PILGRIMS IN BABYLON (MEMORIES OF IRISH COMMUNITY IN PROTESTANT IOWA TOWN)/
IN 6 PARTS
This piece is in the Natl. Archives of Ireland.
We didn’t see ourselves as slaves, but as the people who knew God’s private Name, in an alien country, surrounded by outsiders insensitive or contemptuous of the true religion.
Cresco was county seat, with about 3000 people: Scandinavians, Germans, Irish, Bohemians, and Britishers.
The town was dominated by a few Scotch-Mason lawyers and bankers. (My father feared an international conspiracy, involving as usual Jews and Communists—but untypically he saw these groups as dupes: the conspiracy was ruled by Scotch Masons.)
This town had 2 large Catholic churches, three blocks apart with about 500 parishioners in each—with 2 separate schools. One parish was mainly German. The other—Assumption--, run completely by the Irish, included some subdued Bohemians.
The Archbishop in Dubuque saw these 2 parishes as inefficient and once proposed a merger. The Germans noted that the Irish never paid their church debt—if cornered, they would merge instead with the German Lutherans. But later, the bishop sneakily installed a half-breed priest in each parish. By 1950 the 2 schools, at least, had merged.
Today Cresco has only 1 priest; he says early Mass at Assumption, then later Mass at St. Joseph’s, the German Church.
The Irish school had included a high-school, but the German school ended in 8th grade.
I was one of the first Assumption 8th-graders who dared to go to public high-school.
The priest roared up to warn of damnation—he sometimes refused Communion to defaulting parents.
My mother pointed out
a) that canon law didn’t require you to go to an INFERIOR Catholic school;
and (b) that the German priest encouraged his youth to go to the public high-school, so he didn’t have to pay Assumption tuition. “I find it hard to believe,” mother said, “that a mortal sin on one side of town is an act of virtue 3 blocks away.”
The priest fled.