Tucked inside one of my birthday cards was this old photo which was taken on October 28, 1958. I can remember the day very well. It was an unusually warm and sunny fall afternoon in Chicago as our eighth grade class lined up to process from our parochial school to our parish church just across the street.
That is me on the far left, holding a rose in my right hand and a streamer in my left. That is Renee in back of me and Bernice across from me, and I can probably tell you the names of my other classmates as well.
My guess is that our class is leading the entire school over to church to honor Our Blessed Mother Mary during the month of October…the month of the Rosary.
Why this particular photo would end up in my mailbox here in Florida 57 years later is a mystery to me. My friend Barb said that she had saved it all these years, and it was time for me to have it. She wanted me to remember the days “way back when” we were young, and all the changes we have seen in our lifetime.
Receiving this old photo stirred up lots of powerful memories. I remember that year like it was yesterday. Being in eighth grade was the best. We were “at the top of the heap”…the oldest kids in our school…enjoying our last year together before going to different high schools. We had a lot of special activities and privileges that made us both happy and proud. It was going to be a year to remember.
I think the nuns wanted to instill in us religious practices that would carry us safely through our teenage years and on into adulthood. We began every school day in church attending Mass, and during the months of October and May we would say the Rosary out loud, together with our classmates, and ask the protection of our Mother Mary. I remember also praying for the conversion of Russia and the fall of Communism.
This was 1958, and all the school children of Chicago would have weekly drills to practice what we would do in the event of a nuclear attack from Russia. The sirens would wail and we would all duck under our desks and cover our heads to protect us from looking up into the glare of an atomic bomb if one landed near by. We prayed that our President Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower would keep our country safe and protect us from an all out nuclear war.
The year 1958 would prove to be a significant year in the life of Roman Catholics around the world. On October 9th, Pope Pius X died, which meant that a new Pope would soon be elected. After quite a few ballots, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was chosen. He took the name Pope John XXIII. I just checked the internet to find out the day of his election. Oh my goodness. He was elected on Oct. 28…the date of the photo embedded in this blog! The good sisters must have organized a special procession to church where we would celebrate our new Holy Father. I am sure that no one had any idea of how he would shake up the Church and the world.
Stay tuned for my next blog: How Pope John XXIII’s life and ministry impacted my growing faith.