The Village Helped Shape My Life
by Cathy McFarlane
I was in the Senior Cottage and eigth grade with Cathy Guarini, Kathy Noonan, Claudia Eichen, Eddie Rose, the Riley's, the O'Connors, and so many more. I was in St. Joes for five years. I was in the St. Patty's day parade, danced in the play "Singing in the Rain" to raise money for SJV, played hookie on a Saturday to ride horses across the street (I sure got in trouble), climbed out the window at night to go to Northvale with the girls ...smoking cirgarettes, went to the movies on Saturday night, marching to school with the music "From the Halls of Montisuma", swiming in the wading pools, playing with the dog, collecting salamanders and frogs, retreats where we had to pray for days, burning kotex in the back yard incinerator, watching movies about "growing up" and reading a book about sex (that was rather progressive for nuns), and a punch card which I usually got so many punches I never got candy. There are so many stories in side my head...and soul...that I don't know where to begin. I did start writing a book!
I now live in California. I left New Jersey on my life adventure nine days after I graduated from high school. I put myself through college and completed my Masters in Counseling. I worked in the counseling field doing family therapy, day care for children, and also worked in a high school as a counselor. For the last 25 years, I worked in higher education. Now I work for a university as a chief financial officer. I love spending someone elses money. I never married or had any kids, but I sure have had a lot of fun in life. My three sisters, Joan, Barbara, and Sally also were in SJV. Both Joan and Sally live in California too. Barbara still lives in New Jersey. Joan and Barbara married and have kids that have kids. Sally never married, just like me. We all still tell stories about St. Joe's. We are a close family now with lots of love and concern about one another.
The Village helped to shape my life for the good. I learned values and dicipline, I was exposed to many creative and educational experiences that I never would have had with my parents. We learned about theater, music, sports, friendship, and how to clean a toilet real good. Boy did we have to clean things. I remember using the buffer to shine the floors. I knocked down the pascal candle one year. If you worked in the Church, and had to use the buffer, you may remember we had to have someone hold the cord. One night we were putting on a dress rehersal for the play and I was in a rush. So, the buffer cord wrapped around the pascal candle and it crashed to the floor. No one held the cord. I was so sure Sister Marie Jose was going to kill me, that I went to see Mother Superior. She saved me from death. Sister Marie Jose never said a word. Somehow the candle was fixed and back on the alter by Sunday. Oh boy what a trama that was.
There are so many challenges in life. I look at my past as a gift. I gained strength and wisdom, with a little stupidity in between. Growing up was tramtic, but I survived. There was most definately abuse at the village. But back then child abuse was not a hot topic. Everyone seemed to spank there kids. I spent my whole childhood being spanked (or beat) by adults. They pissed me off! One day when I was talking in line, I decided to own up to it when asked. I was sent to see Sister Jarlath. She was nasty. When I told her I was sent to tell her I was talking in line, she punched me in the face. I bounced off the wall and fell on the floor. Then she said to go to Choir. Yeh sure... bleeding, with a fat lip. I often cried so hard from the agression of the nuns. I couldn't wait to grow up and not have to deal with hostility. The constant worry about nuns yelling at me, negatively impacted my self confidence, yet there was some inner strength that came out of it too. But many things still haunt me, and to this day, bring tears to my eyes. But overall, it was significantly better than what my parents had to offer.
We all have a thousand stories. Some nuns were mean, but there was much to be learned from them. I did feel love from Sr. Kenneth. She use to visit me all the time. She gave me dove soap, so I wouldn't have to use brown soap to wash. We stayed friends for a number of years. She left the convent, got married, and had two girls. She is a fine lady! I also admired Sister Marie Jose. She sure could be mean at times, but she was usually right. She also went out of her way to help me. I learned to sew and cook. She taught us to dance. She made me feel special. She was very involved in our development. Perhaps very strict, but I think she had our best interest in mind. She never missed a beat, when it came to catching me doing something wrong. I can see her face clearly and with affection.
What a life. We are all older now, and yet as I read the stories written on this site [and on the discussion board], it feels as though it was just the other day that I lived with so many other kids. I'm going to enjoy this new opportunity to talk with the alumni of SJV!
[Ed. Note: Certain material which acuses the nuns of abuse in this story are the recollections of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of this website. They were left unedited in order to allow the author to illustrate the factors which contributed to her growing stronger in deling with life's challenges.]