This beautiful, terrifying world welcomed me in Longbranch, a small town on the Jersey shore, or “shawh,” as the natives say. My New Yorker parents and their three-year-old were about to head home from a seashore vacation, but I decided to come two weeks early. Apparently I preferred the sea to the city for a grand entrance. A year later a promotion for my father landed our family in Cleveland where my sister and I grew up. Weekly trips to the library with my mother seduced me and I soon fell in love with reading. I then wanted to graduate from reading books to writing them so I began to compose only to discover words did not lie passively waiting to be owned. They were those incorrigible eels that sometimes tortured the writer. Still my passion for writing grew. After elementary school I attended Notre Dame Academy, and found we were a perfect fit. My classical education — at the hands of a challenging and demanding female faculty — prompted me to emulate these model educators. As a result I joined their convent and embraced life as a nun in one of the most strict convents in the United States. During my early years I received a B.A. from Notre Dame College in Ohio, and an M.A. from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. My early career consisted of teaching literature and language skills to high school students for six years, followed by a six-year stint as high school principal, then two years as Academic Dean of a small liberal arts women’’s college in Cleveland. The social and religious changes, eg. the Civil Rights Movement, and the self-evaluation by the Catholic Church under the leadership of Pope John XXIII in the early 60′s, however, made me question the relevance of my life as a nun, to that of the human community as a whole. Nine other nuns and I finally left and founded a new experimental community in Pueblo, Colorado. As it turned out this “Community of Christian Service” was to be temporary and in the end served merely as a transition to finding our place in the world. In Pueblo we encountered the insightful Bishop Charles Buswell, and a group of priests dedicated to updating the Church by focusing on peace and justice. One of those priests was Father Jerry Kiefer. To be brief: we gradually fell in love and married. [A more detailed account of that period of my life appears in Beyond Unveiling, the manuscript of my memoir that is circulating].
After leaving the convent I applied — unsuccessfully — to wait tables, but did secure jobs cleaning houses and going door to door as a Fuller Brush girl[sic]. But the next three years found me back in education, teaching English at the then Colorado State College in Pueblo. Once married, Jerry and I moved to Greeley where for 30 years I held a position on the faculty at the University of Northern Colorado, teaching English and, later, courses in Women’s Studies. After we both retired we headed for the mountains, settling in the small community of Evergreen where I have pursued my writing vocation. I’ve also indulged my passion for empowering survivors of domestic violence through weekly writing sessions, similar to those I had facilitated for fifteen years at A Woman’s Place in Greeley; for ten at Gateway in Denver. Currently I facilitate the poetry group at PeaceWorks in the small town of Bailey. This type of writing program is surprisingly easy to launch, and an extremely rewarding experience.
I like to tell friends that the best decision I made in my life was to marry Jerry Kiefer; the second best, to have left the convent; the third, to have entered it!