The holy squad of women who nurtured my faith

By Christopher Smith SJ, 21 July 2021
Parishioners during Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Wentworthville. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


“Vee ah closing ze doors now,” instructed Hilde, a terrifying, 5 foot tall German octogenarian. She had no patience for my dad who was waiting for me to leave the church. “Vee ah closing ze doors now,” she repeated, as she bolted the massive doors of the Basilica—the church in which I received all my sacraments. As on every night at 8:45PM sharp, she shooed out lingering parishioners, checked for any street people hiding in the confessional, and closed the doors.

Hilde was a part of a gang of old folks who were at the Basilica whenever its doors were open. She, Shirley, and a few other folks made a holy hour every night prior to closing the church, faithfully reading their binder of devotions. With monotone voice, they rattled through the rosary and other devotions, always finishing with a Bing Crosby crooner, “Good Night Sweet Jesus.”

Hilde, Sylvia, Theresa, Fern, Marjorie and Joan all passed away over the years along with others whose stories are too many to tell. Every time I came home to church during college or afterwards, it seemed a little emptier and a little less like home.

Wherever the Eucharist is, however it is celebrated, received and adored, there too, are all of the saints. Our loved ones, and not so loved ones, the ones we’d expect, and the ones that we never would have imagined, join us in the love which they showered us with on Earth. Our bond with them, with all the saints, is so real and strong that even Hilde in her five foot heavenly glory cannot close ze doors between us.

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A native of Western North Carolina, Christopher Smith was raised Quaker but converted to Catholicism after becoming captivated by the beauty of his local church. He was drawn to the Society of Jesus by reading Walter Ciszek’s “With God in Russia.” By God’s grace, he entered novitiate in 2015. Currently, he teaches biology and chemistry as a first year regent at Gonzaga College High School in Washington DC. He enjoys (very) long walks, trying to “teach” himself piano (sometimes), and getting lost in Wikipedia rabbit holes about scientific/Catholic minutiae.

With thanks to The Jesuit Post, an online media platform that offers a Jesuit, Catholic perspective on the contemporary world, published by America Media, and Christopher Smith SJ, where this article originally appeared.


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