In response to Melinda Henneberger’s column on a boy who was “disenrolled” from Catholic school, a priest in California wrote an account of something similar that happened to him.
He sent it to me with the note, “You might find this of interest.” I do.
He began by describing how his parents met and married in California:
My father, who was non-Catholic, had married my mom, a devout Roman Catholic, just before entering the war in the South Pacific. Since it was a “mixed marriage,” the pastor allowed a dispensation so they could be married in the church but outside the communion rail. For the marriage to take place, my father dutifully vowed to raise any children Catholic. Consequently, both my sister and I were baptized in the faith.
Moving to the suburbs in the early 1950s, in my father and mother’s mind, raising children in the Catholic faith implied sending them to Catholic school. And so, I was enrolled in the second grade in our new parish school with wonderful Sister Dorothy Anne as my teacher.
My joyful sense of community would be dramatically and painfully shattered when, at the end of fifth grade, my mother received a call from our pastor telling her that I was being “disenrolled.” Between the pastor’s thick Irish brogue and my mom’s crying, it was difficult to discern the exact grave crime that occasioned my expulsion. However, in time, it became clear that in a classroom of 50 students where every desk was prized, I was being replaced by a child of “good Catholic parents.”
I was crestfallen and remember not quite understanding the “why” of it all. My father, God bless him, sat me down and said, “Butch (my nickname), I did my best to follow my promise to raise you Catholic. It’s out of my hands. You’re going to public school.” And so in the fall, I enrolled in the sixth grade at Tulsa Street School. With the flexibility of childhood, I made new friends and adjusted to my new school environment in no time.
However, three weeks later, my mom received another unexpected call from the pastor telling her that, “After prayerful consideration, Arthur could come back to the school.” My dad that evening said, “It’s up to you.” While I was truly enjoying my new school, I decided to go back to Catholic school with my friends since the second grade.
Years later, I came to find out that the principal and the head of the Altar Guild went to the pastor and pressured him to reconsider his decision with the clincher: “We think Arthur may have a vocation to the priesthood.”
The rest is history. Next year, the author, Msgr. Arthur Holquin, will celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.