In truth the Marian Award was a pretty rare undertaking. Even back then, when both Scouting and Catholic school education were in their heyday, not many people knew what the Marian Award was, not even among my classmates at St. Christopher's and my fellow Girl Scouts.
And yet today I discovered another Marian Award Scout,
My strongest memories are having to come inside at 3pm every Saturday to clean up and get ready for Father to come, when all my siblings and friends were still outside playing. I really wanted the Marian Award, but it was so hard to cut into Saturday play time. And I don't think Mom would have let me quit that far into the process anyhow. Nor Fr. Carroll, who enjoyed the food, and I secretly think stretched the process out longer than needed just to keep getting suppers. Did yours take over 2 years to complete, meeting weekly?
I have a photo somewhere from the newspaper of when I finally received the award. It was worth it.
Our official mentor however - all Marian Award candidates being required to pursue the award under the guidance of a priest who regularly checked our progress, - was one of our parish priests, Father Dziadoz (pronounced Jaudice).
While my friend Mel's memories of her Marion Award meetings with her priest mentor recalled to me Michelle's and my meetings with our mentor, surely Father Dziadoz's duty as the spiritual guide and scrap-book inspector for two middle-school Girl Scouts was not nearly so pleasant an experience for him as mentoring was for Mel's priest, who was rewarded weekly for his counsel with delicious home-made suppers.
I don't know or don't remember how of all the priests in our large Philadelphia parish poor Father Dziadoz got saddled with being Michelle's and my Marion Award mentor. In truth I was slightly afraid of the man - in truth I was slightly afraid of everybody back then. In truth I'm still slightly afraid of everybody - though I wasn't the only one who was slighty - or much - afraid of Father Dziadoz. Tall, thin, and austere-looking, with steel-grey hair and a foreign accent, Fr. Dziadoz was scholarly, serious, and, as all the students at St. Chrisotpher's knew, strict, and from what I'd heard, brooked no goofing off of any stripe among the altar boys.
Yet his stern reputation did not keep my friend and me from walking the two short blocks from my house, or one block from Michelle's, to the rectory regularly to meet with Father, alone and unsupervised. Our mothers had no concern with this arrangement; to the contrary, they were pleased that their young teen-aged daughters were spending so much time with the parish priest.
How times have changed.
I recall that in addition to our regularly scheduled meetings with our mentor, Michelle and I thought nothing of dropping by the rectory unannounced of an afternoon or evening if we two 13-year-olds had some thorny theological or doctrinal question that we needed Father to unravel for us, or if we just felt like walking to the rectory and dropping in for a visit, our prerogative, we assumed, as Marian Award candidates; at least until that time one evening when we dropped in unannounced and Father received us looking tired, a bit disheveled an quite grouchy. At that moment it occurred to me for the first time that maybe we shouldn't drop by the rectory unannounced anymore.
Still, in retrospect Father Dziadoz was a cerebral, conscientious - though wildly overqualified, and, fortunately for us both, always proper - mentor to my friend and I, never once signing off on our work without checking every page, even once to my sorrow when, prior to submitting my book to the Award Committee,
At first neither of us had a clue what Father was asking us. "Love?" "Honor?" "Obey?" we tried.
"No," snapped Father Dziadoz to each of our tries. "The Devil does not love, honor, or obey God. but the Devil does worship God. Now what does that mean?"
Wondering for a moment if Father might not be pulling our leg - but no, Father Dziadoz did not fool around, ever - I thought about it, and then came up with a word: "To acknowledge?"
"Yes!" Father cried, "that's what worship means! To acknowledge!" Then to me he said, "Very good."
After that I felt less scared of Father Dziadoz, feeling that we now possessed some degree of intellectual collegiality, both of us knowing what "to worship" meant.
Father Dziadoz mentored Michelle and me for the seven months that it took us to complete our Marian Award requirements, and I remember that he came to our Award ceremony and that afterwards he gave each of us a dollar bill,
But I don't recall my relationship with Father Dziadoz continuing past the day that I received my Marian Award. I believe from then on the only time I saw him was when he said Sunday Mass. Maybe I said "hello" to him after Mass. Maybe not.
However my friend Mel's relationship with her Marion Award mentor was of quite a different nature. She continued on Facebook:
Knowing that the Marian Award only took you 7 months reinforces the idea I had that Fr Carroll stretched it out on purpose to keep getting meals at our home. Our parish was a poor Appalachian parish. His “rectory” was a one room add on to the church. His bed was also his couch. His “kitchen” was a hot plate kind of thing and a dorm fridge. My Marion Award got him 2 years of good Saturday night suppers. If he could put up with a large family of yelling kids and think of extra things I “needed” to do to earn the Award. (PS: we kept feeding him after I finished the Award)
I love Mel's sweet story about her family feeding Father Carroll and he stretching out her Marion Award requirements for two years in order to continue having Saturday supper. And I'm glad Father Carroll had Mel for a protégée, even if it subsequently took her two years to complete her Award.
If Father Carroll had had Michelle and I he, too, doubtless would have pushed us through in seven months. 😉