Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

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Isadora‘s Secret by Mardi Link

Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli - October 19th, 2009
A Nun Meets a Tragic End in Isadore’s Secret
Isadore’s Secret
Mardi Link
U of M Press

By Elizabeth Buzzelli 10/19/09

In 1907 a young nun was murdered and buried beneath Holy Rosary Church in the Leelanau County village of Isadore. Isadore’s Secret, by true-crime writer, Mardi Link, captures the despicable crime, and extends the fascination, disgust, and sadness to yet another generation.
It was the summer of 1907. Sister Janina, 33, disappeared from the convent in the bucolic village of Isadore, a town of Polish immigrants devoted to family, priest, and their church. At that time the clergy held sway over people who were superstitious, uneducated, and—like small towns everywhere—inundated with gossip. Rumors ran through town. It was said the nun had run off, leaving the convent because she was unhappy with her life there. Soon it was rumored that she was pregnant.
Father Andrew, the parish priest, searched frantically for her. He hired a bloodhound and a detective. He went from house to house. He contacted anyone who might know of her whereabouts. From that day onward, Father Andrew acted like a man possessed; like a man unable to believe what had happened in his own parish, and like a man with secrets so huge one lifetime wouldn’t be enough to contain them.
Years later. A new priest has been assigned to Holy rosary, Father Edward—with moral lapses of his own. Father Andrew has been sent off into one of the limbos of the Catholic Church—passed from parish to parish, not settling into his own church for years, and never able to shrug off the scandal of Holy Rosary and Isadore. The new priest wanted to build a tall, red brick edifice that would do him and the community proud. There was one problem. Another priest whispered to him, “What will you do about the bones buried in the basement?”

With that the secret of Isadore began to unravel. A poor woman’s live burial came to light, and the sins and omissions of the Church and the men and women who were a part of it slowly surfaced.
What Link has shown so well is that there isn’t one person to be blamed in this crime. Although someone was arrested, tried, and convicted—it wasn’t the work of only that woman. At least not morally. Certainly Father Andrew, the tortured priest, has his share to answer for; also the priest who gossiped about a confession which should have been sealed in the confessional; also the daughter who lied on the witness stand, and members of law enforcement who might have tortured the accused—or not. And then there are lawyers who should have been devoted to truth rather than to the man who paid them.
The nuns, who were at the convent when Sister Janina disappeared, were never called to testify as to what the church, and the charged housekeeper, were like at the time; what they knew of an affair between Father Andrew and the nun. Since Father Andrew paid for his housekeeper’s legal defense, and eventually got her sentence commuted with the kind of fervor only a man with a heavy conscience might display, it is still a mystery what he knew, when he knew it, and if he could have stopped any of the events.

Lying and hiding the truth helped no one—not in the end. The lives of two priests were ruined—and probably for good cause. A murderer paid only a small part of her sentence for her heinous crime. Questions were left unanswered which haven’t gone away. It seems Sister Janina’s soul is not at rest despite the moment in the courtroom when a nun demanded attention.
“Judge,” said a female voice from the gallery, “may we have a moment with our Sister?” With every pair of eyes upon her, Mother Antonia stood and faced Judge Mayne. Following the quiet sister came others. Sixteen of her Sisters stood and filed silently to the front of the room, circled the table where the skeleton lay, and clasped each other’s hands. Their shoulders heaved with silent weeping, and Mother Antonia led them in the recitation of their ritual prayer for the dead.
This was all the ceremony Sister Janina was ever to receive.
In the 1970s, Michigan playwright, Milan Stitt, who had once studied for the priesthood, wrote a Broadway play called The Runner Stumbles, about a priest and a nun, who fall in love. The nun is soon pregnant, then murdered. The priest was tried for her murder. Stitt admitted the play was based on a true Michigan crime. The play became a film with Dick Van Dyke playing the priest. Again, it is the priest who is charged with the crime of passion—killing the nun when she revealed her secret because he couldn’t face what he’d done and the man that he’d become.
Link, after listing the sources she consulted, the reams of records she went through, the people she talked to, has sifted through the myths and the facts, coming up with what is a credible account of the nun’s murder and the people responsible—some in small part, some in large. The story isn’t only sad, but contains much of human failing in the face of solemn vows, and much of men in power using that power in cruel and deceitful ways to protect themselves and the institution they served. But the book isn’t an indictment of the Church—the priests involved are few. It certainly isn’t an expose of the people of Isadore, who were more duped than involved with what happened there. It is more a chronicle of men, only too human, fighting demons far beyond them.
Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli can be reached at ebuzzelli@aol.com

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