Finnegan's Awakeby Megan Finnegan
- Dialed down St. Patrick's Day
- A first time for everything
- Talking religion in 2011
- The uncertainty of prayer
- Smithsonian should have kept "ant-covered Jesus"
Growing up Irish Catholic in New Jersey during the 90's did not make me stand out. I had lots of Protestant friends and one Jewish classmate, but just as many families in my neighborhood were Catholic. For St. Patrick's Day, my mom made me and my sister leprechaun shirts out of iron-ons and puffy paint, complete with buttons sewn in that played "When Irish Eyes are Smiling." At college, which was Lutheran by historical affiliation and Jewish by student population, I relished the 9PM Sunday Masses held in the dim Chapel, far away from the overly cheerful and bright Christian service in the afternoon. I, unlike my ancestors, could afford to be proud of my Irish Catholic heritage, and never felt like a minority.
Then I found myself living in London for a semester, and suddenly, I was in the minority. Don't get me wrong - southeast London is no bastion of old English Protestantism, though there were many Methodist churches in the area. There were also Egyptian and Ethiopian immigrants and their children, first generation British citizens, walking to mosque in the evenings. There was no Catholic church. This shocked me. Even on vacation in Disneyworld there had been a nearby Catholic church! I had assured my anxious father that I would find a church straight away and fit weekly Mass into my schedule. My dad's philosophy was that as long as he was paying my way in life, I was to attend Mass every week without fail. He didn't ask for a tally and had no way of knowing when I skipped at college, but being in another country, away from everything else familiar, made me determined to stick to his mandates.
I attended the student fair held in the Union at Goldsmiths College, where I was registered for the semester, and searched for a man in a collar, or at least a sweetly dorky group of students who constituted the Catholic Students' Association. Instead, I found a table marked "Religion" and asked the guy where I could find a Catholic Mass in these parts. He directed me to a regular street address and told me to be there at 5:15PM that Sunday.