After the summer of 1973, Mom and I returned to Coeur d'Alene. The Villa Maria was still in the same house at the corner of Indiana Avenue and 5th Street. Of course, before school began, we were all required to attend the Espiritu Seminar at Twin Lakes camp. Another week of lengthy lectures from francis schuckardt and various religious people about the imminent end of the world, the tortures we would all endure if we were to maintain our Faith, and the punishment that we would suffer if we were to deny our beliefs. Hours & hours on our knees. Hours & hours on wooden benches with no back rests. Hours & hours of intense supervision. 30 minutes a day of "recreation", where we were allowed to talk to one another. That was it. There were probably 150 girls - and the bathroom situation was dire. We were allowed 3 minutes to shower, and certainly not every day. In the evening, after our day of indoctrination was done, we would stand in line in silence outside the bathrooms, waiting for our turns to wash our face and brush our teeth. One night, in the extreme darkness, I was approached by one of the women appointed to be one of our counselors. She pulled me aside and told me that she could see through my skirt. I needed to get a thicker slip to wear. I was in disbelief. IN THE DARK, SHE COULD SEE THROUGH MY SKIRT. The insanity of this now, as I recall it, just makes me shake my head. It could easily be a fiction movie, couldn't it? And, little did I know what was going on behind the scenes during this particular seminar of 1973. Just wait until I fill you in. It will blow your mind.
The school year began at the Villa Maria. Every morning, after breakfast, we would set up the desks in the living room for our classes that day. The bus would arrive and bring girls who lived near the City of Mary. Religion class was usually first, as I recall. Then, probably English and Math. A lovely woman named Clare Krug succumbed to the charisma of schuckardt. She was single and a retired teacher. She moved to Coeur d'Alene and soon began teaching us English. I really liked her. She was stylish - as much as one could be - and she was real. (She didn't last long!) Nuns who had no education higher than 12th grade were trying to teach us French, Algebra, Geometry, etc.... If you were REALLY smart, then Dale Pivarunas would teach you Trigonometry! (Thank God I never qualified!)
Mom still ran the Villa Maria, cooking and taking care of the household stuff. And, again, it was just the 2 of us in our little room there. Agnes was gone to the convent.
In November, when it was time for us to go home for Thanksgiving with Dad, Mom pulled me into our room and said, "Francie, there is something that I have to tell you before we go home." I was, once again, numb. I thought the time had come. Dad could no longer support this insanity, and they were getting a divorce. I was prepared for her to tell me that. Instead, she told me this: "The Radecki's needed a place to hide from their Dads, who were looking for them, and they have been at our place in Kalispell since September." .......... What did she just say? I was all prepared for a divorce, and now this? I was elated. My Dad was not alone anymore. He had company. (I had NO idea who the Radecki's were!) So, I was happy. Mom & I boarded a Greyhound bus and set out for Kalispell for Thanksgiving. I was super excited, because my sister, Pauline, had had her baby in September, and I was anxious to meet little Maria. But, disappointment set in hard when we got to Bonners Ferry, and we were told the bus line to Kalispell was not running on the holiday. Mom called home and filled Dad in. We spent the night in a hotel in Bonners Ferry, and the next day my brother in law, Jerry O'Neil, rented a plane and a pilot, and flew to Bonners Ferry to bring us home.
We had a great Thanksgiving with family - and then....... then we went to our farm where the Radecki's were "hiding out". The Radecki's were: Catherine, with her 2 youngest children, Martha & Bernie; and Emily Radecki, with her identical twin sons, Mark & Mike.
Remember - it was strictly forbidden for boys & girls to spend time together. So, I spent time with Martha, sledding and competing over who got to hold baby Maria Jennifer O'Neil. The Radecki boys - well, I don't know what they were up to. Bernie, at that time, was only 13. I thought that he was hysterical. He kept himself busy at our farm working on pieces of wood - whittling little guns and things - and, being 13, his voice was changing and I found it immensely entertaining listening to him. There was NO sign whatsoever at that point of any attraction between us. I was so happy that my dad had people there to keep him company.
In early January 1974, the Radecki's left and returned to Coeur d'Alene. I guess they figured that their Dads had given up looking for them for the time being. A lawsuit was brewing. Two Radecki brothers, Joe & Henry, had sued the schuckardt church for alienation of affection. As members of the cult, we spent hours and hours on our knees asking for God to protect us from these sources of evil. Initially, the Radecki brothers won. However, in appeals, they lost. schuckardt was victorious in continuing to persuade the vulnerable to follow him and his radical beliefs. schuckardt was victorious in continuing to break up families. schuckardt was victorious in continuing to convince people, particularly middle aged women, to leave all behind and follow him. He was, after all, leading them all to God.
Late January, 1974. She had given me not hint about what she was about to do. But, what joy it brought me! My mother, and her dear friend, Irene, drove to Kalispell in late January to bring my sister, Pauline, and her 5 children to sanctuary within our cult. I was surprised, but I was so happy to have my nieces & nephew there with me. Mom brought them to the Villa Maria. All of the girls fell in love with these adorable little children.... but, it was only the beginning of what these children would endure because their mother had fallen victim to the ideologies of a cult leader, and their father saw through the insanity of it all.....And, as I type this, again..... I shake my head......