I remember driving home one night from an uncomfortable situation. Slowing for potholes and narrow bailey bridges on the rough gravel roads. Tunnelling through black cliffs, stars and spruce silhouettes. Our daughter, maybe four at the time, sleeping baby brother on the backseat beside her. She said, “I wanted to leave that place with my whole body.”
Sister Katrina was a new age nun in the spirit of Vatican II. My grade seven and eight teacher and first spiritual guide and inspiration. On weekends we would sit on the altar steps at Avila Centre and discuss who Jesus really was. And God.
On a field trip in Ottawa a taxi driver asked her on a date. She laughed and set him straight. We were on our way to see the movie Little Big Man starring Dustin Hoffman. Sleeping on the floor of a church basement and travelling by train.
Jesus Christ Superstar was new, revolutionary and highly controversial among Catholics. Jesus so human. Judas so something else. And Mary Magdalen? We listened to it every day.
A group of us were asked to prepare an audio-visual production for the Good Friday mass at one of the city’s biggest churches. A great honour, but did they have any idea who they were asking to do this? Sister Katrina taught us how to make slides by cutting pictures out of magazines and sandwiching them in plastic 35 mm slide cases. Voila.
We cut out tiny square images of every atrocity and disaster we could find and slipped them into a slide tray along with images of Jesus and stained glass. In the centre aisle of Corpus Christi Church, in front of the alter we placed a projector screen. The church had a good speaker system. I stood in the pulpit and said a few words. Someone turned on the music. Someone else turned on the projector.
Jesus Christ Superstar’s “39 lashes” boomed in the church as our slides assaulted the screen. It was 1971. Folk music during a Saturday night mass was one thing. This quite another. I believe “disgusting” was my grandfather’s word.
Years later I heard that Sister Katrina left the church and got married. I still know every word to Jesus Christ Superstar.