Several members have asked: "Why the name change?" since my episcopal ordination. So, here's my story:
My parents named me "Mary Eileen" when I was born. My mother wanted me to be called by that name-- both names together: Mary Eileen. When I started Catholic grade school, there were many little girls named "Mary" with all of them having a second name added to the first, e.g., Mary Ann, Mary Lou, Mary Kay, Mary Ellen, Mary Fran, Mary Bridget, etc. But of course, I didn't want to "belong" to that group! I wanted to be known, not as part of a group of girls named Mary- so-and-so, but on my own terms. Thus, l refused to sign or print my full name on any of my papers. When my mother was told about this, she simply replied that I should be allowed to determine how I wanted to be known.
Fast forward many years later, my mother died of Alzheimer's disease in January of 2012. There were many years that my family watched her slowly slip away from us. But there were also some "break through" moments that occurred. One such time, I walked into her room and there was a program on television that was reporting on the scandals within the RCC. She was sitting in her chair with tears streaming down her face, looked up at me and asked, "What is happening to my Church?" I knelt down beside her, looked into her eyes and said, "Don't worry about it Mom, I'm working on it." She took my hand and replied, "I knew I could count on you!" I consider this experience her way of affirming my journey with the ARCWP.
Time moves forward and I am elected bishop. In preparation for this, I was told to bring a ring to the ordination rite because it was part of the ceremony that I would take a ring as a sign of my role as bishop. I didn't like this part of the deal at all! I never liked all the demonstrations of special privilege or special accessorizing, etc. At one point in my deliberations on what I was going to do about this, I remembered my father giving me my mother's rings to hold for him till he decided what he would do with them. So I found the rings and dumped them on the kitchen table to look at. Out bounced the ring that we bought for my mother-- a ten jeweled ring that contained all her children's birth stones. I looked at it and understood why my father didn't know what to do with that one-- who would actually wear this now?
As I pondered this, the Spirit moved within me, and I asked my father if he would give me permission to use my mother's "mother's ring" as my bishop ring for the ordination. His eyes lit up and he immediately replied that he thought it was a wonderful idea, and that my mother would be so proud if I wore the ring.
Further reflection led me to find a way to honor my mother after all these years. "It was in the name" is all I could think about. Then I realized that to honor her life, I would sign my name as she wished, "Mary Eileen."
And so my friends, I will answer to most anything right now-- "Mary", "Mary C.", "Collingwood" or whatever; but I will always sign my name "Mary Eileen."
Wishing you all the joy and peace of this holy season,
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Our sister community in Toledo, Ohio is Holy Spirit Catholic Community.