Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these ( Mt. 19:14).
Irishwoman Frances Twoomey could have been a comedienne. With her biting wit and perfectly timed commentary about anything from the Red Sox to Church hierarchy, her irreverence shone through even in the form of her fiery red hair.
But, instead, for her entire life until she died, especially from the early 1960’s through 1990’s, spanning two generations, Sister Frances’ audience would be the hundreds of Worcester Catholic school elementary students who were lucky enough to have her as a teacher.
In the 1960’s, St. Joseph’s, now Abbey’s House on Chatham Street, was the convent from which the nuns would emerge in the morning for their short walk across the girls’ schoolyard to St. Paul’s Cathedral School.
Lines of children would wait there for the opportunity to greet their teachers, but none were so popular or beloved as was Sr. Frances. These were the days when a loving touch wasn’t taboo, so, children would rush to hug her and often she would have difficulty walking as they clung to her legs and arms. All the while she would laugh, smile and make jokes.
St. Patrick’s Day was her excuse to diverge from the regular curriculum in order to teach the all-important Irish Jig. She, herself would often demonstrate, even in the most bizarre situations.
One student recalled how embarrassed he was to have vomited on his desk in the third grade, but that Sister Frances lightened the air, making him and everyone laugh as she proceeded to do a magical jig around the mess.
Sister Frances’ love for God did not reflect a piety of quiet solemnity. Rather, hers was a unique energy and spirit which shone through in the form of light-hearted, quick-tongued humor. It was the language of children and those few adults blessed enough to have not become too serious or cynical.
Sister Frances never missed a St. Patrick’s Day Parade. One year, when she’d grown older, parade day was 70 degrees and cloudless. After the day- long event was over, she joked that she wished her hair was still so red as was her sun-burnt face.
In spite of the inclement weather forecast for today's event, the spirit of Sister Frances will be laughing as her feet fly through a happy ceremonial Irish jig.
Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 18:3).