With such an Italian last name, Mark Cardosi of Cincinnati, Ohio has a lot of explaining to do when he claims to be Irish.
His story begins at Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, where he was born to a single mother in 1957. Arriving on the shores of America on Thanksgiving Day 1958, at 13 months old, Irish baby Mark became a Cardosi.
Like baby Anthony, who later became Michael Hess in the recently released movie Philomena,Cardosi was one of hundreds adopted in the U.S. from the notorious Magdalene Laundries.
Earlier this year the Irish government released a report detailing the horrors faced by Magdalene women. Between 1922 and 1996 about 10,000 women worked in the so-called laundries, performing relentless daily chores to atone for their perceived sins.
Based on a true story, Philomena conjures up varying emotions in viewers as it follows Philomena, considered a “fallen woman” for mothering a child out of wedlock, on her quest to find the son she was forced to give up for adoption nearly 50 years earlier.
It’s important, however, to remember that Philomena tells just one Magdalene story. There are over 10,000 of them.
Cardosi’s adoptive parents have never set foot on Irish soil. In fact, there was never really any celebration of Irish culture or heritage in his home growing up.
Cardosi was, however, raised to recognize and appreciate where he was born. From as far back as he can remember, he knew he was adopted and that he was from Tipperary.
Similar to Philomena’s attitude in the film, Cardosi has no place in his heart for anger. "I don't intend to speak for all Irish adoptees, but it worked out for me,” he told the Irish Voice. “I'm not angry."
Without diminishing the awful nature in which the Magdalene laundries existed in the first place, Cardosi explains that he has nothing to be angry about.
Raised by two loving parents, Cardosi grew up with three sisters who affectionately tease him about being the turkey the family received on Thanksgiving Day.
“I was never treated differently because I was adopted,” Cardosi told the Irish Voice.
“The adoption was never a factor. My sisters argue that I got preferential treatment because I was the only boy in the house, but I will argue that until my dying day. I still had to do the dishes.”
In 1983 Cardosi married Patricia Farrell, an Irish American redhead from upstate New York.
The following year, Cardosi traveled back to Roscrea with his wife to visit Sean Ross Abbey.
"It seemed natural to go back to see the place where I was born,” he said. “It was not necessarily to find a missing piece, but more to augment what I already had."
With regards to Sister Hildegard, who is portrayed rather negatively in Philomena, Cardosi claims that she seemed to be a pleasant woman who gave him what he then considered “good counsel.”
"She told me I could do whatever search I wanted, but that I should be prepared that it was possible the people I was looking for, may not have spent a lifetime looking for me, and they may not welcome you with open arms."
While he now looks back on this and questions Sister Hildegard’s sincerity, at the time he appreciated it.
Cardosi never actually inquired about his biological family. "Until recently I’ve never really had that sensation or desire. I have parents and we've been very close. I never had a longing that part of me was lost or missing and I had to go find it," he explained.
Now that his two daughters are grown, Cardosi is finding the time and desire to embrace his Irish heritage. He is even trying to learn to speak Gaelic.
While he has not decided if he wants to pursue getting information about his biological parents, Cardosi says he is more open to the idea now than he has been in the past.
"I think they'd appreciate that gift of knowing that other aspect of their family,” he says of his daughters.
Cardosi doesn’t consider himself a banished child, as Magdalene children are so often referred to. And he feels welcome in Ireland, thinking of himself as “a man of two nations and many talents.”
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