Getting back to Fr. Ostrowski. . .Renee and I finished our instructions eventually. Fr. Ostrowski was a very kindly, old priest with a very rough exterior. It you didn’t know him, you’d be afraid of him. He had a deep voice and would look at you from over his eyeglasses. . .just like an old professor studying his students. I don’t know how old he was at the time. . .I just knew he must be very holy and I loved that.
I craved anything that seemed even the least bit holy. I loved it. I wanted to be holy just like them. I remember reading the lives of the saints and wanting to be just like them. The more horrible the story, the more I wanted to be like them. . .
Anyway, Fr. Ostrowski would sit behind his desk and talk with Renee and me about the Catholic faith and its doctrines. (actually as a teacher, he was pretty boring with his monotone going on and on frequently interspersed with Um’s and Uh’s) We listened politely and learned our lessons well.
It was a magical time for me because it all happened during my most favorite time of the year, fall and winter. I loved the snow and still do. It gives me a very warm and kind feeling. Almost a protective feeling. I don’t know why or where it comes from, but I still feel it to this day. It may be because someone once told me that winter and snow is the contemplative time of the year because it seems the world around you gets quieter. . .no sounds outside, no racing cars down the street, no screaming kids playing games outside. I have always loved this time of year.
Now Mom and Dad went faithfully to their instructions and each Sunday we would go to two different Masses. Renee and I would go to the early Sunday Mass and come home to watch the younger kids so mom and dad could go to the next Mass. It was so interesting, they did this every week. It was something new for us. I mean, we did go to church, but not all the time, at least not before we became Catholic. We just went to whatever church was in the area in which we lived. (Although I do believe that we went to various churches because my dad had gone to them for money for food or rent. This is something he did on a regular basis. I know because later I will have my Pastor Romig story to tell which proves my theory.)
The time came for our Baptisms. It was very exciting for all of us. We needed godmothers and godfathers. It’s funny the things you remember, but my godfather and mother were Patsy and Julius. I don’t remember their last names. I do remember though that Julius was from Hungary and was a very nice guy. They were related to one of my cousins through marriage. My parents godparents were members of the same family.
It was November 1962 and the big evening was here. We all went to St. Peter’s Church. There was Mom, Dad, Renee and myself along with Tommy. He was the baby. We were baptized that night even though Renee and I had been baptized Lutheran when I was 5 and Renee was 3. Fr. Ostrowski said he had to do it again, “just to make sure”.
Right after our baptisms came our first confessions. I can’t tell you how terrifying that prospect was. But, for the life of me as I look back, I can’t understand why. What could a 9 year old and an 11 year old kid have done to warrant this terror we felt? Well, we felt it. Renee was pretty laid back ~ I think she thought of it as just another interruption in her day. But we did it and new were official ~ well, except for our First Holy Communion. That would come in a month’s time.
We went back to the rectory after the ceremony and my parents had to sign some books. While we waited Fr. Ostrowski went to his personal cupboard and pulled out a box of the most delicious Rum candy I had ever tasted. I thought it was great. Renee thought it was even better because she became a little tipsy on the candy. But, what the heck, it was her baptism day after day! I think Fr. Ostrowski mentioned something like, uh-oh, maybe I shouldn’t have given that to the girls. Too late I thought, but it was good.
Coming next, a lunch with Fr. Ostrowski and our First Holy Communion. . .
Sandy Ozanich (c) May 2013
When we were living in Dravosburg my father came home one day and declared to the family that we were going to become Catholic. It was 1962. I was eleven and Renee was 9.
Dad didn’t tell us why, he just said it was. I think it was a Holy Spirit moment. My mother apparently didn’t give him an argument because the next thing I knew, Renee and I were told to report to the rectory of St. Peter’s Church in McKeesport after school each day for instructions.
Mom and dad were to go in the evenings while Renee and I watched our siblings, Tommy age 4 and Denise age 2. Renee and I were pretty good babysitters. I mean, we had a lot of practice.
I was very excited about the idea. I can’t explain it, but all of my short life, I wanted to be a Catholic. I had it in my head that one day I would become a nun and a great saint. (Oh the thoughts of children. . .hmmm)
I think I was much more excited about this than Renee. It was the fall and winter of the year and the weather was really cold. I remember waiting and waiting for Renee to show up at the rectory. I’d sit in the hall and Fr. Ostrowski would come out from time to time looking for her. “Um, well. . .where is that Jimbo?” he’d ask (jimbo was his nickname for her). We sometimes would wait for over an hour for her to show. We found out later that she was travelling through the local department store called Misco’s.
Thinking about this move we were about to make, I thought there was no reason that I would want to be Catholic, but somehow the thought of becoming Catholic was a dream come true. No one ever talked about Catholics around us, as far as I know. But the desire had come from somewhere, again, I believe a Holy Spirit moment. I have never regretted it, our move to Catholicism, I just become sad and disillusioned at times. I felt sometimes that the way I look at people and the world didn’t seem to be the way the Pope and the rest of his friends do. This feeling has come and gone from time to time. . .but at the heart of it all I love my Catholic faith. I can’t even begin to think of going elsewhere. My heart was found by a loving and living God. . .much like the Hound of Heaven, we were found and embraced by the immense love of God. I find myself saying, Lord to whom shall I go, for You have the words of everlasting life.
I just remember feeling sometimes that it would be wonderful to be Catholic. It seemed to me that they had it all. I mean, where else could you go and talk to a priest in a little boxlike room, tell him your sins and have them forgiven just like that??? It was the best possible thing to have!
It’s true that all of us mess up from time to time, sometimes REALLY mess up. I thought it was so neat to be able to clean it up with God right now before I die. This way you don’t have to worry that when you die God might not be in a very forgiving or happy mood. (This is my eleven year old mind. . .of course now my beliefs about God’s mood are much better!!! haha) After all when you are trying to oversee a whole world and galaxy at one time, you could get a little crabby.
I thought this was the perfect way to talk to God when he was still in a reasonably good mood. Actually, confession is like writing a letter or using the phone, you get the same results, you just don’t have to worry about looking the person in the face while you do it. That is what I considered to be a bonus.
Part two coming soon. . .i’ll get to the Baptism and Rum Candy next. . .
Sandy Ozanich (c) May 2013