My name is Pat Ball. I graduated from college with a degree in Psychology. Later I earned a Masters degree in Counseling and then became an RN. My intention was always to do psychiatric nursing. I am very fortunate to have been able to do that work throughout my career, never having a job in which I was unhappy. For the last 25 years of my career, I worked for the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center and managed the clinical trials which centered on treatments for people with schizophrenia. In my retirement, I still work there part time. I also do volunteer work for a wonderful hospice in our area. I am an avid sports fan and LOVE music, particularly I love to dance. Music feeds my soul.
Response to Week 1 Prompt
I was born into a devout Catholic family in Baltimore, Maryland. I was the oldest of 6 children. I went to Catholic School in the parish where my maternal uncle served as the parish priest. My parents were extremely loving and supportive, but also very rigid in their beliefs during that time. My picture of God was that of a disciplinarian. All of my education has been in Catholic schools from first grade through college. However, my view of and relationship with God has evolved over the years.
Starting with my sophomore year in high school, when I lived in Florida, I began to develop my own Catholic identity because we had no family ties there. I was seen as Mary Pat Fromm as opposed to being Fr. Moran’s or Sister Gonzaga’s niece. Thanks to my wonderful school friends and the School Sisters of Notre Dame, I began to see God as something more than a disciplinarian. The road ahead was a little bumpy, though. After high school, I entered the School Sisters of Notre Dame, finished my postulancy and had almost completed my novitiate when I began to question my vocation. My superior, whom I sought for guidance, instead questioned my motives and, in my private meetings with her, made me feel very uneasy. I left the order and had a difficult year adjusting. It wasn’t until I switched to a different college and found a very supportive community of friends there, that I again felt free to develop into the Christian person I hoped to be.
Once again after graduation from college and beginning employment at a Catholic psychiatric hospital, I found myself dealing with religious who were rigid and not compassionate toward the young adolescents with whom I worked. I was fired from that job because I was seen as being “too friendly with the adolescent patients”. I felt that the nuns treated the adolescents as immoral, rather than as mentally ill. The fact that I gained their trust meant to the nuns that I must be immoral as well. The grace during this period was that it was during that time that I met the man who was to become my husband and became connected to another group of loving supportive people, many of whom were ex-religious or seminarians. It was only through this group of people that I became familiar with issues of social justice and the Christian calling that had only been sporadically a part of my formal Catholic education.
There was a period of time when I made the decision to leave the practice of my Catholic faith in order to discern whether I was a true believer or just conditioned to be a Catholic. After a couple of years as a part if this network of people who were Catholic and truly acted as Jesus taught us to act that I returned to the church. This all happened during the time of Martin Luther King and the riots following his death. I was determined from that point forward to fight for justice, equality for all, and peace.
Since then I have been actively engaged in a parish in Baltimore, which is an intentional community whose primary mission is social justice. We are a church who is run collaboratively by our pastor and the community. We are diverse and well educated in the history and teachings of our church, but do not feel compelled to act in accordance with the demands of the hierarchy, if we are not convinced that those demands are consistent with what Jesus asked of us. All are welcome in our church. We have lay preachers, including women, and a majority of our community have an active role in our liturgies and/or committees. All decisions made that affect us are made collaboratively. I am active on several committees, including liturgy and church reform. My desire to see major reform in the patriarchal church, which includes increased roles for the laity and collaborative decision making at all levels is what has brought me to this group.
At this point in my life, I do not feel the call to the deaconate, but would love to see that as a possibility for anyone who does feel that call. We are at a crossroads on our reform committee and are trying to discern what will be our next steps in working for church reform. I want to discern for myself what I see as my role and hope that I can be a catalyst for further action by our church committee. That committee has since spread to a larger network within our archdiocese and that network has established connections with other committees in several other archdiocese along the east coast. This is a hopeful sign for me and this workshop has given me additional hope at a time when I was beginning to lose some hope.
As I have been reading and contemplating, I can’t help but feel that the Spirit has been alive during this pandemic. For many months, although there were many interested in this group, our Zoom meetings were attended by only a few people, mostly because of varying time conflicts. Now that we have been given this time, look how many more of us have been able to connect and how could we all have had the time for an intense five week journey such as this one? We are blessed. May this time be fruitful for us all.