When my great-grandmother, Lulu Oberlin, was a young girl and wanted to study piano, she drove her buggy the ten miles or so from her family farm to the Ursuline convent, and used her egg money to pay the nuns for her lessons.
Lulu grew up to become Lulu Craig, stalwart of the Methodist Church (the story goes that she sailed down the street every Monday morning to offer a sermon critique to the pastor), who told her two sons about her love for the Ursulines. Her husband founded the family grain business in the early years of the 20th century.
My grandfather, Harold Craig, whom I've written about as the great storyteller he was, and my father and his brother always did business with the nuns, who ran a convent, boarding school, and farm. Eventually they all became the greatest of friends. When I appeared on the scene, I was the first girl in three generations, and I went to the Ursulines' school from grades seven through nine. Those years, so formative in anyone's life and right on the cusp of Vatican II, gave me my familiarity and comfort level with Catholicism ~ and friends for a lifetime.
The family business is gone now, and so is the boarding school. But the convent remains, albeit much reduced in number of sisters, and a small college thrives there, quite literally transforming lives of students on the edge of Appalachia, for most of whom a higher education would otherwise be completely out of reach.
The Lovely Daughter and I stopped by for a visit the day after her birthday, and I sought some advice from one of my dearest friends, Sister Agatha, about ministry in the country -- advice I may need soon! Agatha reminded us that she had first met LD exactly 24 years earlier, when she and her best friend, Sister Xavier, drove my 81-year-old grandmother to Cleveland for a day so that she could meet her brand new great-granddaughter. And here they are now, two School of the Brown County Ursulines girls -- Sister Agatha, because she graduated some 60 years ago, and my daughter, who shares an Ursuline legacy as the great-great-granddaughter of Lulu:
Agatha also showed us the gardens that my father has given in memory of our Josh; here's the plaque, which you can probably read if you click to enlarge:
Some things in our lives have been pretty awful, but we have certainly been blessed with wonderful friends.