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Judy Masterson: Can’t take the Catholic school out of the kid

Thomas Delany Jr. Staff Photographer.
Judy Mastersresporter for The News Sun.

Thomas Delany Jr. Staff Photographer. Judy Masterson, resporter for The News Sun. 7/12/06

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Updated: March 3, 2011 12:43AM

You can take the kid out of a Catholic school, but you can’t take the Catholic school out of the kid.

Catholic Schools Week usually registers the weakest blip on my radar. I sent just two of my kids to Catholic school for a single year. How I managed to pay the tuition, only the saints in heaven can account.

It was a move born of desperation. I had sent my son to a public school kindergarten where I once walked in to find a bedraggled, brand new teacher with no aide and 30 tots in various stages of discontent, some leaping off tables.

While my kids have been raised decidedly public, with sacraments on the side, I was raised decidedly, full-throttled Catholic, with separate playgrounds for girls and boys, and where recess came to a halt at noon for the sign of the cross and the reciting of the Angelus.

It was different back then. A factory worker and his stay-at-home wife could afford to send their kids to Catholic school because free labor from nuns or, or as I recently overheard a priest call them, “nunsies,” made it affordable.

Ah, the nuns. What shining examples of Christian virtue. I really mean it. I have no evil nuns who abused me, mocked me, made me hate the Catholic church stories like some of my contemporaries love to share. My nuns were wonderful.

My first crush, the one before that mean Greg Sheedy, was my first grade teacher, Sister Mary Lourdell. She was tall. She wore glasses and like me, she had too many freckles to count. Sister Mary Lourdell and a couple of other young nuns used to show up at frozen Rat Run Creek in winter, hike up their long black skirts, and ice skate with us kids. Sister Mary Noel, our school principal, had a Scottish terrier. As a treat, she would sometimes invite the little dog into our classroom and he would do tricks. He couldn’t kneel, but he could bark a few bars of “O Holy Niight.”

Sister Noel also taught third and fourth grades. Once during a test, she caught me whispering with Patty Maierhoffer. I had been warned before, and now my punishment called out. Sister escorted me through a door, down a long hall and into a gleaming convent bathroom, where she ordered me to stick out my tongue and allowed me to taste a fresh bar of soap. I tried not to cry as I sat down at my desk and resumed the test. The talker in me had it coming, I reasoned.

With one lightning-fast swipe of Zest, Sister Noel had taken away my sin and made me pay for it, too. You can’t get more Catholic than that.

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