Friday, February 26, 2010

What did being Catholic mean to Anne?

Hannah is making her first communion this year. That momentous event, combined with my focus on this project, has led me to the question -- what did religion mean to Anne?

We believe that Anne spoke Irish, and was very much a rural, probably, provincial, girl. The Irish language and the preponderance of references to God within common phrases suggests to some scholars that religion and Irish culture was tightly combined; examples of these phrases are listed in "Irish Bridgets"
  • "Is giorra cabhair De Na an doras" God's help is nearer than the door
  • "Dia duit" standard greeting for good day -- meaning God bless you
  • "Dia's Muire duit" standard reply to above, meaning God and Mary to you
In 1834, 80% of the Irish were Catholic; 38% of these heard mass on Sundays; my grandmother told me that the Irish were not allowed to worship. What I've read is that at the time of the Reformation, all churches became the property of the Church of Ireland (Protestant) and the Irish worshiped outside at mass rocks or in people's homes.

Priests were revered. However, a strict adherence to papal "procedures" if you will does not seem to have been followed. The Irish fused Catholicism with many of their pagan beliefs, creating a flavor of worship richly tied to their culture. Apparently, this fusion was mitigated after the Famine, with the Catholicism more global, but clearly Anne would not have seen this.

Anne arrived in New York at the age of 13; like many of her country women, she was on her own. Several books written after she had grown to a woman and was a mother herself, including Guide for Catholic Young Women, Especially Those Who Earn Their Own Living by Father George Deshon, and Advice to Irish Girls In America by Sister Mary Frances Clare encouraged 'Bridgets' to work near churches, attend mass, say their rosary, and work to educate Protestants (especially their mistresses) of the value of Catholicism with an eye toward converting them.

It appears that religion and socialization were closely tied. Irish girls found jobs through churches, and enjoyed socializing after mass with other young Irish Catholics.

Our story tells us Anne left Kilcumnin with only her feather bed, some money, and a brass candlestick. There is no mention of rosary beads, which does not mean she did not have a set, only that I don't know of their existence. I do have Anne's grand daughter's (Mary Ellen Gagan Hughes') and they are the photo which starts this post.

Anne did have many children, four of whom died, and I hope for her sake her faith brought her comfort as she anticipated seeing them again and was thankful these children had returned to the love of God. I don't know what she thought about her faith. I'd like to spend some time learning where she may have attended mass in Rye as that may be an easier thing to determine than trying to guess where she worshiped while in New York.

However, it is her years in New York that have me most interested. As hard as I have tried, I am still not in her skin. I imagine her life and project my own 13 year old self into the experience. I can't decide what Anne was like - how mature, how confident, how secure - so that I can then extrapolate what decisions she may have made. I can tell you that 13 year old Amy would not have gone to Mass -- but that does not mean that 13 year old Anne did not. So, I remain in research mode.

Margaret Lynch Brennan and Kerby Miller continue to inform me as I travel this journey.

1 comment :

  1. Enjoyed reading your happenings of sthe Ship Emma Prescott. My great grandfather was The Austin Carrigg you speak about. He died in 1867 in New York,