Thursday, December 28, 2017

Villa Maria 1971 - 1972

In the Fall of 1971, my mom and sister and I returned to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.  My mom was still being asked to run the boarding house for girls.  It was called the Villa Maria, the House of Mary.  francis schuckardt had found a home to rent for this purpose.   It was on 5th and Indiana in Coeur d'Alene. 

This year was going to be far different from the previous year.  In 1970, we had 3 girls boarding with us.  This year, we would max out at 22 girls at the Villa Maria. 

My mom was the "house mother", meaning she did the laundry and cooked for all of us.  The ones who REALLY ran the show were the nuns.  We usually had 2 nuns and a lay woman in charge of the house.  Mom handled all the room and board from the parents of the girls sent to live there.  She told me later on that schuckardt had wanted her to give HIM the money, and then he'd dole it out to her as she needed it.  But, being the powerful woman that she was, she somehow persuaded him to let her handle the money.  Good thing.  We probably would have been diving into dumpsters for food before he would have given us anything!

So, what was so remarkable about living in a home with 22 other girls, 2 nuns, a lay helper and my mom?  This home had 4 bedrooms and a basement.  There were bunk beds stacked next to each other to accommodate that many girls. God help you if you got stuck in the "dorm" room with a girl who didn't shower often, or whose feet reeked!  It was pretty insane.

The lay helper that was assigned to help my mom was Miss Klotz.  She was a whopping 25 years old and a perfectionist.  Everything was done just so.  She got a thrill out of waking up the boarder-girls by taking a kitchen knife and beating it on a little fireplace shovel.  Of course, there was no talking allowed - the girls had to roll out of bed, clean up, get dressed, and get downstairs to breakfast.  The house had TWO bathrooms ---- and 22 girls.  I don't know how we did it. Because my mom was the house mother, and my sister and I weren't technically boarders, the 3 of us shared our own room downstairs.

During this year, I had to take a bus with other girls my age to the home near the "City of Mary" for our school.  You would think the bus ride would be a time for levity and getting to know other kids who were going to the school.  But, no.   During the 45 minute bus ride, we were made to pray the Rosary.  That's not so bad, right?  I mean, the Rosary gives a lot of Catholics comfort.  But, on the bus ride, we had to fold our hands up next to our hearts, and keep our eyes FIRMLY CLOSED.  If we were caught with our eyes open looking out the window, the punishment was mean.  We'd be rebuked verbally and LOUDLY by a "bus monitor", and sometimes that person would go so far as to create a blind fold, or blinders for the offender to wear so that they couldn't see out the window.  Outside the window of the bus was the world and all its evil temptations.  I don't even know how schuckardt came up with all these insane rules.

francis schuckardt had convinced his followers that the Catholic Church had lost the Faith.  The clergy had all gone astray, embracing the 'evils of Vatican Council II'.  The latter days were upon us, and HE was the only hope for our salvation.  In the Fall of that year, he made connections with a Daniel Q. Brown, and convinced him to make him, schuckardt, a priest and a bishop.  So, under intense secrecy, bam!  The group of TRUE BELIEVERS in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, had a bishop and the church would not die..... we were it.  We were the last of the remnant faithful. 

I remember when schuckardt made his return to his followers as a Bishop.  It was a big, big deal. 
Knowing now what a narcissist he was, it is amazing how he orchestrated the event.  We were all lined up on both sides of the road as he was pulled on a sleigh (by a 4X4 vehicle) up to the church at the City of Mary.  We were in such awe.  Such a gift from God this man was.  We would be saved.

In December of 1971, I was sick with an ear infection and in bed at the Villa Maria.  The rest of the girls went to church and came home with stories that scared the crap out of me.  schuckardt had been hearing confessions that day and doling out some whopping "penances" for various offenses.  When the girls told me that some of them had to LICK THE FLOOR of the chapel, hold their arms out like Jesus on the cross while they prayed 20 minutes' worth of prayers,  put cayenne pepper on their tongues - I was terrified.  I knew the day would come when I, too, would have to get on my knees and confess my sins to him, and I was extremely anxious.  I don't remember the occasion too well, but I do recall that I was super relieved that I didn't get any of the penances my friends did. 

The school year passed without much drama.  Since I had been held back after my year in 7th grade, they allowed me to make it up and jump to the 9th grade.  I was excited, because that meant that the following year I would get to stay in Coeur d'Alene and go to school at the Villa Maria.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

1970 . . . more changes

The summer of 1970 passed way too quickly.  Before I knew it, it was time for us to return to Idaho.

During our first year of "school" in Idaho, schuckardt had made and carried out plans to have a school and convent built on his property, which he called the "City of Mary".  The idea was to have the school part up and running by the beginning of the school year, '70 -'71.  I was in Montana, so I am not exactly sure of the time frame, but before we could move into the school portion, the whole building burned. It wasn't talked about much.  I don't think that an exact cause was ever given.  A lot of my friends who lived in the area were thrilled - maybe this would postpone the misery of another school year in the cult.  Alas!  That was not to be.  It was back to the basement of a nearby home for the girls.

Before my Mom, Aggie, and I returned to Coeur d'Alene that Fall, my sister, Janet called my mom.  She said that schuckardt had asked her to call and inform my mom that the family that had been our dearest, closest, most fun friends had "left the community" and we were to have NOTHING to do with them.  They were now 'enemies'.  We were really sad.  This was a mom and her 4 children whom we had made friends with at our little cabin near Hauser Lake.  We did everything together that first year.  Patty, Paula, Aggie and I had a good time making fun of how stupid we had to dress, of the dumb gynormous veils we had to wear on our heads, etc.... Meanwhile, our moms totally mortified us by making themselves faux habits, like the nuns.  They were much more on board than us girls.  I remember driving to Spokane for a church service with them, and we literally hid on the floor in the back of the van so that no one would see us with our crazy mothers.  And, yes, again . . . that was just the beginning.  No one ever told us why our friends had left.  We were left to assume that they just didn't have the Faith.  They had "fallen away".  schuckardt's instructions to my mom were:  "If you see them, you are not to speak to them."

Then, my mom received a call from schuckardt himself.  He called to ask her if she would consider running a boarding house for girls in Coeur d'Alene.  There were parents who were interested in sending their girls to this TRULY Catholic school, but needed a place for them to live.  My mom, honored to be asked by such a good and holy man, said yes.  schuckardt found a home on 4th street in Coeur d'Alene for us, and he named it the "Villa Maria".

We did not have many boarders at the Villa Maria that year.  I remember only 3 that were with us most of the year.  But, since it was a pretty large home, we were often asked to house people who came to check out the 'church'.  One young mother left her husband in California to follow schuckardt.  She brought several of her young children with her, and she stayed with us.  It was a nice deviation from our ordinary routine.  I liked having little kids around.  They were with us for a short time and then one day while she had gone and left the children with us, there was loud banging on the door.  It was the police and the children's father.  He had come to get them and take them back to California.  This was really scary for me.  I knew that we were part of the one and only true religion, and this was merely a form of persecution.  (Yes, I knew that at 12 years old!)  The mother soon returned to find her children gone.  It was a very sad and upsetting incident.  She shortly thereafter returned to California to be with her children.  She continued to follow schuckardt from afar.  Her husband, wise man, never succumbed to the religious beliefs being perpetrated in our little cult.

It was not easy sharing mom with others, in spite of the tumultuous relationship we had always had.  It seemed like I was the only one who needed disciplining during that year.  Mom would pass that off to the religious sisters or brothers.  I never really even knew what I had done wrong.  I just knew that I wasn't as submissive as my sister and that was not desirable.  My will must be broken.  I must not question.

Oh, it is all just so ridiculous!  For those who grew up in the confines of a loving family, who were raised with a wholesome relationship with a loving God, this must seem like a work of fiction.  I assure you, it is not.  It was my life.

We were separated from society as the rest of the world knew it in the year 1970.  We were cut off.  There was no television.  No radio.  Secular periodicals were highly discouraged.  francis schuckardt had to approve every book we read.  Needless to say, our choices were few & far between.  I am not even sure that schuckardt himself knew how good of a cult leader he was.  For those of  us who remained in his flock, we had unconditional allegiance to him.  And, if WE didn't, well, our parents did, and that is where any questioning ended.  "Brother Francis said."  End of discussion.

The things that I learned during my year of 7th grade in the cult were:

You may NEVER talk to a boy.  EVER.  If families get together, there must always be at least 3 feet between members of the opposite sex!  (No, seriously.  I am not kidding.  Ask Rhonda!)
Girls had to wear clothing to the ankles, to the wrists, buttoned just below the chin, and head covered at all times outside the home.  Minimal hair can show.  Belts must not be so tight as to reveal that you have a waist.  No padded bras.

It is amazing to me that our numbers were growing at that time.  I have often wondered why.  It was 1970.  Were people afraid of the changes in society?  Did schuckardt take advantage of that fear?  (Hell, yes!)  The end of the world was imminent.  The anti-Christ was knocking on our doors.  If we didn't belong to this one, true church, our hope of salvation was nil.

And so, we wrapped up our 2nd year attending the cult's make believe school.  I believe my sister most likely repeated 8th grade another time - because there were no religious competent to teach grade levels that high. Apparently, they were not equipped to teach me, either.  I received a notice that summer that I had FAILED 7th grade.  I was so embarrassed.  I was a smart girl.  How did this happen?  Oh, that's right.  I didn't really have a teacher.  I was somewhat comforted to find out that I was not alone.  A couple other girls had failed also.  They were my friends.  I guess we were busy making the best of a bad situation - having fun, trying to survive another year. 

Does it end?  Nope.  It just gets crazier.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Good Times/Bad Times

During out first year of living in Idaho, my Mom needed to return to Kalispell before the school year was over.  She decided that it would be a good idea to leave us with the nuns while she was gone.  She knew that we would be perfectly safe in their care.

At that time, the nuns held what they called an "All Night Vigil".  It was where the nuns would take turns spending time in their chapel, praying all through the night.  During the night, Aggie and I were awakened  to go spend OUR time in the chapel.  I was so, so tired.  All of a sudden, from outside the window, I heard this horrendous sound.  It sent chills down my spine.  I was suddenly wide awake and TERRIFIED.  I had never heard that sound before.  I was 12 years old and scared out of my mind.  I asked the nun that was with us what it was.  She leaned over and whispered in my ear:  "It is the devil."  My level of fear just went through the roof.  I was literally numb with fear.  Several years later, I heard 2 cats fighting.  It was the same sound I had heard outside the chapel window that night.  I was really angry that someone in a position of authority at that time in my young life would put that fear in me.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Leaving home . . .

And, so . . .

In 1967, my sister, Janet, left to follow francis schuckardt as one of his "nuns".  It was only the beginning.

My sister, Aggie & I continued to attend St. Matthew's school in Kalispell for one  more year, 1967 - 1968.  However, my sister, Janet, kept working on Mom from schuckardt's cult in Coeur d'Alene.  The Catholic Mass had changed.  The Mass was now said in the English vernacular vs. the old Latin.  There were guitars and singing in English.  Lay children would carry the gifts to the altar.  Mom was outraged.  My sister and I were forbidden from attending these Masses.  We would have to stay in the library while the service went on.  I did not like being different.  My mother, on the other hand, was making a name for herself.  One Sunday, in his sermon, the priest mentioned that there were people in our parish who put themselves above the Fathers & Doctors of the Church, condemning the changes of Vatican II.  That was my mom and a few others.  They were very proud, because they knew that THEY were right, and the rest of the church was WRONG.  We were being made to stand out, to be different.... it was only the beginning. 

My sister & I attended a public school in the outskirts of Kalispell for the year of 1968 - 1969, because my mom felt that the local parish had lost the Faith.  I was in the 5th grade.  Already, things were beginning to get weird.  Mom wouldn't let us wear pants.  We had to wear dresses or skirts.  And, those dresses or skirts had better reach below our knees!  Well, it was 1968 - granny dresses were one thing, but dresses that reached just below the knee, totally not cool!  And, that is what mom forced me to wear.  I was mortified.  I was such a social creature, desiring to fit in  -  and this made me feel so awkward.  One day, after lunch and recess, I saw my mom's car pull up outside our classroom.  I knew she must be bringing me something.  But - I had rolled my skirt up so that it would be above my knees, and if she saw that, who knows what would happen?  As I walked back to the classroom door to meet her, I quickly pulled it down as much as I could.  I took whatever it was she brought me, and returned to my desk.  I was SO scared to go home that afternoon.  And, with good reason!  She didn't speak to me all through the afternoon, dinner, and evening. When I went to kiss her goodnight, she whispered eerily in my ear, "What if that were the Blessed Mother who had come to your classroom this afternoon?"  I was trembling!  (What she never knew was that I had found my sister, Aggie, who was in 8th grade and warned her that mom was 'on the premises'.  I don't think mom ever believed that Aggie, too, had rolled up her skirts.  Only Francie.  The bad seed.)

And so, after 5th grade, in 1969, it was goodbye to Montana and hello to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.  My Dad thought he was doing what was best for his 2 youngest daughters.  Getting them out of a culture of drugs that was working its way even into our little town, was his way of protecting us.  Mom would take us to Idaho and live there with us.  Once a month we would go back to visit Dad.  I can't even imagine what he thought as he saw the changes in us month by month.  If only he had known.  If only .... so many things.

Mom found a very, very small cabin at Hauser Lake, Idaho, where we would live for that first year.  schuckardt had begun a school, of sorts, a year earlier.  There were no actual teachers, only his nuns and brothers, most of whom had barely graduated from High School themselves.  The school could only accommodate those in grade school, so my sister, Aggie, who was just entering her Freshman year, had to repeat 8th grade.  Pathetic! 

Shortly after schuckardt started gathering followers in 1967 & 1968, he purchased a large piece of land west of Rathdrum, Idaho.  He named it "The City of Mary".  A church was constructed on that property, and eventually a school was built as well.  This is where we commuted to each day for our classes, numerous prayers, and Mass.  Co-education was strictly forbidden, so the boys held their classes in the basement of the church.  The girls were all sent to the basement of a nearby home, where desks were pushed closely together to fit us all in.  Grades were combined as well.  It was really difficult to discern one grade from another. 

Our lives that year were very simplistic.  We had no TV.  We entertained ourselves as best we could in our teeny, tiny cabin by the lake.  In the winter, when the lake froze over, we would skate at night and sometimes before school in the morning.  We made many friends whose parents had also moved to Idaho, unhappy with the changes in the Catholic Church.  My oldest and dearest friend is a girl I met that year.  Her large family had moved to Idaho from West Virginia.  Our teachers told us that we weren't good influences on each other.  Our friendship survived.  For one whole year, we were forbidden to speak to each other.  Why?  Because when we had come in from our recess, where we were sledding down a hill, I asked her in sign language if my cheeks were red.  I had broken the rule, no talking allowed.  We both paid.  We were sent upstairs to wait for our teacher to come up with the large wooden paddle.  10 whacks for both of us, and SILENCE from each other for a year.  Our friendship survived. 

At the end of that school year, Mom, Aggie, & I returned to Kalispell for the summer months.  It was weird.  I no longer saw any of my friends from Catholic school, or from the 1 year we spent at the nearby public school.  I was pretty okay with that, though.  schuckardt had made quite an impression on my Mom with his extremely strict rules for girls' attire.  No more pants, not even for riding our horses back home.  Mom made us HUGE skirts with 5 yards' worth of material to wear when we went riding.  I hated it.  I hated being so different.  I was mortified and fearful that I might run into someone I knew.  Thank God, that for that summer at least, I didn't see anyone.

Year #1 was in the books.  1969 - 1970.  I was 12 years old.  I had been corralled.  The spirit I was born with was being squelched.  I was learning that for life to be easier, compliance was key.  I complied.  But, I did not like it.  I just wanted to survive.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

In The Beginning.

I feel like I am writing a Gospel.  "In the beginning was the Word...." 
I was born in 1958, the last of 7 children, in Kalispell, Montana.  Mom was sickly after I was born, so my sister, Sue, took care of me for several months.  An attachment was born.  Sue tells me that when she had to return to school in the Fall, I pulled back when she went to hand me to my mom.  Those early months of bonding were formed.  They were formed with my sister, not my mom.  The writing was on the wall already.  Only, I couldn't read what it said.  My mom & I would butt heads all our lives just because.  Throw in the events that took place 9 years down the road, and "butting heads" would be putting it mildly.

My childhood years were rough.  Mom seemed hell-bent on breaking my will and conforming it to hers.  I will just leave it at that.  When I was 4 years old, my sister Sue took advantage of an incredible scholarship opportunity, and left home for the IVY LEAGUE University of Pennsylvania.  I am not quite sure how I survived.  I lived for the times she would take the train home for Christmas.  It had nothing to do with the Peanuts bobble-heads that she brought me and my sister.  It was just so good to have her home.  And, then she would leave again . . . those were sad times.

I started First Grade at St. Matthew's Catholic school  in 1964.  I would only go there for 4 years.  By then, my Mom had become extremely unhappy with the way things were going in the Catholic Church.  She & Dad had always been very conservative politically, and now she was bringing it to a whole venue:  The Church. 

In the 1960's, the Catholic Church began to make some changes.  These changes were particularly noticeable in the liturgy - the way the Mass was said.  The old traditional Latin was replaced with the vernacular - in our country, that would be English.  The priest, instead of standing with his back to the congregation, now faced the people.  The people were more involved in the Mass.  A lot of Catholics didn't care for the changes, but they trusted that the Pope knew what he was doing.  And, they knew that the church was guided by the Holy Spirit in these matters.  My mom was NOT among those who trusted.  She knew better.  And, then she met francis schuckardt.  (It is not by mistake that I refuse to use capital letters for his name. I have no respect for him.)  francis schuckardt traveled around the country preaching about the message of Fatima, an apparition of Mary in Portugal.  He also ripped into the Roman Catholic Church for the recent changes.  He told anyone who would listen that Rome had lost the faith.  So, for someone like my mom, he was, literally, her savior.

In 1967, my sister Janet, along with several other young women, left home for Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, to follow francis schuckardt.  Young men also began to follow him and his radical religious beliefs.  Janet bombarded mom with hellish letters telling her that if she chose to continue to attend the "New Mass" she would surely suffer the fires of hell.  We stopped attending Mass at St. Matthew's and my sister and I went to public school for 2 years.  About that time, francis and his followers started a school for the children of the group.  Co-education was a grave sin.  (Of course, you know that if boys & girls are in the same classroom, there will be sexual activity going on in every corner and under every desk, right?)  There were no actual teachers.  Anyone would be utilized to 'teach'.  And so, after 2 years, Janet wore her down.  Mom, Agnes, and Francie would leave Montana and head to North Idaho.   It was only the beginning.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Good Advice

As I work on putting to rest the injustices of my life for over 40 years, I found these really insightful.

                             7 CARDINAL RULES in LIFE

          Make peace with your past, so it won't screw up your present.

          What others think of you is none of your business.

          Time heals everything.  Give it time.

          Don't compare your life to others and don't judge them.  You have no idea
          what their journey is all about.

          Stop thinking too much.  It's alright not to know all the answers.  They'll
          come when you least expect it.

          No one is in charge of your happiness, except you.

          Smile.  You don't own all the problems in the world.

Buckle Up!

It is a quiet Sunday morning.  The animals are all being good.  Bernie is at work.  The house is peaceful.  Outside, there is fog.  But, I know that the fog is going to lift soon and the skies will be crystal clear, the sun will shine, and the Fall colors will be stunning.  I hope this happens quickly.  My mood is dark and sad this morning.  I am crying.  I thought all this darkness and anger was gone.  Will it ever be?
What happened?  I felt so free and light when I made my journey to the past at the haunting City of Mary.  (Here comes the anger.)  What was it that I did that brought it back?  Was it visiting with others who have left?  Was it all the thoughts of family as Bernie's sister was treated for a possible heart attack at 67?  Hoping she would be ok, but then again, struggling with the feelings I have for how her family has treated Bernie.  Was it doing the kind act of sending her a beautiful bouquet of flowers anonymously, telling her that we were praying for her?  I am not sure...because it's been a few weeks since I started to again feel angry and hateful towards "them".  Or, it might have been the fact that, while I was recovering from my surgery, I binge watched the entire first season of "The Handmaid's Tale".  Or, it might be the occasion when I searched for something on YouTube and Pivarunas' pompous face was staring back at me from the feed along the sideline.  WHAT THE F---???  WHAT THE F---?  Seriously!  It might have ended there.  Might have.  But, the SICK curiosity got the best of me and I wanted to see what he had to say ON YOU TUBE, for God's sake!  So, I clicked on it.  Then, instantly, the whole sidebar was full CMRI, Pivarunas, Puskorius, Radecki --- bull shit.  All such bull shit.  But, why couldn't I help myself?  Now I know what they mean by the moth being drawn to the flame.  I was the moth... sucks.  Oh yeah, and there was YouTube of the dedication of Sr B's church back in New Hampshire. I only watched a couple minutes of it - because I couldn't stand to see all those holier than thou people, all better than me.  But, before I left, I had to leave a comment.  And it went something like - how beautiful.  Too bad they aren't really Catholic.  I made sure the reader would know that it is MY sister who is running the show back there, and how I wished that I could make her see the light.  But, because we are both so sensitive, it is something we can't talk  about.  I left comments on a couple other YouTube posts, and made sure that they knew my last name - because Bernie's twin cousins are priests in this sect. 
And, so, this morning I sit here crying.  But, did I bring this on myself?  Is it my fault that I went and looked at that crap?  I suppose it is.  But, I am so angry that they are still getting away with lying to everyone they meet about the state of MY Catholic Church, my Catholic Faith. And, I want to scream!  I want to scream from the rooftops that they are lying.  They are simply repeating the same words francis schuckardt said to them when they were under his "training"... seriously, as I listened to some of their speeches (which were sickeningly recorded and posted there) I heard THE EXACT SAME PHRASES, EXAMPLES, etc... that I had heard when I was a teenager at the summer seminars.  I WANT SO BADLY FOR THE GULLIBLE PEOPLE WHO FALL FOR THEIR SCHPIEL TO KNOW THIS.
I know I can't save people from falling for it.  But, it makes me so so angry, and I want them to stop!  I want them to be exposed for the liars and manipulators that they are.
Why do I care, I ask myself?  WHY. DO. I. CARE.???  And, I actually came up with an answer:  Because they robbed me of my childhood.  They took away my teenage years.  They totally ripped my family apart.  But, most of all - it's all wrapped up in one - they took a HUGE portion of my life, and I am angry.  I am approaching 60 - yes, the years I have left are fewer than those behind me.  How do I make up for all that I have lost?  This saddens me.  It makes me cry softly to myself as I sit here with Max & Kitty and listen to music from the 70's - my teenage years, which passed me by.... How do I make up for it?  How do I let all that anger go?  I thought it was gone. 

Back to work.....