A Letter to My Granddaughter on the Feast of St. Mary of Magdala

By Gloria Ulterino

Gloria Ulterino, an active Catholic laywoman, is a preacher, storyteller, and leader of the Women of the Well storytelling group in Rochester, New York. The views expressed in this letter are her own.

Dearest Kayla,

     My precious granddaughter, my very first grandchild, how I hold you in my heart, on the cusp of your adulthood.  At the same time, I often remember thinking, “she’s 6, going on 40.”  Yes, you’ve always been a remarkable child, one so easy to love, so easy to imagine and desire what is best for you.  Not only are you bright, a young woman of many gifts, but you have an enormous heart for people, especially for the ones who need a leg up.  At age 14, you even insisted you had to be part of the church trip to Malawi (with your mother, for you were too young to go by yourself) and help build the foundation of a school.  Everyone needs an education, you proclaimed.   And here you are!  Off to college at the end of August, full of your own hopes and dreams!

     What do I see for you at this moment?  Given my background, I cannot help but make comparisons between you and Mary of Magdala.  She, too, must have been a remarkable young woman.  She, too, must have been bright and caring, one in whom Jesus saw so much potential for good.  She, too, we are told, had been very ill.  Yes, you have come through a difficult illness by the grace of God, your mother’s tenacity, a fine doctor, and many prayers.  I cannot help but believe that this will make you an even better person, as a result. 

     While I know that you follow Jesus, it is not the Roman Catholic Church that is your faith home.  For some good reasons, your parents left this church I love for another.  Yet, just a few days ago, I asked you what could draw you to the church that is my home, assuring you, at the same time, that I was not pushing you to return to my church.  Immediately you responded: inclusivity, in all ways, toward all people.  Inclusivity of women, LGBT people, everyone!  You would want this church to see the gifts in people, as Jesus saw them in Mary of Magdala, delight in them, and call them forth for the service of others.  You would want this church to be transparent in all their actions, always for the good of our world.  You didn’t say this, but I can: you would wish a heart for the Roman Catholic Church as immense as yours.

     Kayla, I know you’ll find your way.  My heart would wish it could be in the Roman Catholic Church because you would bring so much good to this faith home of mine.  But I let you go, profoundly hoping that the Church for my Daughters will wake up, very soon, to all that contemporary Mary of Magdalas – just like you - can offer.  My profound hope is that it won’t continue to lose so much good, but will repent.  My profound hope is that this Church I love will gratefully call forth gifts wherever and in whomever they are to be found.  Then, and only then, can we truly celebrate the Feast of Mary of Magdala!        

                                                                                             With love always,

                                                                                              Nana Gloria