I had intended to write on another subject this month, but Jim Hughes suggested that, in view of my 90th birthday, I give a brief account of my life. As I usually follow Jim’s suggestions, I agreed. So, if you are not interested, turn to the next article.

I was born on July 20, 1913 into a middle class family in Dublin, Ireland. I was christened “Edward,” which later was changed to Ted in high school. I can never thank God enough for the parents He gave me. My father was a very busy and successful businessman, but he went to Mass and received Holy Communion every morning of his life. And, although I did not realize it at the time, that had a tremendous influence on my life. My mother was a very gifted singer and musician, but these gifts always took second place to her vocation as a wife and mother. As kids, our first question to the cook on returning from school was, “Where’s Mommy?” She was almost always there. And on the few occasions when she wasn’t, we thought the world had stopped going round.

I was one boy with four sisters and I was the second youngest. When I am asked, “Why did you become a priest?” I sometimes jokingly reply, “To get away from women!” Needless to say, there were many more worthy reasons, which I shall mention later. In fact, my oldest sister died at 17 and my youngest sister at 11, leaving me with just two sisters – older than myself. In my first book, Yes, I’d Do It Again, I sum up my family life in these words. “We had the usual rows and teenage revolts, without which a family is not really a family. But, my overall memories are ones of laughter, fun, happiness, security, strong Christian values, family prayer and love.”

For my grade-school education, I was sent to a school run by the Irish Christian Brothers. But, as we lived quite a distance outside of Dublin, it meant traveling to and from school by train, which did not leave much time for study but which did, however, present me with many distractions. As a result, I received very poor reports, which made my parents very concerned about my future. But I was not concerned. I thought I would join my father in business and I didn’t see the necessity of knowing French or Latin and geometry, etc. But my parents had other ideas and as a result, I was entered as a boarder in one of the best high schools in Dublin, Blackrock College, run by the Spiritans or Holy Ghost Fathers, as we were then known in Ireland. I was then only 16 and leaving home for the first time was quite a dramatic experience. For example, for me, who had always had my own room, sleeping in a dormitory with some 40 other boys was a totally new and strange experience. However, I soon got used to this new way of life and enjoyed making new friends. But my lack of love for learning did not change. In Yes, I’d Do It Again, I sum up my high school education in these words: “I was sent to the best schools and got the worst results. Blackrock College was my high school, where I distinguished myself by failing more exams than I passed and losing at least one rugby game by dropping a pass within feet of the line. I found myself equally at home in comedy, tragedy and Gilbert and Sullivan musicals, so much so that in my last year in high school, I found myself being pulled in opposite directions. Should I become an actor or a priest? Some of my friends say I became both! I remember one of my teachers throwing back one of my essays with this remark, ‘Colleton, I think you are threatened with intelligence. But I don’t think we need worry that it will develop into anything serious.’ It never did!”