by Fran Bush.
The following interview excerpts give a glimpse into a love and friendship that is over fifty years old and still going strong. The story begins in the late 1950s, when a friend brought Fran Bush to the Clothing Room at St. Joe’s. There she picked up much-needed clothing for her children. It was then she first met the Staff of St. Joe’s, and they received the blessing of meeting her.
"They just tucked me under their wing … they’d wait for a while, and if I didn’t come [to the clothing room], then they’d come to visit me.
"The woman I am today I owe to Catherine and the Staff, because they loved me.
"One Christmas Eve we had nothing—no tree, no nothing. So I told the kids we’d say our evening prayers—morning, night, and noon prayers were said in my home no matter what, no matter who was there or what. So at 8 o’clock I said, ‘Our prayers are over, there’s nothing we can do; it’s Christmas Eve.’
"I thought I told the kids to turn the radio off and go to bed. We were all in bed, and I shouted to my son, ‘Did you turn off the radio?’ ‘Yes,’ he said. But we could hear ‘Silent Night, Holy Night’ coming from the kitchen—people singing ‘Silent Night’.
"So we got kind of scared, got up, put the light on, opened the back door. And who’s there but a bunch of people from Madonna House and St. Joseph’s singing ‘Silent Night’. They’d come to visit us. It was like Jesus coming to our house! They brought toys, things you can buy for kids, squeeze toys. They brought each of the kids one of them.
"I remember I had one film—I didn’t have a good camera then, but I managed to squeeze out a picture of the kids kneeling in front of their toys. I took a picture of them the next day. They were thrilled! Could you imagine that?
"You know, you think you’re going to bed and everything’s ok with the world because you’ve said your prayers, your kids are fine, everything is ok. We had our supper, which couldn’t be very much at that time, but we ate and nobody complained. And then to have this beautiful music coming from the back door—you know, not music music, but singing. And it was so beautiful! Trudi, Mary Jean, Mary Ann Gilmore—I’m telling you, thank God!
"There was no family close and you couldn’t be family, so my family—that’s St. Joe’s, that’s Madonna House.
"Catherine took us under her wing, all of us, my children, me, everything—warts and all. You know, she didn’t condemn me. She didn’t praise me too much, but she was constant in her approval of things going right, and never condemning if things were wrong. She kind of gradually lifted me up."
Concerning the transition from Madonna House serving the local area to St. Joseph’s House, Fran said she hardly noticed it, "because it happened so gradually."
Staff would come, and then eventually be assigned and leave. "They would all come to visit; there would be a turnover. You meet this one, that one, sometimes different. But I got treated the same by all of them. When Catherine said love is the greatest gift of all, she was right."
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