Last Friday would have been the 93rd birthday of my mother, Mary Elizabeth Evans.

Many of you have read my “After Coming Out, I Came Home” story, which is featured on this site as well as a number of others. In it, I allude to my mother, who for a number of years was herself away from the Church and on a very real spiritual quest. She did so at a time (late 1960s) when in a small town (population 2500 counting cats and dogs!) it was not exactly popular to move away from Rome for any reason or for that matter whatever faith you were raised in.

Mary Elizabeth Evans, January 9, 1922 - March 18, 1991
Mary Elizabeth Evans, January 9, 1922 – March 18, 1991

Scandals flourish in villages where every person knows the whereabouts and activities of all the rest who live there. While I now do not agree with her original decision to leave, I will always admire her willingness to be rebuffed and at times even shunned or ridiculed in her sincere search for truth, which led her first to a local Lutheran parish and eventually to the Assemblies of God denomination.

But she came back to Catholicism eventually, left one more time, and ultimately returned for the rest of her life. Somehow it all sounds very familiar to me as I have done pretty much the same in my less-than-smooth journey, and with much the same reactions from those brothers and sisters in the Faith who I thought would be the most understanding of my struggles to believe at times when they have occurred. I think we forget that, when someone does leave the Church, there are often very real reasons and perhaps intense struggles within the person, and they may need more understanding than preaching to. At least sometimes.

The following poem was penned by her upon her return to the Church, and found after her death in 1991. One day while reading it again many years later, I realized that I, too, could have written this as my own experience. In it, I also recognize that her prayers for me, both on this side and beyond, were without a doubt a hugely significant part of my own path back to the safety net of Roman Catholicism.

May the Lord grant her His peace and eternal rest. And I believe He will. Mary Evans please pray for us as we do for you, and thanks mom, for being at least one of my “mothers Mary” who have helped to shape my life.

“Release then Peace”

This morning I knelt
As my soul sought release,
I heard Jesus’ voice
In the words of the priest

How I longed to go back
To the Church I had known,
Within her still walls
To kneel and atone

I thought I could leave her
My Mother disclaim,
Forget that she loved me
And called me by name

Oh the scenes I remember
Within Her sweet fold,
The farewells to loved ones
The memories I hold

The times that I knelt
At the altar and prayed,
The joy of Communion
The vows that I made

I ne’er could forget her
The Church of my youth,
Too long have I loved her
Her beauty and Truth

Though far did I wander
From her in my pride,
In longing, my spirit
With her did abide

This morning I knelt
To pray and atone,
My heart filled with joy
At last I was Home!

— Mary Elizabeth Evans, August 20, 1970

Here’s a copy of her handwritten original (you can click on it to enlarge it):

poem 001

poem3 001

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