Wednesday, August 25, 2010

St. Ursula (fifth century)

"These children are ungrateful little bastards," said Father Shea. "I've devoted my life to this and for what?"
Just out of college, I worked as a teacher at a Roman Catholic junior high school in Central Falls. Most of the children were from low income families. One student's father was killed in a drug deal.
I was young and had the energy to deal with teenage antics. But, on some afternoons, I'd go home upset and concerned for many of the children because I knew they didn't have food for dinner or a happy home life.
I was shocked by Father Shea's words since I was naive and never heard a priest speak that way. He warned me not to get too involved in what went on with the students outside of school. And I listened to him.
To compensate for what I felt was a lack of attention to the children, I took them on educational and fun field trips and devoted my time to teaching them. One parent in particular told me her daughter received the best grades in her life with me as her teacher.
Many years later, while I was walking down Thayer Street in Providence, I saw Father Shea. When I stopped to say hello I noticed he was drunk and holding a beer bottle. His speech was slurred.
Shortly thereafter, I read his obituary in the newspaper. He was only in his 40s when he died.
So much time has gone by, but Father Shea still comes to mind. I wish I had known he was troubled because maybe I could have gotten him help. Someone else might say that perhaps he wouldn't have wanted it and it was his fate to die the way he did.
St. Ursula is a patron saint of Catholic education. Her story is so much a legend that she was removed from the Calendar of Catholic saints in 1969. She remains in the Roman Martyrology.
St. Ursula was a princess who lived in the 5th century. Trying to avoid marriage to a pagan man, she stole away for what she thought would be several years with 11,000 maidens.
In 451, on their way through Cologne, France, the beautiful, young virgins were massacred by pagan Huns. The Basilica to St. Ursula in Cologne is believed to hold her relics and those of her companions.
St. Ursula's feast day is Oct. 21

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