I asked Mama why I didn’t have a sister many times in my younger years. Perhaps it was after spending hours alone playing with cutout dolls, or coming home to a house where there was no big sister to laugh or talk to that I felt the emptiness. I lived in a neighborhood surrounded with families that had sisters as siblings and was totally aware of the companionship they created.
Directly across Elizabeth Street were the Ferrara sisters — six in total. Although three of the sisters were much older, I was taken in by the three younger sisters Grace, Rose and Helen and doted on. Sitting in their kitchen just listening to conversations or watching them doing daily chores was a treat. Having my hair curled or being taken to the movies by Helen was heaven sent.
My friend Nancy Ferrara, who lived up the street and was a first cousin to the Ferraras across the street, also lived in a family with five sisters. How I loved spending the night with those sisters. It was always an adventure.
I have a special memory of an incident that occurred at the home of those Ferrara sisters, Grace, Josephine, and Carrie (Louise and Mary lived away). It was during the World War II era — a serious, sad and somber time. It was also the era of the Big Band sounds, the Jitterbug craze and when Frank Sinatra was a teenage idol. Girls were swooning and fainting at the sound of his voice.
The radio was playing music at a low pitch. Blasting and blaring music was not allowed. A record of Frank Sinatra began playing and suddenly all three sisters stood up and began dancing and singing, and one pretended the famous swoon. It was awesome as Nancy and I watched and then joined in on the fun.
Periodically when the loneliness set in again while I was by myself, I would ask Mama, “Why don’t I have a sister?” At times she would tell me, “You did have a sister.”
“Where is she now, Mama?” I would ask, and she would respond, “She’s in heaven.”
I stopped asking. It was painful for Mama and now I found my sister in St. Rocco’s Church. In my mind if she was in heaven then she was an angel. There was one particular image that became my sister and my guardian angel.
Through the years I have had a few special sisters. The first being my cousin Sadie Miceli. We were born 15 days apart. I often told her that we knew each other in heaven and that is why we are so closely connected.
Mama and I spent a lot of time at Aunt and Uncle Phil’s house. It was a home filled with children, noise, laughter, crying, and all the particulars of everyday living.
By the time Sadie and I graduated high school there were 11 children in the family.
I loved the sleepovers with my sister-cousin. They were filled with sharing our thoughts, dreaming of the future, making unrealistic plans, laughing, sometimes crying, and enjoying each other’s company. Especially memorable are the nights kneeling on the kitchen floor with Aunt Phil leading the praying of the rosary.
Still today I miss not having my very own sister. Thankful to God for his kindness in giving me two wonderful sisters-in-law and many friends to whom I have had the good fortune to consider sister-friends.
To sisters who have the special blessing of a sister or sisters, God bless you. A belated Happy Sister’s Day.
Congratulations Fr. McDonnell
While Sunday, Aug. 7 was being celebrated nationally as Sister’s Day, locally the day was being marked as the 25th anniversary of Rev. Paul McDonnell’s ordination to the priesthood, order of the Oblates of St. Joseph, in St. Anthony’s of Padua Church, now known as St. Barbara’s Parish.
The church was filled to capacity with family, friends, well-wishers, two bishops from the Scranton Diocese, numerous brother priests from throughout the diocese and California.
The lituragical music under the director David Tighe, Judy Samartzis and Ann Manganiello blended the voices of choir member of three local parishes creating an inspirational heavenly sound.
Fr. Paul, the son of Thomas and Shirley Petrillo McDonnell, was reared in Exeter across the street from St. Anthony’s Church. Father related that as a young boy kneeling and serving mass as an altar boy, he envisioned serving mass as a priest in his beloved church.
The characteristics of humility, caring and Irish wit dotted with a little emotion were evident in his address to the congregation. Fr. Paul has touched the lives and hearts of those he serves.
Congratulations, Fr. Paul. God grant you the grace for the next 25 years of service.