My life there and afterwards

Posts tagged ‘Art’

Crushing music

As a child my mother taught me to play the piano. She was consistent and I improved, but I had no outlet to play with other people and so was very shy and insecure about it. When I left after High School, I left the piano playing behind. When I joined CJ 4 years later, music making was nowhere in my mind. Then the leaders wanted a church choir and conscripted two members to teach us to sing. They made a valient effort, but I realized after a couple of years that singing is not my forte.

An orchestra started up. I had played violin for 1/2 year in middle school so I joined up. It was fun for a while, but we did not get regular lessons and I eventually got exasperated at never being able to play in tune.

The next musical step was in order to celebrate one of the founders’ 60th birthday. The members pulled together a rag tag marching band by pulling old instruments out of attics. The founders were so thrilled by this that they decided to continue the marching band in local 4th of July parades, etc. Watching them march stirred someting in me and I asked to join. At first I played in both Orchestra and Band, but eventaully switched over completely to Band. For 20 years I played in the Marching and Concert Band in the percussion secton, playing every variety of instrument that section has. Life in the Band was eventaully a horror that will deserve its own post another time.

Then one year the Band/Orchestra leader was heading up a production of Pilgrim’s Progress, with orchestra, dance and acting. It was a BIG deal. They were offering openings for anyone in CJ to be a part of it. I did not want to sing in the chorus so I asked if I could try playing the violin with the orchestra. I never got a reply, but one day I came home to find the score on the dining room table. I went to the music office and borrowed a violin and started practicing. I received no lessons, no personal contact, no encouragement. I was SO on my own. I went to rehersals, sat at the back and tried to play along. It was both excruciating and thrilling. I stuck with it. I played quietly enough so no one could hear my wrong notes, not even me. I loved it.

Over the years I did improve and could hold my own with all the others. We went through music retreats that were like boot camps, tearing us down, telling us how horible we were. You can accept a lot of that, because you figure they could hear how you played better than you could yourself, but when they would scream at us for our feelings and attitudes, that I resisted inwardly. I cared a lot about orchestra, and when they would say we didn’t care at all, I knew that was not true. I became section leader, and worked with a young man who had a lot of talent and gave lessons to the strings. We worked hard to help the players relax and improve and to love the process. Our efforts were to no avail for the Orchestra leader finally told us he was dis-banding the orchestra because we stank and no one cared like he did about making good music. We were told that no one was allowed to play on their own. Everyone was to put their instruments away and not play again. We were all devastated. Then 12 of got letters from the Community’s spiritual leader that us chosen few had shown a good attitude and could continue to play together as a string group. We were to enjoy ourselves and the process. (Stroke our egos, make us think we had a future in music – which was to prove to be a lie).

The group was horrible. Our playing wasn’t that bad, but there were a few who insisted on making it into a “light group” where they would complain and tear each other down. One time in particular I remember I was yelled at by one young SGA that she hated playing with me, I had a bad attitude, and always played out of tune. (She hit many wrong notes also) After vehemently letting this tirade loose on me, I was shocked and looked around the group at the other older members. I asked them to help me out here, that I did not understand why she was saying all this. What did they think? They all looked elsewhere and no one spoke up. The young lady castigating me was the grand-daughter of the current leader. No one wanted to take the chance of being ratted on to the leader and of getting into serious trouble. I was hung out to dry. After that I dreaded going to the group. I only hung in there because I loved music and it was my only outlet.

Those of you who have gone through these kinds of sessions will understand what my few words cannot convey. Those who have not will think “So what?”. Maybe some day I will be able to put into a dialogue and description just how devastating these light sessions were. It wasn’t just the words, but the emotions of being torn apart and devasted that always accompanied them.

We never were allowed to play again in public or in church. They started a youth orchestra and chose them to play. We were still side-lined at the time that I left.

Reclaiming the Past

As I look back at what I have experienced, I am beginning to be able to pick out some threads of my life that I value and am proud of. In ICSA Today, Vol. 5, No. 2, Greg Jemsek says “These…stories are not false accounts of a person’s life; rather they are stories that have become invisible to the person…The purpose of discovering such invisible stories is to allow a more nuanced perspective of what has happened to him – before, after, and during his involvement in a cult – to be discovered.”

I think about my handwork and how that was a constant thread throughout my life there. That was a hidden story thread that they didn’t care about. It went unnoticed for a long time. I knit baby blankets and sweater/bootie sets, and then graduated to sweaters for all three of my children as they grew. Aran, Irish, color-ways, fancy stitches, I did them all. I loved it and I made many beautiful things. It was a place of creativity for me, as well as solace. It was one place where I was ME, alone and away from the constant corrections about my sin.

I knitted and I crocheted. I did cross-stitched pictures and needlepointed pillows. Nowhere was I recognized for my talent and eye for color, and at the time I felt – well, I didn’t allow myself to feel. It would have been terribly self-centered of me to want any praise. Ego was to be denied and put down in every area. But I did feel sad and invisible. What meant a lot to me and brought me joy was literally nothing to anyone else. Occasional dreams would pop up of selling or displaying my art, but I quickly dashed them to the outer darkness as self-seeking and not God’s will.

In later years, after my children were no longer the recipients of my creations, I made shawls and blankets, and gave them away.

Once I joined the sisterhood my talent was finally noticed and directed into the service of the group. I made quilted wall hangings and quilted bedroom sets. I helped to embroider exquisite liturgical vestments for the leaders and clergy to wear at the Dedication of the new church.

At my insistence, I and another sister were allowed to learn weaving. I’ll have to tell the details of how that came about in another blog. For a while I was very excited with this new avenue of creativity, but even this was soon controlled and restricted. We had to weave what we were told to weave, and we had to beg for any and all thread to weave with. We were given no money to spend on this. So the weaving, as well as my involvement in the music, was a mixed bag. In these two areas my personal talent and love of the art was a hidden thread, but that thread all too often was hauled up to inspection and mauled over by those who wished to tear it apart.

To reclaim it – I am knitting again. I dream of finding a small loom cheap and doing some weaving. I have a violin that I worked very hard to afford, but have not been able to play it yet. Too much sadness cloaks that instrument still. But the handwork is becoming reclaimed and it brings me much joy.

A work in progress – thank God for freedom!

8 Months

This is a current example of how the Community of Jesus treats those who have left.

I had lived a pretty organized life while I was there, so when it came time to leave, it was not hard to pack my personal possessions into my storage space in the attic. My son was able to go pick them up later, and he stored them at his house until I had found a place to live. One thing I had not packed and had left behind was a cross-stitched picture of 3 Christmas Angels. It was a kit I had bought before I became a sister at the Convent, and I took it with me when I did become a sister. It took me years to finish it, between lack of interest and lack of time, but on occasion I would bring it out and work on it, and eventually finished it. It is a beautiful piece, I was happy with it and we used it every Christmas to help decorate the Extern Sisters’ House where I lived. It was stored with the other Christmas decorations at the the Extern House, which is why I did not remember it when I was packing up my things to leave.

Last Christmas, 2012, was the first time that I felt like decorating for the season. I am finally in my own apartment, and I am also gaining some peace and healing about Christian holidays. At that time I remembered this cross-stitch piece. I  wrote the Community a letter asking if I could have it shipped to me, or I could pick it up. I received it last week, about 8 months after requesting it. Between my first letter and now the Community’s lawyer and I have exchanged many letters, and he tried to get me to sign a legal waiver saying I would never ever request anything again or say anything against them. I call that a “gag order”. All this fuss was made over a store-bought kit of a homemade piece of memorabilia that has value only to me and is rightfully mine. I have printed the whole series of letters, below, and it is a long read, but I think you will find it enlightening to see how they try to manipulate, and I also think it shows the amount of paranoia they are operating under.

Letters between me and Chris Kanaga, Attorney at Law for the Community of Jesus

#1, letter I wrote to Lillian because I did not know who to write to, and she is in charge of the Financial Bursar’s Office, so is in a position of authority

Dec 23, 2012

Dear Lillian,

I have a request to make. There are three things that I have made, and therefore are mine, that I did not take with me when I left. I would now like to have them, and my son Dan would be able to pick them up for me.

One is a cross-stitch, framed picture of Christmas Angels that was stored with the Christmas decorations at the Extern House. I realize it is probably called something differently now, but I am sure you know the house I am talking about, where the Extern sisters lived, attached to the Convent.

The second is the quilt set that I made and that is being used in the Retreat dormitory. It is the one showing the beach scenes. It includes the quilt, pillow, rocking chair cushion and desk chair cushion. I do not want the foot stool cover or the white-stitched quilt.

The third is the quilted picture of the house in the woods. I believe it was hanging in the Retreat dormitory, the last I knew.

If these could all be put aside for Dan to pick up, and could you please let me know when he can come over to get them, I would appreciate it.

Thank you and I hope your Holidays are blessed.

Sincerely,

Carrie Buddington

#2, letter from Laraja and Kanaga, Attorneys at Law, written Jan. 21, 2013 and mailed Jan. 23, 2013 on their letterhead

 Dear Ms. Buddington:

Re: Your Request of December 23, 2012

Lillian Miao referred your letter to me for response, since it regards a proposed distribution of church property. I understand that you are asking for certain items of personal property to be sent to you by The Community of Jesus, Inc. (the “Community”), because you had a hand in fabrication of the items. I understand that the materials which were used in the fabrication (as well as the tools, equipment and premises used), were owned by the Community.

I further understand that you participated in the fabrication while you were a vowed monastic sister of the Community. Like all similar Christian monastic organizations of which we are aware, sister (and brothers) upon voluntarily taking vows, voluntarily part with their goods and their right to “own”. This is a free choice made by the individual, and is a well-known characteristic of religious community life. Having taken their vows, the sisters (and brothers) are provided food, housing, medical attention, education and necessities of life by the Community. These are benefits which you undoubtedly shared. The Community does not require departing religious sisters (or brothers) to reimburse the costs of this support and maintenance, and likewise a departing sister does not have a claim to any property of the Community.

All of these principles are set forth in the Rule of Life of the Community to which you agreed, the vows of membership which you signed, the Constitution of the Sisterhood of the Community in which you participated, and the agreement which you signed upon your departure.

The Community is a church and has certain legal obligations with respect to disbursement of funds or assets. As a charity, neither funds nor property can be disbursed except in accordance with the religious purposes of the organization, its Articles, By-laws and direction of the Board of Directors. The distribution you propose would run directly counter to law, and to the religious beliefs, purposes and principles of the Community, and is simply not possible.

I hope that this letter finds you well, and wish you the best in 2013.

Sincerely,

Christopher W. Kanaga

#3, letter

1/26/13

Hi Chris,

How are you Dick doing? Nice to hear from you, although I wish it had been a friendly note instead of this legal stand-offish nonsense.

However, I do understand where you are coming from about the quilt set and quilted hanging that are in the Guest house. I’ll set that aside for now.

I do not see any reason why I would be denied possession of the Christmas Angel cross-stitch picture. I bought that kit with my own money way before I became a sister at the Community of Jesus. I brought it with me into the sisterhood as part of my personal possessions, which we all were allowed to have, and did all the work on it in my “free time”. It was acknowledged all along as being part of my personal stuff. It has no value to the Community or to its “mission”. In the extreme stress that I was under when I left, I simply forgot about it, since it was not with my own personal stuff, and was stored with the Christmas decorations at the Extern house. If they want to quibble about the frame that it is in being part of the donated items that the Community gets, I would be happy to just have the cross-stitch back and not the frame.

I would appreciate a timely response about when my son Dan would be able to pick it up for me.

Thanks, and have a blessed day,

Carrie Buddington

#4, letter

May 13, 2013

Dear Mr. Kanaga and Mr. Laraja,

I am writing with 2 items to discuss.

First, I would like to follow up from my last correspondence with you. I am disappointed that you have not replied to my last letter, dated January 26, 2013, in which I asked when I could expect to pick up my personal item. It seems rather unprofessional, to me, that you have chosen to greet my request with silence.

To reiterate our communication so far, in case my letters have gotten lost, I had requested to retrieve the quilt set and the quilt wall hanging which I had made (completely on my own), and the cross-stitch Christmas Angel picture. You had responded that these were considered Church property, and that you could not see your way to returning to me the fruit of my labor. Also I would like to point out that they were made with material that was donated to the Community of Jesus, not purchased by the Community of Jesus. I then responded that I could understand why you would think that way about the quilt set and wall hanging, as they were being used in the Retreat dormitory, but that the cross-stitch Christmas Angel picture had been purchased with my own money before I became a sister, and had been worked on in my own free time. In addition, I pointed out that all the sisters were allowed to have personal items such as this, and I did not see any reason why I could not have this particular personal item back. I have yet to hear back from you about this matter.

I would appreciate a response to my request to procure my Christmas Angel piece. I can arrange to have it picked up at a time convenient to us both.

Second, having worked in the Scribe’s Office, I know that personal files are kept on all Community members, even after they have left. I know that there is a file on me in that office. I believe it is my legal right to have a copy of these files. I request that you send me a copy of everything that is in my file.

I await your timely reply.

Sincerely,

Carrie Buddington

#5, letter

May 17, 2013

Dear Carrie:

Re: Your Correspondence of May 13, 2013

I am enclosing a copy of my January 31st letter responding to your initial requests. I have located what I believe to be the cross-stitch angel you requested. I have also located a second cross-stitch picture (with three angels).

As I mentioned in my correspondence, I would appreciate some assurance from you that this is the final item, as I think we would all appreciate some closure, and not deal with things on an on going basis. In that regard, will you be willing to sign a mutual waiver that the delivery settles all claims?

We can arrange a time for pick up, after you get back to me.

Thank you for your consideration.

Very truly your,

Christopher W. Kanaga

Enclosed copy of Jan. 31 letter

January 31, 2013

Dear Carrie:

Re: Your Request of December 23, 2012

Thank you for your letter of the 26th. I will look into the cross-stitch Christmas angel to which you refer, and see what I can find out. It would be helpful if I could be sure that this is the only remaining issue, so that we can deal with everything at once. I think it would be best for all concerned that way.

Thank you, and hope you are well.

Sincerely,

Christopher W. Kanaga

#6, letter

Dear Chris,

Re: Your Correspondence of May 17, 2013

I am glad to receive the copy of your letter dated 1/31/2013, as I never received the original.

The cross-stitch with the 3 angels is the one that is mine. I spent many hours working on it, and know it well. The faces are done in petit point. Would you please m ail it to me, and if necessary, I will pay for the postage.

Sincerely,

Carrie Buddington

#7, letter

June 20, 2013

Dear Chris Kanaga,

I am writing again simply because I have not had a reply to my last letter to you, and want to make sure a letter did not get lost in the mail like last time.

Can you please mail my cross-stitch angels to me, or do I need to come pick it up?

Sincerely,

Carrie Buddington

#8, letter received June 21, 2013

June 17, 2013

Dear Carrie,

I will pack up the Angel picture and mail it to you. There is no need for you to send me postage. Can you please let me know if there is anything else that you have left here, and if not, can you please sign and return the attached waiver? Meanwhile, I will have the Community sign a mutual waiver for your benefit. Thank you.

Regards,

Christopher W Kanaga

Enclosed Waiver

Release and Waiver

I, Carrie Buddington, in exchange for the good and valuable consideration, including but not limited to the delivery of a handmade cross-stitched angel and contingent upon receipt of a mutual Release and Waiver received from The Community of Jesus, Inc., do release and forever discharge The Community of Jesus, Inc., its affiliates, its and their present and former members, officers, agents, and employees, and all people associated with them in (collectively referred to as the “Community”), from any and all charges, claims, complaints, liabilities, obligation, promises, agreements, controversies, damages, actions, suits, rights demands, costs, losses, damages and expenses (including attorneys’’ fees and costs actually incurred unless otherwise provided for herein) of any nature whatsoever, whether they are known to me or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, which I now have, own or hold, or have ever held or claimed to have, own or hold against the Community, arising out of any circumstance, action, omission, matter or state of fact up to the date of this Release and Waiver that I may now have as to any relief of any kind from the Community. This means that I may not sue the Community for any claim arising our of, or connected to, in any way, any fact or allegation or circumstance occurring from the beginning of time and up to the date of this Release and Waiver, based on any matter occurring from the beginning of time and up to the date of this Release and Waiver.

#9, letter

June 24, 2013

Dear Mr. Kanaga,

Please disregard the last letter I sent to you on Thursday, June 20, 2013. it crossed in the mail with your letter of June 17, 2013.

Thank you for sending my cross-stitch. I will look for it to arrive.

No, I will not sign the waiver.

When can I expect a copy of my personal files?

Sincerely,

Carrie Buddington

#10, letter

July 15, 2013

Dear Mr. Kanaga,

In your letter dated June 17, 2013 you stated “I will pack up the Angel picture and mail it to you. There is no need for you to send me postage.”

I have not received said Angel cross-stitch yet. Is there a reason for the delay?

Sincerely,

Carrie Buddington

#11, letter

July 22, 2013

Dear Carrie,

Thank you for you note, but you are quoting only a portion of my letter. In my correspondence I have been asking if there is anything else that you claim to own. I have asked for some assurance that this is the only request, so that we can settle everything at once. When nothing came from you, I drafted and sent a mutual waiver for your signature.

So, the reason for the delay is that you have not responded to any of the above. I am happy to finalize this as soon as you are ready. Perhaps if you could call me, we could resolve it over the phone.

Sincerely,

Christopher W. Kanaga

#12, letter

August 5, 2013

Dear Chris,

Wow. I find it truly incredible that you are asking me to exchange all future claims for one little home-made cross-stitch. To me this is indicative of a demanding, controlling and paranoid personality. It seems that you are so narrow in your view of life, and so “under authority” that you cannot see beyond the perceived threat you think I present. I have presented no threat to you.

You state in your letter of Jan. 21, 2013 that I had a “hand in the fabrication of the items.” I did not “have a hand in the fabrication”. The quilt set and the quilt hanging were 100% my labor. The materials used were donated to the Community of Jesus (Community) and did not cost them one cent. The tools and the space were part of the Convent, where I was living and giving all of my life for the support of the Community. The support I received through housing, clothing and food were minimal. We lived, dressed and ate sparingly in order to be as little a financial burden on the Community as possible. I assume that in having a sisterhood, the Community gladly took on the support of the sisters in exchange for all the free labor we provided, which was financially worth far more than the minimal support we received. The medical insurance must have been large for 60+ women, until we went on MassHealth, which does not cost anything. I received medical attention rarely, because we were told often that it was expensive, so I did not seek help unless it was absolutely necessary. I received no education at the expense of the Community, even though I asked to. As I stated in my letter of 1/26/13 I can understand the frame of mind that you are viewing this from, since I lived there for so long and used to have the same frame of mind, but that does not make it accurate or correct.

In my letter of 5/13/13 I requested a copy of my personal records which are kept in the Scribe’s Office. You have chosen to not reply to that request at all. I believe it is my legal right to have a copy of those files.

In your letter of 5/17/13 you asked for reassurance from me that the cross-stitch was the final item I want from the Community. I had already asked for my personal files in addition to the cross-stitch, so no, I will not sign that waiver. I was so shocked by the request, and felt it was so unreasonable, that you are correct, I did not respond to that request right away. I simply reiterated my request for my cross-stitch. It was not until my note of 6/24/13 that I responded and said I would not sign the waiver. I had no idea at that point that you were trying to use a simple cross-stitch that is my personal property and has personal value only to me as a bargaining chip for such a huge request as the waiver represents. I also asked again about my personal files, which you have continued to ignore.

A month went by, so I sent another note asking where my cross-stitch was. Your response of 7/22/13 was the first time I fully realized that you were saying I had to sign the waiver before you would return to me an item that is legally and rightfully mine. How far are you going to take this charade?

I will not call you, as I fear you will not truly listen to what I have to say, as these letters seem to indicate. I prefer to keep our correspondence to letters.

The waiver as I read it says I can never bring any future complaint against the Community. I have no idea what the future will bring, and if it ever comes to my attention that I could get redress for the harm done to me at the Community, I certainly will not sign away that possibility for a simple cross-stitch. And the idea that you think you could trade away my rights for a simple piece of homemade memorabilia is astounding to me.

I have tried in good faith to have a simple dialogue with you about one small piece of personal property, that you have agreed belongs to me. You in return have tried to pressure me into signing a legal waiver that goes far beyond trying to retrieve my personal property, one small item, and I will not do it. I believe that no sane person would.

If you are worried about my bringing a lawsuit against the Community, your withholding behavior is self defeating because it is more likely to provoke what you fear rather than protecting the Community.

Sincerely,

Carrie Buddington

#13, Email sent on Aug. 13, 2013

Mr. Chris Kanaga,

To reiterate, I will not sign the waiver that you asked me to sign.

I have every right to speak about my experiences to whomever I chose, including the media.

I have a legal right to a copy of my personal files, and I expect you to send them to me without further delay.

Sincerely,

Carrie Buddington

#14, letter

August 21, 2013

Dear Carrie,

Thank you for responding. I was merely trying to find out what else you might be claiming, so that we could deal with it all at once, rather than piecemeal over an indefinite time into the future.

I think I understand now that you have no interest in that and would like to keep the doors open indefinitely. I am not sure how that leads to closure, but I’ll see what I can do. I have mailed the angel I located, and hope it is what you were requesting.

As to “personal files”, I was unable to locate any, other than your sisterhood vows and property waivers, which I understand you already have. Pursuant to those documents, you vowed as a sister to live a life of poverty in devotion to God, and therefore, nothing at the convent is “rightfully yours”, but as I said, I’ll see what I can do.

Sincerely,

Christopher W. Kanaga

#15, I received a package which contained 2 angel pictures, the one of 3 angels which I had stated was mine, and also one of a single angel, which is not mine.

 #16, letter

August 28, 2013

Mr. Chris Kanaga,

In my letter dated May 28, 2013, I stated that “The cross-stitch with the 3 angels is the one that is mine.” Therefore, the cross-stitch with the single angel is not mine, and I am returning it to you.

Re: my personal files. I have seen with my own eyes that there is more in my files than the papers I signed at my leaving. Back in the 70’s Cay and Judy had all of the Community members write a “testimony” of how the Community had blessed us and made our lives better. I know that is in my files, and there were other papers as well. I also know that the Community keeps an Access database with important dates, such as when I became a member and the dates of the religious vows I took. I know this is true because I worked on those files, updating and consolidating them when I worked in the Scribe’s Office. I wish a copy of all of that.

Carrie Buddington

#17, letter received after the package with the cross-stitch angels and after my reply of Aug. 28.

August 26, 2013

Dear Carrie:

I have found a second cross stitched angel picture, and am mailing both of them to you. However, I am doing this simply as a courtesy, without agreeing to your claims of ownership or waiving statutes of limitation or any other defences.

Sincerely,

Christopher W. Kanaga