The Two Nuns


The sanest members of the family (and the two youngest) left the nest by escaping into the convent. They both joined the Sisters of Ste. Anne, a religious order of women originating in Lachine, Canada, outside Montreal. It was the same order of nuns who taught us from grade one through high school. They were excellent teachers but suffered from acute Catholicism. This order of nuns wrote the book on guilt and spent 12 years washing our brains with it. As is often the case with founding members of religious orders, they were trying to get the founder, Mother Marianne, canonized. They sought miraculous cures everywhere. My father who was dying of cancer presented another opportunity. Most people knew that when nuns started praying, it was the kiss of death. Sure enough, one year later, dad died. Haitian Voodoo had nothing on praying nuns.

Anyhow, Florence became a second grade teacher and Eva went to the missions in the northern part of Alaska at a forsaken outpost called Nulato. She brought education and hope to Eskimos. She would write home often and would sometimes include her photograph -- always with the head cut off. She didn't like the way her face looked. When you consider the headpiece and veil they wore, all you ever saw were eyes, nose, mouth, and occasionally, a chin or two.

Eva stayed there over twenty years. Once or twice, she came home and a family party would ensue. Most family parties took place on Carnes Street in Lynn because at that time, the Carmodys lived in an apartment on one side the street while Aunt Marie and Uncle Freddy owned the home across the street. Uncle Ted and Aunt Thelma lived in a house next to them in back. Relatives would gather on Freddy and Marie's porch, the side yard, Ted and Thelma's porch, and inside both houses. Thirty or forty people were not uncommon. I remember one that took place in March when the weather was still cold. Eva had not yet readjusted to the temperate climate and she sweated profusely even though it was in the 50s outside.

Aunt Florence taught grammar school in various parishes from Central Falls, Rhode Island to Waltham. She ended her teaching career in Marlboro at a Montessori school.

We kids loved her because she always wrote each of us letters on our birthdays and other important occasions like graduations. And when she was at a family gathering, she paid attention to us and made us all feel important.

The nuns were two beacons in an otherwise often foggy family.