Being a young boy in Lilly gave me such a tremendous amount of joy. I tried to determine one remembrance that would stand above all the rest.
Most of you might think that it would be sports-related. I had plenty of those, but when I thought about joy, it took me back to St. Brigid’s Church — and School — and Convent — and one aspect of my life that was enriched from first grade through college.
I learned to play the piano in grades 1 through 8 because of the patience of the nuns of the St. Joseph’s order. They taught me lessons in the convent, and those are still special to me.
I cannot remember all of them, but Sister Angela (later Sister Mary Louise) was one of my favorites. I think that Sister Marion taught me one year and Sister George another one. Sister Theresa Clare, who was a native of Lilly, taught me in at least two of those summers.
However, the music that was so special to me during those years happened on Christmas Eve. One of the Sisters would direct the choir, and at midnight mass that night, we would be dressed in some great finery by the sisters, with black robes and white surplices and beautiful red bow ties, and we would silent march through the darkened church.
Only the candles gave us light, and we would gather around the manger and sing the favorite Christmas hymns. I still remember the chills that would go up and down my spine as we did so.
After that, we would file out of the church and go upstairs to the gallery where the organ was located. Granted, we were probably falling asleep during part of this since we were not used to these hours, but the sister used to keep us focused.
Unfortunately, I did that for only four years because my voice started changing in sixth grade and I was no longer a male soprano. However, in eighth grade, Father Curran asked the nuns if they had enough piano students who would be interested in playing the organ.
They did, and I became a church organist that year through high school and many of my college years.
In addition, I also loved the fact that I had a solo in the Cambria County Chorus in 1964. That was indeed special, too.
So, the beauty of music is what I remember most about my youthful years in Lilly. Yes, we had so many opportunities in Lilly, and I have a slew of other special memories of Lilly, but those musical experiences are the most special ones that I remember about that special little community six decades later.