Posted by: Maryann McCullough | April 1, 2012

Story for April 2012



When I recall my childhood home, it is the three story on the corner of Franklin and Oak in River Forest that comes to mind.

There were other houses up and down the street owned by Murphys and Kennedys and Careys and such that were home to large Catholic families, I believe ours took the prize for Catholicity because, well, Blessed Mother lived there

 My mother was ahead of her time in her appreciation of the sacred feminine. Blessed Mother claimed more wall space than Jesus, especially in the living room where more than forty framed images of Mary adorned the wall above our sofa. She was not the only evidence of piety in the living room. A large beautiful glass cabinet held statues of saints – close to forty of those as well. I was generally anything but a smartass as a child, but when we children actually went into our living room I would sometimes genuflect ― ­a gentle nudge at the piety of the place.

 But Mary wasn’t just a living room sort of person. She was present in the heart and hub of the house – the kitchen. A blue and white porcelain statue of the virgin holding a loaf of bread stood on the counter near the sink.         

Blessed Mother appeared comfortable in the outdoors in all kinds of weather.  Her three foot statue stood right in the middle of the birdbath which was right in the center of our large backyard. She survived not only all manner of weather, but games involving balls in motion, and even an out-of-control car that drove through our hedge and planted itself just feet from Mary’s position of honor.

The girls’ bedrooms occupied the second floor of out home. We were five sisters and I think each of us had a small statue of Mary, which in the month of May became a shrine fronted by a drinking glass filled with whatever flowers the neighborhood provided. I would gather a handful of violets,  place their little stems in a water-filled shot glass in front of my Blessed Mother.

The boys (There were five brothers as well.) lived on the third floor. I avoided going up there and don’t know if Blessed Mother ever made it up all those stairs.

Sometimes in addition to the many images of Mary that were a permanent part of our home, we had a very special meeting with Mary. The “traveling virgin” came and a shrine was set up in our home, complete with vases of roses and gold lame cloth backdrop. Neighbors came and we prayed the rosary together.

Now my mother was a woman who did things in a big way. Big house. Big family. She wore big hats and when she consented to a dog, we bought a Great Pyrenees, a really big dog. So the omnipresent Marian focus of our home is not surprising. My mother claimed Blessed Mother as her best girlfriend.  Not surprising we saw so much of her.

What I am finding interesting is that I am my mother’s daughter. 

If you walk into my living room, on the wall facing the street you will find a collection of images of the Blessed Mother. My collection began one summer when son Michael was in Argentina, son Casey was in Spain and son Colin was in Russia . Independently each son chose to bring a surprise gift to me on his return stateside and, with no coordination involved, each chose an image of Blessed Mother. And then, as their world travel ventures continued, Madonnas from Africa and China and so on were added to the collection, which now fills a good portion of the wall.

Mary is not without a place to enjoy the Arizona sun as well. The Christmas that Michael surprised me with a four foot tall Lady of Guadalupe, Colin did the same with a competitively-sized Miraculous Medal statue. Each is now nestled in greenery and seemingly happy beneath our sunny skies.

 And so, I look around and realize that with no intent or agenda or  (alas) piety on my part, I have become my mother. Well, at least I have her Catholic home.

To those who knew my mother, my reference to her as a really pushy broad shows no disrespect. She was a person who made things happen.  So, as I ponder this really Catholic house that is my home, I can’t help but wonder. With her demise, did my mother still want Blessed Mother to take care of me? Did she whisper to her grandsons that I needed those statues and images of “her girlfriend” to be on lookout, to keep an eye on her first-born daughter way out there in Arizona?

Wouldn’t surprise me.



  1. Thanks for sharing this story of your mom’s house and all the Marian images. I think I would have loved her house as I love yours. Mary is one of my girlfriends too.

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