I come to this project, with Anne, as an insider with an insider’s experience and sensibility of the small catholic community both of us grew up in. Anne’s research is about how our catholic upbringing has seeped into and shaped our intergenerational relationships with our mothers, sisters, nieces and my daughter. Unlike the other authors, Anne and I were participant researchers; the stories in her research are our stories and those of our families and friends. There is an intimacy attached to them that Anne has taken the utmost respect to represent.
I’ve known Anne for 55 years and been in contact with her continuously over that period, her invitation to work with her on this project was a gift. We had the opportunity to revisit and share understandings of events, times and experiences, everyday conversations that we’ve had over 55 years. Our talks allowed us to explore her interviews with our families and how they shifted over time. Things that weren’t discussed in the interviews 20 years ago were able to be discussed in the more recent ones, family violence, mental illness and abusive priests were examined and understood anew. The temporal dimension changed us. We’re friends with a horizontal genealogy, with shared intimate knowledge about one another’s families and friends, “retrospective narratives of the past that fit with the present”.
In this project we’ve had the opportunity to collaborate together, have discussions about our lives, our histories, the things that bind and differentiate us; of immersing ourselves in the words of our family members, of noticing the similarities and differences of one another’s memories and then tracking that as the experience unfolds, finishing one another’s sentences within churches where we grew up through rituals, in gardens we knew as children, in a convent that contained us through adolescence. This was enhanced through our experience of reading and reflecting on other women’s perspectives in the literature, watching for the resonance and variance with our memories, our conversations, families and friends’ stories, seeing how time changes those recollections while laughing or crying about them.
I’m grateful to my old mate Anne for asking me to write with her for this book. This is our cultural story, the story of our family and friends which has been so eloquently captured by Anne. Although insiders in this story we’re also outsiders in the faith and the directions our lives have taken but the last word is saved for our mothers. They might judge us as self-indulgent, drawing too much attention to ourselves, showing off, placing our lives and those of our women family members under a microscope; but alongside this we honor, Mona and Marie.