The Power of Prayer, Gratitude and Mum’s Chicken Soup
by Cathy Sullivan
One of my earliest memories growing up in St. Patrick’s parish was walking past the church one day with my Mum in 1963 when she decided to pop in, light a candle and say a few prayers for her relatives in Ireland. I was 7 years old.
Mum came to Hamilton in the mid 1950’s from Northern Ireland and met our Dad who came over from Scotland around the same time. They both grew up in families that struggled to make ends meet back in the “old country” so they both had to quit school after grade 8 to work and help support their families. They came to Hamilton looking for a better life and got married in 1956 at St. Patrick’s Church. Dad found work at Stelco and Mum was busy with 4 kids, but she always managed to find a part time job and also volunteered ironing the priests’ vestments.
We lived in the Stinson neighbourhood so St. Patrick’s became our Parish. Mum taught us that God always listens when we pray, especially to children, so I prayed for a baby sister as Mum was expecting and I already had two younger brothers. God didn’t answer my Prayers and gave me another little brother. I was a bit disappointed but I grew to love him as much as I did my other brothers. Going to school at St. Pat’s, we lived at the church as there was always something to celebrate and Mum would always encourage us to offer up the mass to those less fortunate than us.
As kids we were so happy and thought that the whole world was street after street like ours. Mum and Dad were very frugal and decided that we didn’t need a car because we lived on a bus line. When Stelco went on strike we were given food vouchers and Mum found Dad a job as a Security guard. We were very proud of him and although our parents struggled to make ends meet, we never went hungry because there was always Mum’s chicken soup. I would sit in our small kitchen and watch her make the soup and chat her ear off. In hindsight I don’t think she was listening to every word, but with the smell of her delicious soup in the air, my brothers and I felt so loved.
As a young teenager I prayed for a part time job so I wouldn’t have to wear my cousins hand me downs anymore, though Mum probably would not have approved of these prayers. Finally, I was hired by a home for physically and mentally challenged young children where I had already volunteered at for three years. I loved the children that I worked with and prayed for them often. While I was grateful for hand me downs, I didn’t have to wear them anymore.
In High School I prayed that I would find a rewarding career path. After years of bathing, feeding and caring for the young children at the home, who I would often go visit in hospital when they were sick, I decided that I couldn’t wait to become a nurse. I prayed every shift for God’s help with the patients and He listened.
As a young student nurse, I prayed for a boyfriend. I ended up falling in love with a kind, smart and slightly nerdy young man who I met in the hospital cafeteria in 1976. He came disco dancing with my friends and I all summer, however I claimed he wasn’t my type. But he was!
Fast forward, we have been happily married for 37 years and have been blessed with three lovely daughters who we pray for every day just like our Mum did for us. Two years ago, I prayed that I would find a rewarding volunteer position. I reconnected with old friends from St. Pat’s and once a week have been happily making my Mum’s chicken soup with love for our friends who come to De Mazenod Door. There is often disco music playing in the background! It has been an enlightening and humbling experience. I am so grateful to our parents for giving us the best childhood that they could and for teaching us to have Faith in the power of prayer. Pray, be grateful for everything, and please help those who struggle if you can.