Cordaro, VP, Vol. 28, No. 3, 2004 p. 1
ANGELA CORDARO: BELOVED MOTHER, PEACE ACTIVIST AND FRIEND OF THE CATHOLIC WORKER, R.I.P.
By Frank Cordaro
Angela Cordaro, the Mother of six, including Frank and Tom, died at the Bishop Drumm Nursing Home in Johnston, Iowa, on July 6, 2004. Angel was a long-time volunteer and supporter of the DMCW. She was a peace activist in her own right and a dear and beloved friend and comrade to many Catholic Workers and peace activists throughout the years. She suffered from Alzheimer’s disease the last six years.
The following excerpt is from the July 9, 2004 Funeral Homily at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Des Moines, Iowa.
I choose today’s gospel – St. Matthew’s writing about the beatitudes – because the beatitudes give us a unique glimpse into God’s perspective on a human scale. If you want to know God’s bias in human terms, read the beatitudes.
In this regard, my Mom was way ahead of us. When she was raising us in the “with Dad” era, her compassion for the poor and her bent for justice often went unnoticed by us kids. It was only years later that I figured it out.
Mom had a soft spot for the down and out. She had no trouble taking the side of the underdog. She showed this in many ways while raising us, but I must admit, I rarely noticed it then.
She subscribed to Maryknoll Magazine and spoke highly of the priests and nuns who worked in the missions. Maryknoll Magazine was in our house as long as I can remember.
Mom had a great love for Native Americans and was saddened by the way they were treated throughout our history.
There’s a story about a family vacation we took to California in the 60’s when we were still all young enough to fit into one car. Mom was looking forward to stopping at different Indian Reservations and visiting various Indian Tribes along the way. However, visiting Indian reservations was the last thing us kids wanted to do. So we hid the maps she had prepared, which showed the locations of different Indian reservations, and we made sure she was either sleeping or not paying attention when we drove past an Indian settlement.
Mom finally fulfilled that dream of hers to spend time with the Indians when she spent a couple of months living and working at a Native American women’s domestic violence shelter on an Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Long before my Mom helped out at the Catholic Worker House, she had a great love for the poor.
“BLESSED ARE THE MEEK FOR THEY SHALL INHERIT THE LAND”
When I dropped out of the seminary the fist time and came back to Des Moines to start the Catholic Worker House, Mom was very concerned about me. It was one thing for a son to leave the seminary but it was a whole different thing to return to his home town to start a Catholic Worker House!
Mom was very nervous when we started having our Friday night Masses. She would come to the Friday night services just to make sure we didn’t show any disrespect to the Eucharist. In those first years we had Round Table Discussions after our Friday Masses. We often had special speakers and guests who would talk about a wide range of peace and justice issues. In those early years, my Mother began to grow in her understanding and perspective of the world in which we lived. She always said that my brother, Tommy, and I were her teachers when it came to peace and justice concerns. If we were her teachers, then she was a quick learner.
“BLESSES ARE THEY WHO HUNGER AND THIRST FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR THEY SHALL BE SATISFIED”
From being a student of peace and justice concerns, it was not a big leap for Mom to become a peace activist in her own right. She joined the International Catholic Peace group called Pax Christi at the same time my brother, Tom, joined. She became a member of the Des Moines Chapter of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – a wonderful local group of radical women. In the 1980’s, Mom joined a Women for Guatemala group, which tried to lift up the plight of the Mayan Indians in Central America.
She started to go to peace demonstrations with Tommy and me. Soon she went to these events on her own. She was first arrested at the Nuclear Test Site in Nevada. She crossed the line at SAC Headquarters at Offutt AFB several times. She went to trial in the Federal Court in Omaha for breaking a ”ban and bar” letter from Offutt AFB, was found guilty and put on probation. The last time Mom was arrested was at the Livermore Nuclear Research Lab in California. She crossed the line together with other Catholic Workers and Bishop Thomas Gumbleton.
There’s a great story about my Mom and a peace parade here in Des Moines. She happened to get behind a contingency of gay peace activists. After the parade, she came up to us and said, “You know, I kind of felt uncomfortable a little bit. They were holding hands and showing expressions of affection.” I quickly chided her and said, “come on, Mom, you’ve got to loosen up a bit and grow a little here and learn how to change.”
She looked at us and said, “Don’t talk to me about change! I remember going to parades to send the boys off to war.”
“BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS FOR THEY WILL BE CALLED CHILDREN OF GOD”
My Mom was not afraid to get into your business if she thought you needed it. It’s not stretch of say my Mom could be very opinionated and direct with her advice. The last time I heard my Mother’s confession, she talked about my sins more than hers. She figured she had me in a place where I couldn’t get up and walk away.
My Mom loved my being a priest. She was my best asset in the parishes I served. A frequent visitor, she loved going to my Masses. She attended every one of my weekend Masses when she came to visit and she received the Eucharist every time. The truth be known, she was a Eucharistic “junkie”.
Mom also knew of the struggles I had to become a priest and to stay a priest. She was always very clear about my being a priest. “Be a good one, or do not be one at all”. She told me, “You will never be happy unless you follow your heart, with a clear conscience.”
My last conversation with my Mom was this weekend. Dee Dee was out of town and she wanted to make sure that one of us got over to see Mom every day. Mom was unconscious at the time, but she was at peace. I told her, “you know, Mom, I’m following your advice. I’m following my heart, with a clean conscience.”
“BLESSED ARE THE CLEAN OF HEART FOR THEY WILL SEE GOD.”
To read the full text of the sermon, visit our website: http://www.desmoinescatholicworker.org