Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sister Kathleen

3 August 2016
I had a lovely chat with Sister Kathleen today.
She was my 3rd and 5th grade teacher and, when she taught our class, her name was Sister Mary Bernardone.  But they took back their real names at some point in the past 60 years.  They also dropped the terrible habits they wore.  She is a member of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (otherwise known as the BVMs) and had the most gawdawful looking head gear, and probably one of the more uncomfortable habits around.

I always wondered how much those habits had a real purpose and how much of it was to give the wearer constant pain and suffering to offer up for the sins of the world.

Kathleen is 91 now and part of our conversation was like talking with my mother

SHE: I'm 91 now.  I'll be 92 soon
ME:  My mother is 96.  She'll be 97 next month.
SHE:  Is your mother still alive?
ME:  Yes.  She lives in a facility that is 5 minutes from my house, so I see her just about every day.
SHE:  Where does your mother live?

ME: We traveled from Spain to Venice and one of the most beautiful things I saw was the cathedral in Barcelona.
SHE: Where?
ME: Barcelona, Spain
SHE:  Can you spell it?
ME:  B-A-R-C-...
SHE:  Oh the Bahamas, that must have been beautiful!

She would also ask me about things I had just told her, but then I'm used to that.  It was fun chatting with her.  Like my mother, she is very healthy, but unlike my mother she has macular degeneration so can't read or write any more.

She is about to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee (70 years a BVM...she said they decided to celebrate 70 instead of 75 because more of them would be alive).

It's quite different meeting your grammar/high school teacher when you are an adult.  When I visited Sister Anne in Indiana about 25 years ago, she took me to visit the convent brewery, where she was the brew meister, and we sat and chatted over one of her bottles of beer.  I never did THAT in high school.

Kathleen was telling me about waiting outside St. Brigid grammar school when kids were being picked up by parents or by bus (some of them lived on Alcatraz, children of the guards,  It was still a prison then).  She said the nuns had to wait with the kids until they were all picked up because of "all the drug dealing" around the school.  My heavens!  That was news to ME!

We also talked about her part in fighting human trafficking and prostitution in her own town.  I guess taking care of us hooligans prepared her for her real life's work.  She spent 25 years as a prison minister in the Mississippi State Penitentiary.

Kathleen also believed in the power of prayer. She advocated for a chapel for all denominations to be built on the prison grounds at South Mississippi Correctional Institution. In 2003, a chapel was completed and named “The Sister Kathleen Spurlin Chapel.” One prisoner commented: “Sister never tries to make us Catholic, she respects our freedom.”

It was nice getting caught up after all these years.  I am having lunch with a group of women who were my classmates in grammar school next week and it will be fun to compare Sister Mary Bernardone stories!

This afternoon I worked at the hospital and, with luck, I won't ever have a day as bad as today was.  They have been replacing the flooring in the whole hospital and today they were working on the floor in the lobby.  They spent the first hour of my shift building this gigantic complicated floor to ceiling plastic wall, which walled off the place where they would be working and then made plastic wall corridors so people could get to the birthing center and to the cafeteria.

Then they started working.  I don't know if I can give you a full sense of how loud it was, but it was like having a gigantic dental drill -- only 100 times louder -- drilling into concrete for 3 hours without a break.  Occasionally the drill sound would stop and a sound like sanding concrete (higher in pitch and more piercing) would begin.

Thank God I am a theater critic.  After 30 minutes of enduring this very painful noise, I remembered that I kept ear plug in my purse for shows that have very loud amplification.  Turns out I had two packs, so I took one and gave one to the woman who was working in the gift shop.

The earplugs didn't eliminate the noise, of course, but it cut it down to bearable.  We both cut our shifts short, though, since it was just too damn loud.

When I was going back to the volunteer room to log out, I passed by one of the security guards and made some comment about how glad I was to have had earplugs in my purse.  "Yeah, we have a bunch of them here too," she said and gave me a packet to replace the one of my own I had to use.

Someone had thought to provide ear plugs for the security guards but not for the volunteers who had to sit there and be subjected to the ear-shattering noise the entire afternoon.  The workmen had earplugs, the people walking in and out on various errands had ear plugs and the only people who did not have earplugs were the people who had to sit there all afternoon.  I have to admit I am more than a little pissed about it...I would be a lot more pissed, however, if I hadn't had my own earplugs.

I sincerely hope that the birthing center, which is on the other side of the wall where they were drilling, is very well insulated against noise!

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