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Guest Column

Sisters of Mercy according to John Walsh
By John Walsh
Nov 24, 2013 - 12:10:06 AM

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  • Originally published in 2010, this article has been republished with permission of the author. R.P. BenDedek

I recently wrote something about Education and people who see no purpose in supporting their local schools, and today, I thought I might share just a wee bit about my own schooling, taught as I was by the Venerable Sisters of Mercy.

Me Da used to say, Saints preserve us if I am ever sick, don't let the Sisters of Mercy look after me. They make good teachers but you wouldn't want one to look after you when you are sick. Everyone they nurse dies. Da never did understand the purpose of a hospice.

I went to a convent school back in Ireland and later in Australia I went to the Marist Brothers all boys school. Now you just keep those nasty unkind wee thoughts to yourself. I know the Catholic Church has received a lot of bad press in recent years over the goings on of some religious but they did eventually get their just desserts. Even the Irish Sisters of Mercy have paid the price for the misdeeds of a few in bygone days.

People are people, and everyone is human, so there's no doubting that no matter where you are, what group you belong to, or how righteous the mission statement is, there is always going to be some that for one reason or another, fall foul to human nature's weakness.

But generally speaking, when it comes to religious education of the Catholic variety, the religious are a decent loving lot. Most who spent time being educated by the Nuns came away with many a fond memory of their love, tenderness and concern.

Now to be sure there were those who seemed more to be instillin the fear of the devil into ye instead the fear of God, and one I personally experienced was called of all things, Sister Mary Des Anges. Sister of the Angels she was called and never more was there such an ill fitting name. I don't think students in the other years ever did as we did, and prayed the Blessed Virgin watch over and protect us in class. Nor I doubt that any prayed that either she or we be taken to our Father's bosom real quick.

She was as mean as any Irish shrew could be, and we called her the 'witch'. That was because she didn't just have one cane to belt the livin daylights out of us with, and nor did they look like canes, but painted black and silver they were like a bloody witch's wand.

I remember one time when she came gunnin for me. I bolted like an ass in a barn fire. (It is better to be a coward for a minute than dead the rest of your life.) I even jumped up onto the window ledge (2nd floor) and threatened to jump. Well she backed off now didn't she; and left me standing there until class was over and till even she herself had left.

I got home late from school that day and me Da went off his head having sternly warned me not just the week before never to be late home from school. So I told him the reason, and how I had stayed a long time on that window ledge. After that I never had trouble with the old witch and it was years before I discovered that me Da had been up to the convent to have it out with Mother Superior.

I had a different Nun every year, but the witch was the only one who did not in my mind's eye represent the Blessed Virgin in the flesh.

Catholic schools have changed over the years what with the drop in vocations and all and I'm sure Vatican II contributed at least in part.

Vatican II, which was still a few years away when I was in the convent school, changed the way the Sisters dressed, and more's the pity I think. But many an old timer has told me that it was a blessing to live and dress like normal people. None of that unnecessary reverence as if indeed they were the Virgin themselves.

I don't begrudge the lay folk who now teach in Catholic Institutions, but it's not the same feel as when I went to school.

Aye it's fond memories that I have of the little penguins.

May your heart be warm and happy, with the lilt of Irish laughter, every day in every way and forever and ever after.

John Walsh

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    John J. Walsh, a Catholic, is originally from Ireland; went to high school and university in Australia, and later moved to the U.S.A. Fearing the hot blooded protestants and not wanting to reach heaven or hell faster than is God's plan, his personal email address and other particulars are not available for publication. You may however Email him at: johnjwalsh_magic

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