It’s no surprise that when asked what she’d like to talk about in her resident spotlight interview, Betty replied that she’d like to talk about her religion. “I think it’s the most interesting things about me,” she said, smiling, “and I can talk about it, it’s not weird.”
Born in Philadelphia to a loving mother and father and three sisters, Betty was brought up in the Church of Christian Science – an American-born religion that sports about 85,000 members worldwide. Her early memories involve sitting with her mother and reading Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy’s famous book: Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, along with passages from the bible.
“Both my sister and I stammered when we were younger,” she said, “so reading from the bible was good practice for me because there were quite a few tongue twisters in there,” she said, laughing. “And I liked it [Christian Science] until I became an adolescent and started to question things.”
Despite growing up in the depression, moving from apartment to apartment, and dealing with nagging questions about her faith, Betty was an exceptionally happy child – seeing each move as a new adventure. “I was always happy,” she said, speaking of when the Great Depression impacted her family. “I wasn’t aware that suddenly we were poor and had nothing – and you don’t know about depression until you know nothing – we had nothing.”
From Nothing to Everything
Despite hard economic times, Betty wasn’t about to let outside circumstances determine her fate. She enrolled at Wayne State University, eventually earning a Bachelor’s Degree as well as a Master’s Degree in Library Science and a Master’s Degree in Geography. Inspired by her love for learning, she began teaching at Oakland Community College – lecturing about her favorite subjects to many interested students.
It was during this period that she met the man she’d eventually marry – and stay married to for 23 years. He was a fallen-away Catholic, and immersing herself in his religion re-invigorated her quest to finally feel comfortable in her own. It was then that she seriously began to consider leaving the church of her youth and converting.
“I had a perfect life,” she said smiling. “Two children – a boy and a girl. I loved my husband. We had a nice house and we were happy. We had a little doggie and everything.”
Finally a Catholic After 83 Years
After the death of her first husband and divorce from her second (a colleague who was also a Catholic), Betty realized it was now or never to fulfill her dream of converting. Neither of her spouses was particularly fond of their religion, which kept her from officially making the plunge all of those years. “With both husbands gone, I thought, I could do it now,” she said. And after talking to a priest, she officially converted at the age of 83 – and now gets to live a faith that inspires her every day.
“It’s so real,” she said when asked what about Catholicism moves her. “I mean, what lasts 2,000 years? Not much. But the bible – best seller all these years. It’s fascinating. It’s more real. You can talk about it.”
And talk about it she does. Her life has come full circle now, from reading the writings of Mary Baker Eddy with her mother to scripture readings at the Oakmont Northville chapel – the words of faith continue to not only move Betty but pique her intellectual curiosity on a daily basis.
“You know, they often say about converts that they’re more interested, more moved by things because it’s new and it’s splendid,” she said. “I love ritual when it’s beautiful. I love it. I just love it.”