Monday, February 6, 2012

Religious Calling -- Nature vs. Nurture

          Growing up I knew that several of my distant relatives were priests.  In my baby book, there was a copy of a handwritten letter from a Reverend Bernard Tobin, welcoming me into the world.  I also had heard of a Father John Baggarly, who was supposedly a relative of ours.  I didn’t know how they were related to us, but being a Roman Catholic myself, thought it was rather cool to have a few priests as relatives.  

          After getting interested in genealogy, one of my quests was to find out how these “men of the cloth” were related to me.  When I received a copy of the family history of the Chambers from my cousin Betsy, it spelled out quite nicely how Father Baggarly was related.  We were 2nd cousins, once removed. 

          I then asked my cousin Kevin, who had known Father Tobin personally how we were related and his answer was “on Grandma Sherlock’s side”, which wasn’t very specific.  I didn’t realize how unspecific that answer was until I started researching the Homrich’s and Nebgen’s and found out that probably a third of the state of Michigan was somehow related to them, but of course, that is for another post. 

          However, researching my German ancestors, I did come across a family – the parents were Bernard Homrich and Ella Valley – who had 2 children who joined religious orders.  One daughter became a nun and one of their sons was a priest, serving as a missionary in Bangladesh.  This got me thinking about the whole nature vs. nurture argument (okay, I did earn a BA in Psychology which may make me more likely to think this way) and how did it relate to religious orders.  Perhaps, it was much less genes and much more the atmosphere and environment provided by these two parents.  

          Finally, two weeks ago, I did figure out how I was related to Father Bernard Tobin, which made me very happy.  We are half second cousins, once removed.  My great great  (or is great x2) grandfather and his great grandfather were the same person.   I was surprised, however, to find that several of Bernard’s siblings were either nuns or priests.  In fact, of Rose Schmidt’s and Joseph Tobin’s ten children, five of them heard the calling to join a religious order.  Both Bernard and his brother Gerald became Redemptorist priests.  Gerald served as a missionary in the Brazilian jungles while Bernard served as a priest in a parish in Fresno, California.  Another brother, Francis, served as a priest in Oakland and Fresno, California.  Two of Bernard’s sisters served as nuns – Sr. Rose in Panama and Guatemala and Sr. Lorraine in Michigan.  

          I am trying to imagine the type of family life that would encourage and foster five of their children to accept the calling for religious life.  It must have been a very loving, giving and supportive family and one that encouraged service to others.  I am proud to be related to them and am continuing my search to see “what else I can dig up”.

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