Sunday, November 16, 2008

An Irish-Catholic Tale, Part IX

As we continue through the list of Chet and Rosie's children, we now come to the first daughter, Mary Ann. Aunt Mary Ann has been feeding me all of this great information on her siblings, parents, and grandparents. Since the historian is rarely noted nor the photographer rarely photographed, now is my chance to let Aunt Mary Ann shine in the spotlight!

I was so young (read, self-centered) when I first began dating and then married Himself, that I cannot recall the first time I met Aunt Mary Ann. Perhaps it was at our wedding? Regardless, I remember thinking she seemed so worldly (in a good way) and sophisticated. One of her nieces gave her a gift of "Yuppie Chow" one Christmas and she not only threw her head back and laughed, but she promptly opened it and started snacking, smiling all the while.

If there's one thing I've noticed about these three sisters, it's that they go through life exactly like this - smiling all the while.

Still, I had envisioned Aunt Mary Ann to be rather serious, though definitely a yuppie! She loved any new gadget or item geared toward the yuppie crowd. Himself would go on and on about her CD collection and stereo equipment, loaded with James Taylor, Neil Diamond, and much more. At the time of our first meeting she was a biology teacher, so she already had that "teacher aura" about her that commanded respect.

That is, until I learned about this side of her:

Like her sisters, Aunt Mary Ann loves to laugh. In fact, Himself loves to make her laugh!

Kathleen, my Mother-in-love, with Aunt Mary Ann.

As we recall, Mary Agnes moved in with her daughter, Helen, to live out her days. While Helen and her husband, Joe, never had children of their own, she certainly took special interest in her brother's children, especially after his death in 1944.

Mary Ann would spend a week with Helen at a time. Instead of trips to the beach or parks, there were many trips to churches and charities. Instead of books about little girls on the prairie or cute kittens, Helen gave her books of Catholic saints and martyrs. These soon became Mary Ann's heroes, and the effect Helen desired for her young niece took place.

Following in the footsteps of her Aunt Nora, Mary Ann became a nun. I believe the time line of events is that she was a nun before Uncle Terry was ordained as a priest.

With celibate vows, it must have been easy to dote on her nieces and nephews, knowing she would not have children of her own. In this photo from Rosie's back yard, they're all gathered around her like chicks to the hen! Some of them are even looking at her with expressions of, "How are we supposed to act, here?"
At this gathering of cousins, the toddler boy sitting in white, very front, is none other than Himself. His sister is behind him with the large white collar and curly hair, and his brother is shoving ice cream into his mouth while looking up at the stellar Aunt Nun.

Often we step forward in faith and do the things we believe God is calling us to do. While God certainly uses events in our lives to mold us and shape us, sometimes what He's calling us to do is completely different than we originally thought.

In 1967, Mary Ann headed to Europe, specifically Rome. In her own words:

I was assigned to our international "generalate" in 1967 to create a communications office and send out bulletins to the sisters in the the 12 different countries where we had communities. They were in English, French, and Portuguese (for Portugal, Brazil, and Angola).

Between 1967 and 1969, there were two month-long meetings of delegates from all our provinces to study and revise our rules and customs with a view to bringing them up to date. It was during those meetings that we decided to stop wearing the medieval habits we'd worn up until then, among lots of other things. I attended the meetings, and with the help of my staff, put out bulletins about the proceedings.

It was a very exciting time because of all the change. There were nuns from all over the world living in the house where I was for those two years, and the official language was French (the language of our French founder) so we had mass and all religious services in French, and we spoke French at the table. When I went out, it was Italian. I only got to speak English if I was with an American or English person.

There were other Americans in Europe at the same time, of course. One of them was given Mary Ann's name by a mutual friend.

Bob (a Jesuit priest at the time) was studying theology at the Gregorian Institute in Rome for a doctorate. He had been on the faculty at Loyola here in Westchester before going there in '67, and a mutual friend of ours, a biology professor at Loyola who happened to be a nun in my order, told him to look me up if he wanted some American company. He did. We became very good friends.

One of the few nuns with a driver's license, Mary Ann would take an available car and with another nun from Bogota and Bob, would sight-see points of interest around Rome on Sundays. States Mary Ann about Bob, "He was the nicest man I had ever met."

Normally, I'd be smart enough not to get too chummy with a priest or any man because we were both dedicated to living lives of celibacy, but I let my guard down with Bob because he was 21 years older than I, and I figured that made him "harmless" as a friend. I was right about that up to a point. He always behaved completely appropriately, never forgot our situations as celibates with vows of chastity, but the fact is, we became best friends.

When Mary Ann contracted a virus and was hospitalized in Rome, it was Bob who would visit her each day. He would bring her a ukulele and try to teach her to play in order to pass the time.

Eventually, Mary Ann was sent back to Los Angeles. In 1969 she became the principal at the very school she graduated from eleven years earlier. Bob returned to Los Angeles about 4 months later and their freindship continued. While visiting, it was discovered that a chaplain was needed for the community so Bob took the position.

She made up her mind in 1970 to leave the convent, but held off her decision until the end of the school year in 1971, so as not to leave the school without a principal. Bob also decided to leave the Jesuits, but it took a little longer for him to get his release papers.

Aunt Mary Ann claims there were other reasons, other than their relationship, for them to leave the convent and Jesuits. That's what she says, but this romantic heart has always thought this a beautiul love story! Because of my limited knowledge of all things Catholic, Himself had to explain it to me this way, "They divorced the church and married each other." Awwww! Sigh.

Bob lined up a one-year teaching job in Germany. Mary Ann flew out to meet him there. On the flight over, she struck up a conversation with her fellow passengers. When asked why she was going to Germany, Mary Ann figured she would never see those people again and impishly replied, "I'm a mail-order bride."

Bob and Mary Ann were married in Basel Switzerland on Oct. 3, 1972. Traveling to Munich, Berlin, Holland, Belgium, Paris, the French countryside, etc. on school breaks in an old VW, it was a year-long honeymoon!

Bob on the Rhine in Germany. Aunt Mary Ann pointed out his velour shirt. Love the 70's! Mary Ann also writes:

In 1973, we returned to Los Angeles. Bob went back to teaching theology at Loyola. They changed the name on his office door from Fr. Braus to Dr. Braus, and everyone adjusted. We lived in an apartment the first year back here and saved every penny so we could buy a house. I was teaching biology at a boys' school in East L.A. We bought the house we're in now in June '74. Bob stayed at Loyola (now Loyola Marymount) until he retired in 1987. I got a good job teaching biology at an independent K-12 school in Palos Verdes and stayed at it until I retired in 2005.

That may have been their business careers, but the roles they had in the lives of their nieces and nephews went far beyond academia. Their home in West Los Angeles became a haven for the troubled and discouraged, with "visits" lasting anywhere from a few days, to weeks, or a year to five years.

Bob with Rita's youngest, Shannon (in pigtails), and a childhood friend. Aunt Mary Ann was present at the birth of Shannon's baby boy earlier this year. Shannon also has three girls and another boy!

Bob teaching my SIL, Julie, how to play a guitar.

Bob and my nephew, Brian, building a bird house.

Whenever any of us have to fly out of Los Angeles, we stay with Bob and Mary Ann. How I would love to have to fly out of Los Angeles! We miss them terribly.

Christmas, 1979, at Kathleen's house in Hawthorne.

On a Greek cruise in 1984. This was around the time that I met them.

A beautiful portrait in 1986.

Dancing the night away in 1987.

Bob's 89th birthday in 2008 - and still looking great!


Jess said...

What a beautiful story! You have so many interesting relatives that I would love to meet! They should come to visit you. ;)

I absolutely love the photo where Aunt Mary Ann is dressed as a nun with all her nieces and nephews around!

DaDaHaZaReJe said...

I agree - a beautiful story! What a gift you are giving to your entire family!

Mary Ann said...

I just wanted to say how much I'm enjoying the blog. You're doing a great job with the family history.

I miss you guys too and wish I had the chance to make Himself laugh now and then.

Your loving Yuppie Aunt

Holly said...

Dear Mrs,
Thank you so much for your comment on my blog. I appreciate your prayers and well wishes. May God bless you!


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