Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Columnist Honored For Lifetime Of Fidelity

By GRETCHEN KEISER, Staff Writer | Published September 29, 2005

Although her life has been pierced with sorrow, Antoinette Bosco’s eyes sparkle when she talks, her laughter is warm, and her presence is engaging.

The longtime columnist for Catholic News Service and author received the Distinguished Service Award Sept. 16 from the National Council of Catholic Women for her leadership and service to the Catholic Church and the community. The award was presented at a luncheon where she was the keynote speaker during the biennial convention of the NCCW held at the Hilton Atlanta Hotel Sept. 15-18.

One wouldn’t suspect the weight of tragedy the petite 77-year-old has carried, but she acknowledges that her life—a mixture of sorrow and joy—is supported by her faith in God that also continues to deepen and grow, as it must, to sustain her.

One of her spiritual touchstones is the writing of St. Francis de Sales, who admonished a person who questioned why roses must have thorns by saying, “Isn’t it wonderful that thorns have roses.”

“It became kind of a theme for my life,” Bosco said. “Nurture the joy and the laughter in your life.”

Early on, when she was a college student at St. Rose College in Albany, N.Y., she had two experiences that have been life changing, Bosco said.

On a freshman retreat she heard a priest tell of an American soldier in France finding a broken statue of Jesus inside a small Catholic church at the end of World War II. The statue was intact except for the hands of Jesus, which were gone. The soldier wrote a message and left it at the base of the statue: “I have no hands but yours.”

Bosco said the story made a profound impression upon her. “We have to be partners with God in helping others.”

The other event from college was a talk she heard by Father James Keller, MM, founder of The Christophers. He told the young women there were three fields in which they could change the world: politics, teaching and writing.

“That writing really stuck in the back of my head,” said Bosco, who began to write as a young woman of necessity to support her family after her marriage, arranged by her father, failed and ended in divorce. As a single mother, she raised seven children, one of whom, Sterling, she adopted after meeting him in the local post office where he was hungry, ragged and looking for food.

“I thought he was about 8,” she said, but when he began to eat regularly and started shooting up in size she learned he was 15.

Her writing began in the Catholic press at the Long Island Catholic decades ago, and eventually she became a regular weekly columnist for CNS. Only recently has she begun writing every other week. She has also written a series of books, primarily on spirituality in the face of life’s challenges, and hundreds of magazine articles.

Her topics are wide-ranging and include writers and artists, people who have found a way to turn personal tragedy into works of goodness, many social justice issues, the search for peace, and the need to find and celebrate the moments of beauty in life.

She now has 15 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

“Don’t ever forget how to laugh. That is the ground and the moisture from which you can grow roses from the thorns,” she said to the women attending the convention.

At the same time she has experienced deep sorrow in the deaths of several of her adult children. Sterling, an Illinois state trooper, died last year after a failed heart and kidney transplant, Bosco told the NCCW convention. Her son Peter, a young writer and teacher, committed suicide when he was 27. Then, in 1993 her son John and his wife, Nancy, were murdered in their home in rural Montana by an 18-year-old stranger who broke in at night apparently just to kill whoever was inside.

She had to confront at the deepest level what her faith really meant, Bosco said.

“I had to get to the gut reality about what I really believed.”

She acknowledged, “I do a lot of crying. The pain never goes away from that kind of loss … I screamed at God. I asked over and over, ‘My God, why have you forsaken me?’”

However, she found herself compelled to go “back to the Gospels” and “get to know Him even better.” There she found Jesus speaking of compassion, of mercy, and of forgiveness—“one of the hardest things.”

While she and her four living children never wanted the confessed killer of John and Nancy Bosco, whose name is Joseph Shadow Clark, to receive the death penalty, they have gone on to become even more active in various ways in seeking an end to use of the death penalty in the states where they live.

Shadow Clark, who received a sentence of 220 years in prison and will be eligible for parole when he is 60, recently wrote a short letter to her, she said, “expressing his sorrow for the killing and asking for forgiveness.”

The family wrote back, she added, saying they had forgiven him, while also saying that they believe he needed to serve out his sentence and that society needed to be protected.

She now corresponds with about 40 prisoners and has visited and spoken in prisons, a ministry that began with a column she wrote in 1995 that an inmate answered.

Bosco said when she speaks of forgiving enemies and of having mercy on those who murder she sometimes gets ridiculed and has been accused of not really loving her children.

She said she reflects on Jesus’ final words to his disciples in the Gospel of John before his crucifixion where he asks the Father that his disciples may be one, that they may have joy, and that they may “love one another.”

“I get very moved by this and I think—this is what we should remember,” she told the audience.

“In troubled times we all berate God. I’ve shaken my fist at God,” she said.

However, “I have to see a larger picture, not just the bad, but all the good, all the beauty, all the hope that is in the world. Our vision of the world can get very distorted if we ever stop looking at the whole picture.”

“All the suffering I have had has changed my faith for the better,” she said.

Once her faith was a pursuit of certainty.

“Now my faith is accepting mystery,” she said. “And my faith has taken me one step further and that is to love the mystery.”