by Laura Yurs
I grew up in a huge Catholic family in a very small Midwestern town. Generations of my family have attended All Saints Catholic Church and School. We remember who made us cry (Sister Staneila) who put the fear of God into us (Sister Veronica…I shudder as I type), who made us laugh (Sister Mary Faith and Father Bob). We’ve shared stories that are guilt ridden and funny and tragic and appalling. I sat through classes in the same building where my four brothers, my mother (all of her brothers & sisters), and my grandmother attended. We huddled in the same church pew, sweating, awaiting our turn for confession. (I made things up because I wasn’t sure my sins were good enough. I shit you not. See? Even then I was a pleaser). We celebrated our First Communion at the same altar. And it was assumed that we would marry in that very same church. My great grandmother, my grandmother, my parents, and all four of my brothers exchanged their vows and kissed their ‘I Do’s’ in that space. Not me.
I always assumed I would walk down the aisle in this church…if I ever decided to marry. It’s tradition!! And if it’s good enough for generations of my family, then why not me? It’s also a beautiful church filled with stained glass, gold leaf, detailed statues, and incredible vaulted ceilings. There’s a photograph of my parents running down the front steps on a cold and blustery January day…grinning from ear to ear…having just married. They have albums of my brother’s weddings…in one I’m a flower girl and in another I’m a Maid of Honor.
Generations of my family grew up here. I didn’t question much. Then I moved away, built a life, met a boy, and fell in love. He proposed and I said yes. And then we started planning the wedding…..
I didn’t want him to leave his religion for mine (previous generation’s spouses had). He was happy in his own church. I wasn’t sure if I was happy in mine. I didn’t feel at home in the church where I grew up and I knew on a deeper level that much had changed in me in the nine years that I’d been gone. It was a pivotal moment in my life…the beginning of many changes to come. My husband and I wound up marrying in a very liberal Catholic church in the city where we lived. The priest there was overjoyed at the thought of Kevin’s pastor participating in the ceremony. It felt good, you know? It felt so right. And it was the total opposite of where I grew up. Architecturally speaking, this church was ultra modern. No statues, no stained glass, no crucifix. On Sundays, there was passionate discussion about human rights and women’s issues. EVERYONE was welcomed. And so this is where I said my vows and kissed my ‘I Do’s’. The majority of our photos were taken outside at the university where we met. We started off on our own path and never looked back. A year later, I left the Catholic Church. I left peacefully. It simply became clear to me that my spiritual needs were better met elsewhere.
How about you? Did you deviate from the generations in your family? Start your own traditions?
I’d love to hear all about it!