Praying to a Different Holy Mother

From praying to the Virgin Mary to praying to our own blessed Mama — how prayer has changed in our lifetimes.

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Amy, Nancy and Betty Harrington at Nancy's First Holy Communion c. 1971, Braintree, Massachusetts
Amy, Nancy and Betty Harrington at Nancy's First Holy Communion c. 1971, Braintree, Massachusetts

As young sisters, growing up in a Boston suburb in the ’60s and ’70s, we were raised in the Roman Catholic Church. We went to St. Francis of Assisi school, studied Catechism in the first class of every day, went to confession and mass every Friday with the whole school, sang in the choir on special occasions and dutifully memorized every prayer and hymn we could. We even had a statue of the Virgin Mary in our bedroom and held our on May procession every day after school in the spring month to crown the Blessed Mother with a wreath of plastic flowers.

Our own mother, Betty, was a very devout Catholic and we always did what we could to honor her and her beliefs. She was a kind, loving woman, who got a great sense of peace attending services and being part of the community. Catholicism was a big part of our foundation. In the eight years we studied at St. Francis, we learned a lot from the nuns — the importance of kindness, practical studying habits, the proper way to diagram a sentence and, of course, the practicality of Catholic guilt.

But as we got older, we became what many call “Fallen-Away Catholics.” Many of the tenants are still there, buried deep down. We believe in a higher power, the guidance of angels and importance of loving our fellow man. We still follow the Ten Commandments, but probably couldn’t recite them all. But we also became very aware of policies and practices of the church that did not mesh with our own. We can still recite most of the mass, but we don’t end up there every Sunday… or even every holiday. 

As for praying, that fell away, too. Until we lost our beloved mother. In 1994, she was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 64 and she passed less than two months later. We held her funeral mass at St. Francis Church and have never gone back.

But, we have prayed pretty much every day since her death. We don’t pray to a god that we learned about at St. Francis. Instead, we pray to Mama. She gives us strength in tough times. She sends us signs when we are feeling lost. She reminds us she is there when we are doing something that we know she would enjoy. She helps us find misplaced keys and makes sure we don’t mess up the family recipe for Easter Pizza. 

Her spirit remains around us daily and we constantly ask her never to leave. It’s been almost 26 years since she left this earth, but we know she is with us and hears our prayers. 

Sisters Amy and Nancy Harrington have been inspired by the #MeToo movement and #TimesUp campaign and decided to use their skills as celebrity interviewers to work to tell a different kind of story. Where many podcasters reserve their airtime for the elite, Amy and Nancy are talking to amazing women you probably haven’t heard of, who are making a huge difference by following their passions. From the founder of a successful ice cream company to a volcano scientist running for office to an artist who makes sculptures using melted down nuclear weapons, Amy and Nancy shine a light on the positive stories of women on The Passionistas Project Podcast and the newly launched Passionistas Project Pack.

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