropped drastically during the time we were in church. As we were exiting, it was so cold that we all (unprecedented!) ran as a herd to the school. Oh, what a disgrace! For the next week, rather than having a break at lunch time, we all had to form a queue and walk in procession, in silence, through the playground.
I am positive that there were times when the nuns would have loved to burst out laughing at the kids' antics! It must have been difficult pretending to be shocked! As well, though I did not realise this then, many of them were very young and just out of novitiate (little if any training, since, in those days, nuns could take twenty years to obtain degrees), and whether they "controlled the class" could affect not only the perception of them as teachers but whether they were considered suited to religious life. Some very nice nuns periodically became horribly punitive, just to shut us up.
In our school, we received report cards about every two months. It was the custom for one of the parish priests (all from Ireland) to come to the classroom and give them out. The priest who normally did so (until I was 9 or so) was a great comedian. He often used to drop in unexpectedly in class, telling us wonderful, funny stories from Irish folklore or about the leprechauns. On report card day, as he gave each kid the card, he would tease and make various jokes. We loved it.
Well, at the time of our story, a new, young priest (who was very shy and reserved, though we did not know that yet - this was the first time we met him) was on report card duty. He'd only arrived in the parish a day or two earlier, and was very nervous. We took his serious demeanour for an intentional "dry humour" look. As he gave out the cards, he mispronounced names, fumbled, and so forth. Used to Fr O's constant joking, we assumed Fr M was doing this on purpose for fun, and the class constantly broke into hearty laughter. (That poor man!)
Our teacher, actually a very nice lady, but equally young and tense, was horrified. (I doubt that, at the time, she considered the obvious reason we'd been laughing.) We were punished, of course - difficult, because none of us knew what we'd done wrong - and part of this was having to write letters of apology to Fr M for the laughter. I doubt that Sr C saw that this made things worse, because it reinforced the impression that we'd been cruel, disrespectful, or mocking.
"Shocking" incident: One eighth grade boy managed to smuggle some vodka in a thermos bottle on the day we went to the Sisters' annual bazaar (held at their motherhouse). Considering the number of kids who shared the contraband beverage, I doubt any of them had a chance for half a swallow, but they were severely punished.
Yet another "shock" (though I've no doubt the Sisters laughed themselves silly over this at recreation) : When I was about 10 or 11, two kids in my class had been "in love." for two years. (For the record, and benefit of younger readers, it was totally innocent - the days when kids that age even knew much about, let alone engaged in, sex, were well in the future. It was widely known, and envied, that P and V shared a brief kiss on the lips now and then.) We ate our lunches in the classroom each day (with the nuns going to the convent for theirs), so that period and place were selected when V and P decided to "get married." It was well known in advance - the kids talked for several weeks about the wedding. Various friends were to be attendants, and one kid, who was a total "ham," would perform the ceremony.
Oh, how shocked and scolding the nuns were when they learnt of the "marriage"! We received, as a class, the stern lectures about mocking the sanctity of marriage!
I've always been devout, and one thing that was extremely hard for me during high school was that, all of a sudden, the faith seemed turned upside down. Nuns became quite secular overnight, and suddenly were mocking the devotions they'd taught us.
I have a question for those of you who are parents: Can you explain to me why one nun was horrified by what I am about to describe, and castigated the kids involved before the entire class? We were about 13 or 14 at the time. Two class sweethearts lived a significant distance from one another, with the school halfway between the points. They'd met on the school property on a Saturday. (Church property spanned a block - left to right, school, convent, rectory, church.) The two walked back and forth in front of the complex, holding hands. Sr M (who was all of 25) was furious! (I was jealous - I was in love with the boy involved, and envied the girl.)