She’s Dead

This afternoon I received a phone call from Sister Sean Foley, RSM the liaison between the Sisters of Mercy and me.  She wanted me to hear it from her, rather than read it or hear it through the grapevine.  Sister Mary Juanita Barto died suddenly last night in her home, surrounded by her religious community of retired sisters.

I wept.  I didn’t just shed a few tears, I wept bitterly.  And, I don’t think I’m done yet.

Why?

Well, the little girl in me wept because that kid had longed for Juanita to be a spiritual mother to me…that’s how I loved her, as a mother.  See, even now, I can’t seem to get my first person and third person detached enough to be cold.  The little girl, that kid, mother to me…  I remember when I met her I thought she was so smart and holy, oh yeah, and funny.  Wrong.

The adult me, the old adult me (I just turned 63 years old recently) wept bitterly because I am a Christian by choice, by conviction, by devotion.  I did already, and will continue to forgive.  I wanted with all my heart a personal confrontation with her (that sounds like a harsh word or event… but it has not been a harsh intent on my part), but that was not to be.  I realize she could not.  She was not strong enough for that, physically or spiritually.  I hardly was, but I wanted it.  I did not need it, I wanted it.  It had to do with accountability, yes, at first.  But there was even more to it than that.

Now, all you who have been abused don’t go off on me for these feelings, because really I don’t give a shit what any of you thinks of my reaction here.  I have lived as a victim.  I’ve done my time.  So has my dear family living with me…broken.   I have carried pain of betrayal, confusion over human nature–sick and broken human nature, and rage at it all, rage at her, at the Sisters of Mercy, rage at the Church–all of whom I loved deeply from my youth, broken and fucked up as they were and remain.  Upon the excellent advice of Richard Sipe I harnessed that anger and allowed it to give me the courage to face all I needed to face and to reclaim my independence, my spiritual and emotional and mental health, to reclaim my very life and live in joy.  Long ago I read Roberta Nobleman’s book:  VICTIM, SURVIVOR, CELEBRANT.  That was my own journey, and I have come full circle, returned to reclaim my innocence and celebrate my Faith in God and in humanity, fallen as it is, and redeemed by Love Almighty.  So, if you don’t like it that I have sorrow over the death of the woman who abused me for so long, for years, shut the fuck up and keep it to yourself.

I grieve a broken life–hers, not mine.  I grieve that an innocent child was born into this world, an infant who, according to my own Irish spirituality, had the face of God, only to be hurt so badly along the way as to become an amoral soul-murderer seeking control over another innocent.  Amoral yes!  Not immoral because she too was a victim, and I do not believe, even with her religious vows and convent life, that she ever absorbed what a true moral life was or demanded.  She was too distracted and broken and obsessed with total control.  She had no benchmark in her head to create that morality.  Young people don’t know anything about such things.  Adults are all supposed to be mature and safe, and in religious life, in the world of Church and God–they are supposed to be good and holy.  But that can be faked, to survive and pass in a life where that is demanded.   Sadly for me, that was what she passed off as motherly affection at first.  Sadly for young me, I had no clue about psychological screw-ups, and the woundedness that is cyclical until Grace–that Life of God that is shared with us through truly loving people, family and friends, strengthens and heals a victim allowing survival, then the impulse to love rather than to use or harm another.  That Grace only comes through love, exposure to great love, and I have known and still know great love!  I wept because she did not.  Her sense of self was bolstered by controlling all around her and that included me as a youth.  Her sense of self was not bolstered by the experience of such love that heals old wounds.  I wept for her because that is the spiritual sickness, the mental and emotional sickness she carried through life, and now–to her grave.

Tonight I give God thanks for my family.  For my mother and father whose love I never doubted and always knew I would have.  I thank God for my grandparents, especially for my grandmothers who loved me through my youth.  For my brothers who treated me as a princess.  And oh, for my best friend and husband, Joe and our good and kind daughter who are my life.  I have known and do know such love.  I did not deserve it more than Juanita.  We were both born innocent babes entrusted to this world by God to be loved.  THAT is what God wanted for each of us.  I was not better or more deserving of love than Juanita.  Without the Grace of Love Almighty given to me by my family I would have repeated the cycle of abuse as she did.   It was nothing on my part, I just passively received tremendous love from good people which in the long run, out weighed the abuse I suffered from her.  God have mercy on the poor soul of Juanita Barto, whose impulse was to use and abuse, to control me and her surroundings, rather than love.  I believe with all my heart and soul she was sick and truly knew not what she did because she didn’t recognize her amoral lack of love.  It was not a rejection of love and goodness on her part, it was a lack of recognition.

Tonight she is in the conscious presence of Love Almighty.  I pray for her healing, a purging of whatever pain that kept her from knowing God and what that meant about loving others, especially vulnerable innocent youth in her charge.  I have no doubt such healing is what happens when one comes face to Face with Love Almighty.  As the author, Father George Maloney, wrote in his beautiful book on grief, THE EVERLASTING NOW, I believe that is what the purging is about that Catholics refer to as Purgatory–A HEALING THERAPY–offered by Love Almighty to help us find our way Home.

God rest her soul.

God have mercy on mine because to whom much is given, much will be required.  May I begin to embrace my own salvation by total forgiveness.  Forgive me my sins as I forgive those who sin against me.   Amen.

 

 

 

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~ by caitfinnegan on May 4, 2014.

2 Responses to “She’s Dead”

  1. Abuse should never be tolerated by anyone. I hope you will find peace and happiness in your future. Having known Sister Juanita while in school and becoming friends with numerous other Mercy Sisters over the past 40 +years I have to say that my experience is that of caring and loving individuals who did what ever they could to help the students both learn and grow. While being very active with the HS she taught at I’ve never heard anything like this before about her. Not saying this isn’t true. I read your past post and only saw her name mentioned on this one announcing her death. To name her after she is deceased and not able to defend herself is wrong. Once again I’m sorry for your pain.

    • Joe,

      You don’t know how much you don’t know!

      Sister Mary Juanita was named publicly 20 years ago, reported to the Brooklyn Diocese and to her community. She is named on the SNAP website quite publicly, and long before she died and elsewhere in my blogs. Her community knows full well it was true, and she herself was confronted and admitted it to the attorneys and community superiors. The community–as mentioned in my last blog–CALLED ME to inform me, out of courtesy, that she died. Did they call you, btw? You knew her well and all… over the past 40 years. (BTW I’ve known her several more years than that.) If you think about this a moment, consider all the sex offenders you know personally, and how many were part of the common speech of schools and parishes or teachers’ rooms. Many? Of course you never heard of it. I too was a Sister of Mercy, btw. I am the first to admit there are many holy sisters among them. That has nothing to do with this topic or reality.

      I am at peace, which is why I can write openly about my reality, and be supportive to others who are not at peace, many of whom consider suicide after such abuse. As I mentioned quite clearly–Juanita does not have to defend herself. She was sick, not evil.

      What you believe or want to believe is irrelevant.

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