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A REGINA MAGAZINE EXCLUSIVE
Me, just a little Oklahoma gal
A Catholic Home
Dad and Mom were devoted to the Blessed Mother, and they said the Rosary together most nights. We never missed Mass as I was growing up and my normal outfit for high Mass on Sunday mornings was a fluffy dress and some kind of hat with gloves.
Mom and Dad, my heroes.
One of my favorite memories is sitting on a blanket in the choir loft at the Catholic church of Saint John the Baptist in Edmond, while Mom and Dad sang. I think some of my first words were from Adoramus te Christe, (Theodore Dubois). It was a song that the two of them sang a lot at home, to our eager ears..
Days and nights in our family revolved around the Catholic calendar and our Faith. Sunday obligation, holy days and abstaining from meat on Fridays were a part of our bone marrow, and we didn’t divert from any of it for any reason. Also, it was not unusual for our parish priest to stop by on Fridays for Mamma’s tuna casserole.
She always taught us our Baltimore Catechism, but then Dad was known to jump in at any moment to expand on the current lesson. My parents kneeling down with us at night time to say a prayer is a memory I will never forget. We worked hard, played hard, and we kids ran the neighborhood with our friends.
My Dad came from a broken home and had spent time in a Catholic orphanage in Oklahoma City. This was a huge reason he worked hard to keep our little family immersed in Catholic culture. He said it had saved his life and that he had taken the Blessed Mother for his mother at a very young age. I credit him and Mom for keeping me wrapped in this blanket of Catholicity so that when the time would come, when my world would turn upside down around me, I would regain my footing.
Sister Donna Sue
I remember walking into a room full of my Catholic family with a towel on my head as the veil for my makeshift nun’s habit. This guaranteed a comment and rolled eyes from my older brother, but an understanding smile from my Mom. Thank God for my Mom because she understood my need to play nun.
When I was eight years old, my grandmother sewed miniature habits resembling those of the Benedictine nun — friends of hers – for my sister and me. We would walk around with hands folded and rosaries flying during those play days. Once we even convinced our big brother to pretend to be a priest and say Mass for us!
I was convinced that I was going to be the nun in the family and wrote to several different convents. My heart was set on a cloistered community, so I checked into Carmelite and Franciscan orders, but I fell in love with the Passionists.
I created a notebook of drawings of nuns in habits and gave each one of them a name. The note book and the nun’s habit that I wore as a child are still in my old cedar chest in the garage.
Teenage Romance and Poetry
My teenage years were filled with growing and learning that life is not always so rosy, and I felt the change deeply. My desire to become a nun changed to becoming a wife with a house full of babies resembling my childhood, and it was in junior high that I began to write. I wrote romantic rhyming poetry and song lyrics. I shared these with my girlfriends who encouraged me.
Shortly after high school, I married. God granted us two baby girls over the next four years, and it would be 24 years later that I would find myself alone and starting over. The world, the flesh, and the devil had taken their toll on us, and what I found is that we were not unique. Destruction of families in this world is epidemic, and only God’s great love and mercy can return marriage to the sacramental state it is supposed to be.
Alone at 48
What happened next was trying to figure out what to do with me — alone at age 48?
Life had changed dramatically. The girls were grown, married, and I had become a grandmother. (What a joy!) I enrolled in university for the first time in my life, and my Dad died just weeks after my divorce. Although I moved in with my Mom for a short time, it wasn’t long before got my own place.
It became my cave; a safe haven for me to hide. I quit going to the church where my girls attended Mass, and I slumped into days of sadness and weeping. I would try to go to other churches, but would end up leaving in tears half way through Mass.
In the midst of so much inner turmoil and confusion, however, the things that I could always count on were the traditions and the prayers that Dad and Mom had taught us kids. I went to Confession often and prayed my Rosary sporadically. Many days were failures, but as I began to weave my Catholic culture in my new life I found that grace drew me closer to the Eucharist and closer to Our Lady and her Rosary.
One day my oldest daughter told me that it wasn’t fair to her and her sister that I wasn’t going to Mass. Nobody cared, she said, about the details of my life, and that while ‘everybody had failures, you just have to go to the sacraments.’
That brought me up so quickly that the next thing I knew, I was back to the sacraments at our family church.
My priest also told me that we needed to look into the annulment process to see if it was a possibility. This was not something that I took lightly, and it was five years after my divorce before I approached the Tribunal. During the time that the paperwork was on the table for the annulment, I found myself drawing even closer to the Sacraments, and I began to write poems about my Catholic life.
Joy in Life Again
I had found joy in my life again, and was content to settle down as mom and grandma, and to write about a different kind of romantic love; the true love of my life, Jesus and his church! A year later the envelope arrived from the Tribunal, but before I opened it I placed it beneath the statue of the Sacred Heart in my home and knelt down. I was at peace, and told Jesus that his will, was my will and that I would accept the outcome and continue to live my life for him. The decree of nullity had been granted, and I felt humbled and grateful.
Life continued with even more vigor as I got involved at church. I continued to attend Mass with my girls at our family parish, which was now served by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter who offer the Extraordinary Mass (Latin).
All seven of my grand babies were baptized there, and a Sacramental Catholic culture was in full force in my life. One day a priest asked me if I had considered ever marrying again, and if so, was I looking for a man who was sacramental material? So I began praying that if God had plans for me to ever marry that He would bless the man and let it happen.
Not long after this I was watching EWTN Catholic TV and the show was about an on-line dating site that was very Catholic. I listened to the priest who was discussing the site with its creator and how we should be looking for likeminded people: those who believe in the magisterium of the church and all its truths. I signed up on it, but truly did not give it much more thought for almost a year.
And then it happened…
I logged on one evening and received a message from a man in Montana.
So I went to his profile and this is what I found:
The first thing I thought was that I was safely down in Oklahoma and that I would be happy to carry on a conversation with him way up there in Montana because there was not a chance in this world that we would ever meet, let alone date or get married.
Twenty-four days later he was on my door step meeting me in person, and my entire family! We had talked almost nonstop on the phone prior to the day we met and discovered that we had so much spiritually in common such as devotion to the Eucharist, our Blessed Mother, the Holy Angels, devotion to Divine Mercy, and he was in love with the Traditional Latin Mass.
By the time Joel Doc got to Oklahoma, we just knew we belonged together. After visiting with our parish priest, Joel moved to a bed and breakfast in Oklahoma City so we could actually “date”. Our pastor, though busy in the process of building a new church in Edmond for the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, agreed to marry us as soon as the church was consecrated.
Our engagement picture.
So later that year on October 2nd, 2010, (Feast of the Holy Angels) the day after our new church(Saint Damien of Molokai) was consecrated by the archbishop, we said our vows to the delight of the standing –room-only congregation during a Solemn High Mass. Also, much to the joy of my Mom and family, Adoramus te Christe was sung!
Father Howard Remski, FSSP with us.
Working To Help Each Other To Get To Heaven
Becoming a Sacrament, being in love with Christ and working to help each other to get to heaven is our commitment. Two and a half years have gone by since we were married, and we travel back and forth from Oklahoma to Montana often. Our life is centered on God and revolves around the Catholic calendar of Sunday obligation, feasts and abstinence on Fridays. (Minus the tuna casserole!)
We have become friends with bishops, priests, nuns, and lay people who live their lives the same way and there is such a joy and peace in these friendships. With great happiness we share in the lives of my girls and their children, and we get to be a part of their Catholic lives in a big way as grandparents.
As I look back on the journey of my life, I can see God’s hand on me during the twists and the turns. In all the times I wanted to run from Him, and am so very grateful that He never let me go!
My engagement gift to Joel, full of symbolism from our lives.
Donna Sue Berry is a passionate writer and poet as well as a wife, mother and grandmother. She was born and raised in Central Oklahoma — in the heartland of America. Her early scribbles began with romantic poetry during her junior high years, but it was not until after returning to academia as a student at the age of 48 that her poetry began to deepen and truly express her deep love for her Catholic faith. She is proud of her rich Oklahoma heritage and her ancestors who made the Oklahoma Land Run of 1889. With that in mind her current body of work is a book of poetry entitled “Catholic Poems from the Heart of a Red Dirt Oklahoma Girl”.