Showing posts with label crazy nun syndrome. Show all posts
Showing posts with label crazy nun syndrome. Show all posts

Friday, June 21, 2024

My Sister of Charity

This nun was fun

Sr. Mary Clifford Soisson, SC

This weekly column consists of letters written to my perspicacious progeny  the Stickies — to advise 'em now and haunt them after I'm deleted.

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC-65: Sexy Seasoned Citizens   



Featuring {Dana}Persistent auditory hallucination and charming literary device 

"For a Catholic kid in parochial school, the only way to survive the beatings-by classmates, not the nuns-was to be the funny guy." -George A. Romero

Dear Stickies (and gentlereaders),  

Au Revoir France, I'm outta here. It's time to go home.   

Six of my first eight teachers were members of a Roman Catholic religious community that has roots extending back to 1809, the Sisters of Charity.

Sister Mary McGillicuddy changed my life, Miss Crabtree, not so much.

{Um, don't you mean Ms. Crabtree?}

No, Dana, I do not. I'm so old that Ms. Magazine wasn't born till the year after I graduated high school which, according to Wikipedia, is when that particular honorific caught on.

Now that name tags read, "Hello, my name is _______ and my personal pronouns are _______  " Ms. sounds/seems almost quaint.

{Oh, that's right! We're supposed to use Mx. now... I think.}

Sister Mary and Miss Crabtree are composite creations. S'ter Mary McGillicuddy represents the six nuns mentioned above. Miss Crabtree stands in for the two lay teachers I had in Catholic grade school. To a lesser extent, she represents the handful of female teachers I had in public high school. 

The word handful is a hint at how ancient I am and an indicator of my impending deletion.

{Chill, dude, 71 is hardly ancient.}

Thanks, Dana, but the speed at which so many radical changes have occurred (and continue) in my lifetime makes it seem like it.

The majority of my teachers in my public high school(s) were male but nowadays, nationwide, it's roughly 60% women, and 40% men. The principal and vice-principal of the two high schools I attended were both also members of the toxic sex, particularly the vice-principals (readers of a certain age smile/cringe knowingly).

However, this column is about a real Sister Mary, Sister Mary Clifford (Soisson is news to me) who was my teacher in seventh grade and whom I recently discovered died in 2010 at the age of 89.

She was my first and only "cool" nun. She was the first and only nun I liked. She was one of only two nuns I wasn't afraid of. She taught me, at the age of 12 — without meaning to — that nuns were just H. sapiens in peculiar clothes, not members of a separate, parallel species.

Sisters of Charity, New York -1965

Eileen Soisson  ("She was a faithful Steelers fan and had a great sense of humor.") was born on the 17th of July, 1920 in the Borough of Bellevue which borders and is butt up against, by gum by golly (sorry...) PittsburghLike me, she attended Catholic grade school (hers still exists) and a public high school. She received a scholarship to Seton Hill (not Hall) College which was founded by the Sisters of Charity and she took her vows in January of 1942.

She was not only my seventh-grade teacher but also the school's principal. St. John the Evangelist was located on the Sou'Sidah Pittsburgh, across the street from the 12th Street playground.

For some reason, I was one of her pets. To this day I don't know why.

Being a pet of the principal meant that at least once a week I got out of class to accompany her when she borrowed one of the parish priest's cars to take care of some sort of business, usually grocery shopping for the convent that was right next to the school.

It was never just me — there was always at least one of the other boys, sometimes two depending on our mission — but it almost always included me. In retrospect, I know why it was always more than one boy but at the time neither I nor any of my classmates (that I'm aware of) noticed or cared.

Different era...

But, why me?

There was this girl, Eileen(?) Somebody, who from year to year was always a teacher's pet, but that made sense. She had a beautiful voice and the nuns were always finding excuses to get her to sing.

I didn't give it much thought at the time, just enjoyed it, rolled with it, took it for granted. Somehow, even the other boys in my class didn't razz me about it and normally this was a group that called each other out for everything

I have no idea what she saw in me, but I do know why I liked her so much. She was genuinely nice. She kept at least one foot in the real world at all times. She wore her vocation like a corsage, not a crown of thorns.

She told us she loved to drive and when we were out and about with her she behaved more like a kindly aunt than a schoolteaching nun. She'd answer our questions about parish politics, other nuns, her life, etc., questions we'd never think of asking in class (it just wasn't done) as honestly as she could.

But always diplomatically, always taking the high road, never stooping to gossip or backstab. Keeping the faith, as it were. Perhaps this was why I caught no crap from my peers — everyone liked her. She ran a tight ship but possessed not a trace of Crazy Nun Syndrome (CNS.

Please note: If you've ever been exposed to CNS, which was a common malady at the time, no explanation is required. If you haven't, no explanation I can provide will come close to describing it properly. 

Before Sister Mary Clifford, I had six teachers.

Four other Sisters of Charity, all afflicted with CNS; one lay teacher who was about 150 years old and another lay teacher, for second grade, who taught us how to curse (rather genteelly by today's standards) by conscientiously explaining which words we were not permitted to use under any circumstances.

Eighth grade: different school, radically different community (the 'burbs), unremarkable Ursuline nun. But I wasn't afraid of her thanks to Sister Mary Clifford's unintentional life lessons. I'm ashamed to admit I don't remember her name as she did an excellent job preparing us for Catholic high school knowing that intellectually speaking, things were about to get a lot more intense.

do remember that she had tears in her eyes when she discovered I wouldn't be attending a Catholic high school. Callowyute that I was at the time, this baffled me. I think I get it now. Fortunately/unfortunately (it's complicated) my parents couldn't afford the increased tuition and transportation costs, so I was off to a public high school.

For the record, the nun who ran that school scared the hell outta me, as she would any right-thinking person. Crazy Nun Syndrome on steroids. But thanks to Sister Mary Clifford, as my faith slipped away, I knew that nuns were just people, sometimes very special people. Look at her eyes.

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

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