A Former Village Resident Authors a Book That Makes Poetic References to Her Memories of the Village

Cover of Words Made Flesh by Patricia Lynn Reily Patricia Lynn Reilly draws upon her own life experiences including those during her childhood years at St. Joseph's Village (1960-1964) to create this anthology of writings. Here, Patricia's poetry and prose give voice to her personal story beneath her public persona as feminist theologian and inspirational speaker. (See biography below)

On the cover is the long corridor which she has a particular love for it's sense of visual power as it reaches into infinity. Patricia explained, "I love the view down the corridor toward infinity! The corridor-scene reaches beyond the actual events to an infinity, a purposefulness beyond what we see, beyond the stories we tell. The windows provide a glimpse of life beyond the confines of the orphanage. Throughout childhood I desperately longed for an open window, a breath of fresh air, a reminder of the world beyond the four-walls of the orphanage."

In the first chapter, "Beginnings," Patricia makes several references to her experiences at the Village. Anyone who has lived there can pick out numerous mentions of people and things around the Village from the subtle references Patricia makes in her text. For instance, she brings to mind the electrified silver carts that kept food warm and transported it to the convent and the nursery children.

The Silver Cart
with a cow on the platter
and unnamed gifts from the sea,
moves on its own, slowly down the long road,
stopping to feed the children.
Only in the night, undetected,
do they dare eat from the silver cart.

Could she be referring to the platter balanced on top of the cart that contained the special dietary meal for Sr. Jarleth? The other food was kept warm within the cart

Sensual, comedic, poignant, evocative, Words Made Flesh is most profoundly an invitation "to move from abstraction to fleshiness. From platforms and positions to vulnerability. From word to touch to sacred messiness, to life here and now."


Comings and Goings

I have a friend. The comings and goings of those she loved into and out of her life began very early. Her father was an alcoholic. He was home for a few days, then gone for a few, a coming always followed by a going. She experienced moments of beauty when he was present. He would give “his girl” gifts of silver dollars and chocolate milk. Her heart would soar, but he would always leave again. She made up stories, as any four- or five-year-old would, to make sense of his comings and goings. He comes when I'm good. He leaves when I'm bad. Stories to make sense of life. One day he left for good.

My friend and her mother survived together for a year or two after the divorce, but the pressures of life plunged the mother into her own alcoholism. One day her mother disappeared, and the little girl, my friend, was taken to an orphanage in a station wagon driven by strangers. During her five years there, she created one story after another to make sense of her mother's disappearance. The little girl was sure her mother was dead.

And then on the day of her eighth grade graduation, her mother came again. The little girl, now twelve, didn't recognize her mother for a moment; she had been dead for five years. The little girl had worked out the good-byes; they seemed to last forever. The hellos took another lifetime to accept.

Chosen Families

There were times when my childhood imagination soared as I imagined another childhood — one with loving parents. While in St. Joseph's Village, an institution for dependent children, I became a popular tour guide on weekend afternoons. Kind-hearted Catholic families from northern New Jersey stopped by to tour the spacious complex and to meet the "orphans."

Besides making lots of money, prompting the nuns to institute a restriction on the amount I could keep, I was examining each family for new qualities to add to my “loving family” fantasy. I watched the way the parents looked at their children: Were their eyes filled with gentleness or harshness? I listened to the tone of voice they used in conversation with their children: Were their voices patient or irritable? I paid special attention to how they touched their children: Were the exchanges affectionate or rough?

By the end of an afternoon, I knew who the kindest families were and hoped they would ask for permission to take me home for a weekend ... or a lifetime. And most of them did ask. I spent many weekends with kind families who nourished my imaginative fantasies of the family I wanted — one that kept its children.

Throughout my life, I have adopted families, chosen families, who have looked at me with gentleness, who have spoken to me with respect, and who have touched me with affection. One by one, I have “imagined into being” the powerful visions I developed in reaction and response to childhood realities.


Words Made Flesh

An Anthology of Writings by Patricia Lynn Reilly

Even Patricia Lynn Reilly’s most devoted readers will be surprised by the intimacy of the selections in Words Made Flesh, the first anthology of her writings. Here, Patricia’s poetry and prose give voice to the personal story beneath her public persona as feminist theologian and inspirational speaker. Sensual, comedic, poignant, evocative, Words Made Flesh is a celebration of the creativity and resilience of the human spirit.

Originality, creativity, and resilience have been the hallmarks of Patricia’s fifteen year ministry. Born of the gift and challenge of her unique childhood, these qualities infuse her writing and inspire and support others to embrace life with gratitude. The first twelve years of Patricia’s life were spent in violent alcoholic homes, the Edna B. Conklin Children’s Shelter in Hackensack, NJ, and St. Joseph’s Village, an institution for dependent children, in Rockleigh, NJ. Underneath Patricia’s words as theologian, iconoclast, lecturer, and author, this private story pulsates. There she is,

  • the abandoned girl, longing for her mother, heard in the reworked prayers of the feminist theologian: “Our Mother, who art within us;” (p. 131)
  • the fearful girl, befriending the darkness of solitary confinement, heard in the priestess’ tribute to Mother Darkness; (p. 143)
  • the fierce adolescent, wrestling for her place as world-changer among the boys, heard in
  • the iconoclast’s challenge: “God the father has remained an undisturbed idol for too long;” (p. 117)
  • the troubled young woman, struggling to reclaim her body, heard in the words of the WomanChurch minister: “It is right and good that you are woman.” (p. 123)
  • the gifted adult, who chose to walk through her past and heal into the present, supporting sexual assault survivors to tell their stories and reminding religious communities of the experiences of women absent from their sacred texts and theological tomes. (p. 27)

Biography of Patricia Lynn Reilly

The first twelve years of Patricia’s life were spent in violent alcoholic homes, the Edna B. Conklin Children’s Shelter in Hackensack, NJ, and St. Joseph’s Village (1960-1964). A graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, Patricia Lynn Reilly conducts spirituality, creativity, and self-esteem retreats, lectures widely, publishes inspirational books and resources, and manages two web sites: OpenWindowGallery.com, featuring the artists she inspires and supports, and OpenWindowCreations.com, featuring the books and resources she writes. Inspired by her daily walks in the natural world, Patricia honors the beauty of life through her photography, images, and writing. She is author of four books prior to Words Made Flesh.

Words Made Flesh" is available on Amazon.com

An Anthology of Writings by Patricia Lynn Reilly
Paperback, 160 pages
Date: February, 2004
Published by Open Window Creations
P. O. Box 8615, Berkeley, CA 94707
Publisher's Website: http://www.openwindowcreations.com