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A Nun's Tale
by Walter B. Jackson



Growing up, most of my Sunday mornings were spent occupying a pew in the Methodist Church. However, when my friends and I were feeling particularly adventurous, we would skip Sunday school and go "window peeking" at some of the more lively services around town. We thought this was great fun and while we never got into trouble, I did occasionally have a little tinge of a guilty conscience.

I lived in a small Central Texas community that was full of Methodists, all sorts of Baptists, plus a fair share of Presbyterians, Church of Christ, Assemblies of God, a handful of Episcopalians and a few other assorted denominations. However, out of the whole menu, the Catholic Church intrigued me the most. I remember standing and looking in awe at the statue of the Virgin Mary outside the Catholic Church. Just the sight of the white marble Virgin glistening in the sunlight was almost enough to convert any nonbeliever.

Finally, when I was in junior high school, I had the opportunity to attend a mass at St. Mary's Catholic Church. The ornate design of the altar and ceremonial rituals of the priest captivated me and made quite an impression. But I was perplexed as I sat in the service. I kept trying to find a nun. Much to my dismay, I soon discovered that St. Mary's Catholic Church had none. I was disappointed because I wanted to meet a real nun.

Twenty years later, I had the opportunity. I'd taken a job with the Galveston Chamber of Commerce and was attending my first board of directors meeting. At that meeting was an impressive group of Galvestonians, but the one that stands out in my mind was the lady wearing a habit. I was enthralled with her the minute I saw her gracious manner and the twinkle in her eyes. I could not wait to meet her.

I walked over and introduced myself. She said her name was Mary Cornelius Murphy but everyone called her Sister Cornelius. She had such a calm and pleasant manner. Her demeanor completely defused my anxiety of conversing with a real live nun.

Sister Cornelius was administrator of the island's St. Mary's Hospital. Over the next few months, we worked on several community projects together. She often asked me to drive her to functions or to special dinners. As soon as the seatbelts were in place, Sister Cornelius would offer a prayer for a safe trip. I must admit, I had to kid her about her lack of confidence in my driving ability; however, I'm sure she did that with every mortal who had the privilege to chauffeur her -- and my driving probably needed an invocation for divine intervention.

On one sunny, beautiful spring day in Galveston, I was driving alone along Seawall Boulevard, enjoying the beach and the Gulf of Mexico's waters lapping upon the jetties. I was also enjoying watching this well built young lady roller skating down the seawall clad only in an itty, bitty, tinsy, wincey, yellow, polka dotted bikini (I admit I'm not real sure of the color.)

All of a sudden, I heard tires squealing. I was thrown against my steering wheel and into the windshield. The driver behind me had been admiring the roller skater, too.

I was able to get out of my car on my own. Then, after a few minutes, my back began to stiffen. I could not move my neck.

As soon as I got home, I called St. Mary's Hospital and asked if there was a doctor that could see me. They told me to come to the emergency room and someone would be there to meet me.

As soon as I arrived at the emergency room, I saw Sister Cornelius standing at the door with a wheelchair. As I expected, we had to say a little prayer before we began my short ride into the hospital. After I was checked out by the emergency room doctor and a brace was put on my neck, Sister Cornelius came back to say goodbye. She talked about my injury and told me not to worry. "I have prayed for you. You will be just fine. I think you'll have a miraculous recovery," she told me with a coy smile.

I was into my second week of muscle relaxers and neck brace when I had to go to Houston for a meeting. Running late as usual, I quickly parked on the second level of the parking garage. Being my normal scatter-brained self, and trying to hurry, I carelessly tried to jump over a retaining wall. I lost my balance and fell to the lower level. During the fall, my neck twisted and popped like a cannon. I immediately got up, brushed myself off and sheepishly looked around to see if anyone had seen me fall. Fortunately for my ego, I was the only one there in the quietness of the parking lot.

Confident that my mishap had not been witnessed by anyone else, I began to walk to the neighboring office building. Suddenly, a strange feeling came over me. I felt totally relaxed. I took my neck brace off, shook my head, and there was no pain. I did it a second time to convince myself all the stiffness and soreness had vanished.

Then, I paused a moment and began to smile as I had a flashback to Sister Cornelius' prayer.

Now, I know why I was attracted to the Catholic Church, that glistening statue of the Virgin Mary, and the nuns who do such wonderful work.

I, too, believe in miracles.

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Biographical Information:

Walter B. Jackson holds a B. A. in Political Science from the University of Houston. Walter lives in Mexia, Texas, where he teaches English and Spanish at Coolidge High School.

Walter spent most of his professional life as a chamber of commerce executive in the Gulf Coast Region of Texas. He served as president of the Humble, Conroe, and Galveston Chambers of Commerce, and later as Director of International and Domestic Business for the Greater Houston Partnership.

Read more of Walter Jackson's stories at USADS:
Uncle Buck
My Sunny Friend
Mother Goose and Me



Read many more great stories listed on our USADS Articles pages.

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