Thank you, Mary

Originally Appeared in : 9921-10/10/19

I have loved the Southern Cross, our beautiful diocesan newspaper, since I was a little girl. I can’t even tell you exactly what it was about this paper that was so special, except maybe I always thought it was very cool that this same newspaper that we regularly received at our home in Augusta, Georgia would also appear at my grandmother’s home when we visited her across the state in Columbus.


Maybe it was simply that newspapers were important to me at an early age. I always loved them and I’m grateful to my parents for always having them in our home. Years later, I would go on to get a bachelor’s degree in communication from Georgia State University, and a master’s degree from the Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia.


I got those degrees and also got married and around the same time started working as a reporter and clerk at the newspaper in town.  It all happened within a few years of each other (college, marriage, new job, grad school). I actually gave birth to our oldest child Ethan in between finishing course work and my thesis. I was so proud to get a picture of my little family — me and Paul and 9-month-old Ethan, while I was wearing my cap and gown and fancy grad school hood.


I worked for a few months after Ethan was born, putting my college degrees to good use. And then, well, the strangest, most unforeseen thing happened. I had the overwhelming urge to stay home with my baby.


I never really had plans to “stay at home” — I loved working and being a part of the newspaper scene. I loved getting those degrees and never had plans not to use them.


But there you go. I felt like home was where I needed and wanted to be and even through really dire, financially-strapped seasons, I “stayed home.” (P.s. this column is not about that being the best way — it’s just what worked for us. I’m so supportive and in awe and excited and happy for women who work “outside the home.” The world is a big place and there is room for a variety of paths, isn’t there?)


But back to me.


No, seriously. There I was, being a stay-at-home-mom. Fast forward a few years and I had four boys in really close age and barely remembered that I once had gotten that thing called “multiple degrees.” I was drowning and loving it (most days) and struggling some too.


And in came Mary Hood Hart.


By now Paul and I got the Southern Cross at our own home. And this columnist named Mary Hood Hart would write columns about the joys and challenges of motherhood, and they just spoke to my heart. I would look forward to her columns, would turn directly to her page week after week. She seemed to always know what I needed to hear. Mary encouraged me and challenged me and reminded me how noble and beautiful it is to be a mother — and also that I was gonna make it.


One week I emailed Mary and she wrote back. I still remember the thrill of seeing a reply to my letter in my inbox. In true fan-girl fashion, I printed out the letter and displayed it on my fridge. Mary Hood Hart wrote me back.


The day Father Doug Clark offered me a job as a regular columnist I was completely overjoyed. I had looked up to Mary for so many years. To become her colleague was truly humbling.


When I read last week that Mary had decided to retire from her job as one of our regular columnists, I felt immense gratitude for the gift she has been to our diocese. She shared herself freely with us. She was candid (like all writers, candid in the way that worked for her), and she encouraged me. She shared about motherhood in a way that reminded me of the privilege of the vocation.


Mostly, way back when, she got me through that season of motherhood that feels particularly lonely. She was there for me in a very special way, and I’m so grateful for her years with us in the Diocese of Savannah.


Rachel Balducci is a wife and mother of six. She and her husband Paul are members of Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Augusta, GA. Her latest book, Make My Life Simple, is available on Amazon.


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