Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Another Trip to the Funny Farm, aka: Convent

I was a lost soul. After 9 years in the cult of francis schuckardt, I had no mind of my own.  I was 18 years old and doing what they would now refer to as "couch surfing".  I had no home in the Coeur d'Alene area.  I had no family living there.  When I entered the convent in 1975, Mom had returned to live with Dad in Montana, so if I was going to live in Idaho, I had to depend on the kindness of friends.
In the early months of 1977, I was living with a lovely family in Dalton Gardens, just north of Coeur d'Alene.  It was a lovely, large, and growing family.  The husband was an electrician, and the wife stayed home and took care of the children.  I did what I could to help them out.  The children were normal little kids - full of energy and pranks.  Looking back now, this was a happy time for me.    A friend of the family was employed by the Washington State Department of Employment, and mentioned there was a position open for a clerk.  He thought that I might be interested.  I got the job.  I remember that my friends were jealous of the $4.15/hour I was getting.  Now, looking back, I wonder how much different my life might have been had I stayed with this job.  But, I was SO unprepared for the outside world.  I was so afraid of breaking the rules that I dressed in full garb:  skirt to my ankles, sleeves to my wrist, a sweater or vest to hide the fact that there were breasts on my chest, and a headscarf to cover up most of my hair.  (schuckardt told us that a woman's hair was her vanity and her downfall. It should always be covered outside the home.)  I stayed with this job for several weeks, and then went back to Montana to try to figure things out.  Where was my life going?  I was a lost soul.  I was an 18 year old girl who had spent the last 9 years in a destructive cult.  I had no marketable skills. I could eat burnt toast for days in a row.  But, that wasn't going to get me very far.
Returning home to my mother, who was still 100% in line with the Community in Coeur d'Alene, was a mistake I soon realized.  Everything I did, she scrutinized.  I remember her asking me one time why I was taking so long in the bath.  I told her I was shaving my legs.  She shouted, "I am sure you didn't shave your legs in the convent!"  Um, no, Mom. In the convent, we braided the hair on our legs during recreation.  (Sarcasm here.)  Dad was working long hours at the Laundry/Convenience store that he co-owned.  I was sad that I didn't get to see him much.
I stayed with my parents for a bit, then returned to Idaho.
I landed with Carol, a friend who was originally from Kalispell.  She was a lot of fun.  I hadn't even been there more than a couple days when I was "summoned" to the convent by one of my good friends.  She was a year older than I was.  She had entered the year prior to me.  In fact, she is majorly responsible for me entering the convent in the first place.  She hounded me about the fact that I had a very big heart, and I should give it entirely to God, not try to split my love between God and a man.  Hmm.... but, I didn't WANT to be a nun.  So, here I am in early 1977, meeting her for a chat, I thought.  It turns out she pretty much had an ultimatum for me:  You aren't doing well out there on your own, so you either return to the convent or join the youth group for people who wanted to find a "mate" to marry for life.  Well, I didn't have to give that much thought.  In my mind, I was thinking of the guys that I knew of at that time who were part of the group.  Nope.  Not a single one was the least attractive to me in any way.  So, then and there, I said I would return to the convent.
She wasted no time setting things up for me.  (She was an excellent organizer and leader.  I wonder what she is doing these days.  She stayed for many years more than I, but eventually left as well.)   So, the following day, I reported back to her.  I had assumed, incorrectly, that I would be entering from the bottom level just like I did the first time.  Oh, no.... not!  She had it arranged for me to go and put on the whole habit just like I wore when I left.  I was horrified - but I had no recourse.  So, I went along - on the outside.  Inside, from that very first day, I was stewing, trying to figure out how in the world I was going to get out of there.  I remember that the day after I returned, one of the sisters walked with me to Carol's to get my suitcases.  Walking back down 3rd street, Sr. Laboure asked me if I was going to take vows in September.  I told her, "I'm not going to be here in September."  I will never forget it.  It felt so good to say it out loud!  I had no idea how I was going to get out.  I just knew that I would.  Little did I know what schuckardt had in mind for this lost soul.
At the point where I returned, I was no longer in school.  So, I worked around the convent.  I helped with putting out mailings written and directed by schuckardt.  I was so unhappy.  And then, just when I was adjusting to this mundane routine, my superior called me in.  She knew that I wanted to leave.  She had talked to schuckardt about it.  He had listened and decided that I had not yet experienced TRUE religious life.  So, under his direction, I was sent to the part of the convent called the cloister.  In the cloister, you get absolutely NO contact with the outside world at all.  You don't see your family for a year.  It is intense training in how to be a good nun - I guess.  I cried and cried.  All I wanted to do was leave.  I didn't know what I would do once I left, but I just wanted out.  The headaches returned with a vengeance.  I wanted out.  I was given 3 very large books to read on the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.   I never read them.  To condense this part of my blog, I will just tell you that it took me 3 months to get out.  Every fear tactic imaginable was put before me.  schuckardt went so far as to tell my superior that if I were to leave, I would surely lose my soul to hell.  The night before I left, we sat and watched the film "Anarchy USA".  It was terrifying, but I wasn't afraid anymore.  Not really.  My friend leaned over and asked me, "Are you prepared for that?"  The film depicted the race riots of the 1960's.  It was 1977!!  Yes, I was ready.  I had had enough.  I was a lost girl.  I had no idea what I was going to do.  But, I was no longer afraid.  I was intrepid.

No comments:

Post a Comment