The diocese placed me as parish priest of
St. Sebastian’s Catholic Church in Eudora, Illinois in August 1969 when
I was twenty-two years old, fresh out of the seminary. It was meant to be
a supervised placement, but the assigned priest fell ill, leaving me temporarily in charge of the small parish and elementary school.
Everything about children scared me. At the Labor Day picnic, a
child tripped over the cord to a huge coffee urn and sent the steaming
brown liquid splashing in a dozen directions. The woman at the table
jumped in alarm, then clucked and laughed about all the near-misses of
her own children.
That night, I dreamed of a young child walking out across the ice of
a pond in spring. Every time I tried to get out on the ice to save the
child, I cracked through. The child crossed the length of the pond in my
dream; I woke sweaty with my heart racing.
On the first day of school, I felt I should be back in a desk, pencils
carefully sharpened, my book bag still stiff with newness. Yet, I stood,
tall and formal, black vestments new, and collar scratchy, in the front of
the assembly. The children’s uniforms were bright and starched. I told
them I expected them to “behave for Sister Albertina,” the principal,
and led them in prayer to kick off the school year.
Then, I went back to my quiet office in the rectory. My calendar was
filled with events “Father” was expected to attend. I rearranged the
stacks of paper on my massive, antique desk for an hour or more, wondering what people would want of me and what I was meant to do on a
BY MICHELE M. FEENEY
MICHELE M. FEENEY devotes her legal practice to
mediation and arbitration. She litigated personal injury, and
professional liability cases. She is Director of Curriculum
for the Arizona Legal Center and teaches “Creative Writing
for Lawyers” at the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law.
Michele earned her B.A. degree from the University of
Michigan (1980) and her J.D. degree from the University
of Notre Dame (1983).
Michele learned to love
writing as much as reading after age forty. She
has published several
short stories and nonfiction articles; has finished
two novels—one set in
Canada almost a hundred
years ago, and the other
(co-written with Lynne K.
Love) about the world of
and is working on a
new novel. She regularly
the Key West Literary
Workshop, Writing by
Writers, and The University of Michigan’s Bear
River Conference. She
is married to Matthew P.
Feeney and the mother
of five children.