The population f Westfield in the 1960’swas rapidly changing and what once had been predominantly a Protestant community had a growing influx of Catholic and Jewish citizens. Due to this fact many of the marriages performed in Holy Trinity Parish were referred to as “mixed marriages”, The Roman Church required that the non Catholic party be interviewed by the Priest and had to sign a document regarding the conditions for a “mixed Marriage”. Many of those involved in these marriages had never had personal contact with a priest, and unfortunately as with most human beings had been exposed to a lot of myths.
In all honesty I thought that there was a degree of arrogance on the part of my church insisting on certain agreements; for instance that any children of these unions must be raised as Catholics. It seemed to me that there was an infringement on someone raised in other cultures and religions.However, initially I had already rocked the boat as one who did not play by the rules, so despite my convictions went along with the game plan.
In order that the person being involved in the process feel less threatened I usually began the session as far away from the problematic areas and tried to establish human rapport. Talking about where they group up and what schools they attended were very non threatening and hopefully would at least take away from some of the apprehension that existed with someone who had no or little contact with a catholic priest.
One cold and windy night I was to go through the forms with a young woman whose fiancée was a graduate of the Naval Academy and due to his assignment at sea could not attend the meeting. He was to return in two weeks and the wedding was planned for the following May. The young woman was extremely nervous and I gathered she was initially surprised that I was not a Devil with horns. My attempts to break the ice regarding her background were met with basically one word answers regarding her family and upbringing in the South. I thought perhaps she would feel more comfortable speaking about her intended. I began with a simple question by asking “How long is your fiancé’s furlough?” She seemed startled and somewhat embarrassed.” I think it’s about seven inches.” I almost fell off the chair and when I gained my composure I tried to clarify the question but I am sure that when she arrived back in Tennessee the rest of her family had another reason to distrust Catholics.