Growing up in the Church 76



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I was brought up in a typical 50s Catholic household. Dad was Catholic, Mum changed from Church of England to Catholic so she could marry Dad. We were sent to private schools, we were also sent to Church every Sunday morning but I don’t recall Mum or Dad ever going with us.

One of my Aunties gave me a holy picture every time she saw me – not my siblings just me; she must have thought I needed saving. Another one of my Aunties was a Nun in the Little Sisters of the Poor Order; she was at The Drummoyne Convent, attached to an aged care facility. I remember going there a lot as a kid, we use to have lunch with the Nuns. I remember the silverware: it was amazing and the lunches were always very lavish. The Nuns were all very nice, but with all the same brown habits and glasses, I found it difficult to tell them apart.

When I was in primary school, the priest lived within the school grounds – I did not like him one bit. It was quite intimidating: the Nuns and the priest would wander the school grounds but those Nuns were nice, except for the old dragon that use to make me talk with marbles in my mouth. I had a strong lisp and they didn’t like it, they called it speech therapy, swallow one and you were as good as dead so the lisp died back pretty quick.

We were made to go to confession every Thursday and mass every Friday, I hated having to tell the priest what sins I had committed during the week; I never knew what to say so I use to make stuff up. They believed all the rubbish I would come out with because he would give me a bucketload of prayers to say. I never did any of the stuff I told him, so I never said any of the prayers, but then he would he would visit our family home. I would always have to change my underwear when I saw him at the front door, especially if it was the day after confession.

First Holy Communion was a big deal back then – you had to get dressed up like a little bride, line up with all the other little brides and be given a round piece of edible something that was obviously mass produced in a factory full of underpaid workers. That little round piece of whatever it was represented the last supper and if you didn’t eat it and go along with all the garbage they went on with, you were going straight to hell to burn for an eternity. Getting all this drummed into your head from age 5 tends to become you; their beliefs become your beliefs.

Everything changed when I started high school. Sisters of Mercy…yeah right. I was a straight-A student until I went there. They did everything possible to intimidate, humiliate and crush your self esteem, and they didn’t like me because I was different – I fought back, I broke rules and I never said their daily prayers, and every Friday morning when the school was in Church, I wasn’t. I would get there just in time to jump the back fence and join in the line up as they were coming down the Church steps – I got away with that for a long time. The Nuns mentality was a case of “Do as I say or burn in hell”; I got very sick of hearing that and when I threw a match at The Mother Superior she told Mum either she take me out of the school or they were going to expel me.

Needless to say I started at the local public high school a week later. I didn’t really fit in there either. I was wagging school more than I was going and I was at the headmistress’s office before she even got there most days! I remember getting her secret stash of scotch out of her drawer, pouring her a morning drink as she walked in the door of her office. She did not appreciate the gesture at all and after 6 short, turbulent months, my school life was no longer. I went from having religion shoved down my throat for years to a school where the headmistress was hammered by the home bell; nothing made sense to me.

Now being older and wiser and especially after the past few years I have no religious beliefs. I have seen to many bad things and there are way too many crackpots and made up religions for my liking. We get the odd Jehovah’s Witness knocking on the door. Obviously they are dyslexic because the sign on the gate clearly says, “Jehovahs Beware, Catholic Dog”!

What was your school life like? Was it like Christine’s? Did you do anything naughty? Tell us below.

Christine Massey

I am a 61-year-old dysfunctional child of a problem mother. I tend to look at the world with the philosophy "Laugh hard, you could be dead tomorrow!"

  1. Had a laugh at all your antics, hope all is well with you now. Religion was huge back then

  2. Had a very similar upbringing so I relate to all you say. I’m even the same age. Sad you have no faith though. I rediscovered mine eventually

  3. I had the same upbringing. Harsh religion with no compassion. Glad I refund my faith at a later age

  4. I can relate to that in reverse, I went to a Public school, until 13 years old then was placed in the Good Shepherd Convent (the house of hell). I was a little Methodist kid before my Convent days, went to Sunday School ect, when I got out of that Convent I was an atheist. I knew there was no God. Love your sign on the gate Christine.

  5. I was a convent girl, yes the nuns were strict but most were very fair. Manners and respect was huge back then, pitty it has all been lost today. Communion “tablet” was rice paper, I used to help out in the church cutting them into circles and stacking them. One of my few do goody jobs LOL. Whether we ended up religious or not we did turn out thoughtful community people. Todays children would never survive in our era.

    2 REPLY
    • I had a full Catholic education in UK – Nuns were fair on the whole, but this was before Vatican 11 and I do feel that some of these women were trapped in a system that they really didn’t want (especially the Irish ones). One thing I know that we were taught was pride in ourselves – to be the best we could be and not to settle for anything less. My faith is important to me always has been. My Husband went through ordinary public schools and he has plenty of tales about sadistic teachers.

  6. I didn’t go to a religious school but Sunday school was a must,I don’t remember a thing I was tought there, might account for me not being religious now

  7. I had eight years at a Catholic boarding school. I have to say, I loved every bit of it. The nuns were gentle and wonderful, except for one who hated me, but was only ever sarcastic. Loreto nuns were not physical with their punishment. I still keep in contact with two who helped me become the person I am today. However, I am not a practising Catholic and am now quite horrified by some of the things we were taught.

    2 REPLY
    • I beg to differ….Loreto nuns were brutal in their treatment of some young’ souls’ .
      The emotional health of many a person was affected by punishments such as boys being dressed in a girl’s pinafore with a ribbon in his hair and made to stand in the playground at recess time.
      One boy in particular was treated the way regularly….aged 6 or 7…..he was also put in the cellar that the convent acquired,before it was bulldozed and converted into class rooms.
      From age 5-17, I met 3 nuns that had a Christian attitude! !
      If there was not much corporal punishment, there certainly was emotional torture!

    • There were no boys where I went. The convent was in a Portland. The nuns were marvellous. I feel for the children not treated as well as I was. I NEVERTHELESS saw evidence of cruelty. If we needed discipline it was usually removal of movies, extra piano practice. Sitting at a side table for bad table manners. I was no saint, but the side table was the worst punishment I ever experience. I think nuns who are cruel have huge personal issues that they take out on others. Maybe I was just lucky!

  8. You are a sick woman Christine. I am sorry you have created such a miserable life for yourself.

    9 REPLY
    • Is it any wonder she rebelled? Good for her! You look like the type she feared when she was young (for good reason I bet). Are you one of those God fearing people?

    • We all have different experiences in life.. that does not make any of us sick or wrong or right!! It just means we are individuals. You need to learn to laugh a bit more Geoff and stop being so critical, I enjoyed Christine’s article it made me laugh, especially the bit about the Catholic dog

    • What a nasty comment to make. You need to take a good long look at yourself before judging others, unless of course you were joking. If that was the case then you need to make it more obvious, with a symbol or lol.

    • Yeah Geoff the Catholic Church obviously got you early & turned you into another twisted individual. My commiserations.

    • Not all we Catholic-educated people turned out twisted, Bronwen.
      I experienced both good and awful Nuns. Your comment “the Catholic Church obviously got you early”, etc. was unnecessary.

      Geoff’s comment may be rather pointed, but I did pick up that Christine was a difficult child, too. These days, such children are given a lot more help with any problems.

    • Thank you Sandra. I found the article distasteful and showed little respect for other’s views and beliefs by belittling them. Some of the replies were even worse so I have cancelled my link to Starts at 60.

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