Cleansing Fire

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“My Times with the Sisters”

April 29th, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

I recently came across a charming little book published by Franklyn E. Dailey, Jr.  My Times with the Sisters and Other Events is a series of essays based on the author’s life, much of which was spent in the Rochester area.

A couple of excerpts follow. In the first Mr. Dailey recounts one of his experiences in learning the altar boy’s Latin Mass responses.

In the summer of 1927, during a weekly series of “instructions,” I sat on the back stoop of a home on Monroe Avenue, in the Village of Brockport, New York. Sister Emma was teaching me Latin phrases so that I could begin Altar Boy training for serving Mass in the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The new church was near completion next door on Main Street.

That back stoop consisted of wooden steps, warped and devoid of paint, at the rear of a well worn ‘convent’ of the Sisters of St. Joseph, who were the teaching sisters at the town’s Parochial School a few blocks away. My buddy, Howard Simmons, who lived across the street from me on South Avenue, was being brought up Baptist by his grandparents, Elwood and Ida Simmons. Howard attended Bible School all summer at the nearby Baptist Church. We Catholic kids had summers off from school. That is, except for Altar Boys in training between their First and Second Grade years. Anyway, I only had to go once a week. Howard had to go every summer week day.

Sister Emma began with the first Priest-Altar Boy exchange in the Latin Mass:

Priest: “Introibo ad altare Dei.” “Intro-eebo odd ahl-tahray Dayee.”

Altar Boy: “Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam.” “Odd Dayum cuee layteefeecot yuventootem may-omm.”

Sister and her student made their way each session through the nine beautiful exchanges in the Latin Mass. When the sun would boil down, Sister would retreat into the convent kitchen to bring out cold milk and home-made cookies. Not bad for stimulating learning in a little boy. (I would check later with Howard and discover that there were no cookies at Bible School.) Sister did recite the English translation for the Latin she was teaching, but the English words would fade away. The Latin words were my assignment.

30 years later, as a husband and father, he was attending Christmas Midnight Mass.

Our family lived at 185 Rutgers Street in Rochester New York, in the years, 1956-1959. Msgr. Connors, in his eighties (he baptized the author in 1921), was still Pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church, where a Christmas midnight Mass was celebrated on one of Lake Ontario’s snowy winter nights. Our son Tom was born at Rochester’s new Northside General Hospital in September of 1957, so the Christmas of that year was his first Nativity experience.

“Midnight Mass” in those years actually began at midnight. At his age, Msgr. Connors now had uncertain gait, and his young Concelebrants (one was Father Sundholm, the older boys’ football coach) made sure to assist him up and down the steep altar steps. Solemn High Masses took time, a lot of time. All this, before Vatican II.

Our three altar boys, Frank, Mike and Phil, were in the upper grades at Blessed Sacrament School, and were escorting first and second grade boys around the Church. These “little ones” held electric candles. All sang Christmas Carols during the transition parts of the Mass. I was sitting near the aisle, up front. Mother Peggy was taking care of our younger brood, including infant Tom at home.

By 1:30 a.m., the two Concelebrants had lost a good bit of their energy, while Msgr. Connors was getting his second wind, and coming on strong!

A very small boy in the electric candle holder group fainted, and fell to the floor.

Quickly, an usher came forward and told the senior altar boy group that he would go and find the parents of the fainted-away candle bearer. While announcing his intention, he switched off the youngster’s candle. Negative thoughts flashed through my mind.

I was not alone in such thoughts. Our two oldest, Frank and Mike, handed their real candles to brother Phil to tend, picked up the fallen youth, cradled him in a basket formed by their arms, switched his electric candle back on, and carried him to the church entrance foyer. The Sisters of St. Joseph at Blessed Sacrament Parochial School, as all Sisters in our experience, taught leadership, and it works! Their silent communication of strength and intuition was never more apparent than in the recovery of the fallen candle bearer. He was laughing and happy and sipping water by the time two senior candle-bearers had him delivered to the back of the Church, just moments after his midnight Mass experience. And, his “candle” was lighted!

I had an endearing story to go home and tell our group’s mother, no slouch herself in the leadership business.

Peggy Parker Dailey, you raised Franklyn, Michael, Philip, Elizabeth, John, Paul, Thomas and Vincent to carry the Dailey name, but the Parker leadership heritage, and you did it so well I hardly noticed until I looked back in 2010 and marveled at what a mother has meant to this family. Your grateful and loving husband, Frank.

Portions of early drafts of the various chapters are available here.

The complete book is available from Amazon and Borders.

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3 Responses to ““My Times with the Sisters””

  1. avatar Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the book info. I am very grateful to the Srs of St Joseph for giving me the basics of faith and building on the basics through the years of a priceless education. May God bless them for the abounding, selfless acts they willingly gave to each student. Those were the days……..

  2. avatar Choir says:

    Mike – yes, thanks for the book info. I passed it along to a good friend who is from Brockport. I remember Msgr. Connors well. He didn’t like to be called “Monsignor Connors”. He wanted you to call him “Father Connors”. Today you’re lucky if some priests want even to be called “Father”.
    I was taught by the School Sisters of Notre Dame back “in the day”. All orders of sisters taught orthodoxy back then. How far we have fallen.


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