A half-century of love and passing on the faith

finney    The bedroom ceiling in Brenda and Luke Tromatore’s unfinished home in Mississippi is a window into the mystery of faith and a canvas in broad strokes depicting the power of a half-century of love.
    They were married in 1960 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Violet, and their 52-year marriage has been a testament to the poetic and scripturally based “Exhortation Before Marriage” that used to be directed to the wide-eyed bride and groom standing at the altar as well as to the world-wise married couples in the pews: “Sacrifice is usually difficult and irksome; only love can make it easy, and perfect love can make it a joy.”
    The ceiling in the new home Luke is still piecing together after they lost their Chalmette home in Katrina is about 12 feet above their bed. Luke, 71, is a man of few words, and the ones he does use are usually blunt and direct. He worked for years as a mechanic and he can fix anything. He also is a self-taught artist, which is why he decided to surprise Brenda using the love language he knows best.
    With the bedroom walls and ceiling installed, Luke scaled a ladder and with precision painted a ceiling landscape bursting with clouds and cherubs so that the last thing Brenda sees at night, while she recites her prayers, is a little touch of heaven.
    “Friends come in here and say, ‘I have to see your bedroom. It’s awesome,’” Brenda said. “It makes me realize just how lucky I am, that after everything we’ve been through, we’re still here and everything is going well, thank the Lord.”
    They have been through Katrina, like a million other people. But Brenda, 71, also has survived a serious bout with cancer and a stroke, which for the last four years has made it difficult for her to drive at night because of the glare of oncoming headlights.
    But every Monday evening, the Tromatores, with Luke at the wheel, make the 60-mile trip from Leetown, Miss., to Our Lady of Prompt Succor School in Chalmette so that Brenda can oversee the religious education program for the parish’s 310 students.
    For the last 52 years – starting when she was a baby-faced newlywed – Brenda has been teaching CCD classes to kids who otherwise would not be getting much formation in the Catholic faith. She started at Our Lady of Lourdes in October 1960 when Father Clinton Doskey saw her attending daily Mass and asked if she could help keep an eye on the 100 or so students who came to Mass on Tuesday mornings before being dropped off at the public school, Borgnemouth Elementary.
    Back then, Father Doskey had his back to the congregation, and he needed someone to be the eyes in the back of his head.
    “You got to know which ones you really had to watch,” Brenda said. “After a few times I put the younger ones up front so they could see what Father was doing, and I had the older ones in the back. I would sit behind them. Usually what would happen is that they would punch or tickle one another, and then naturally everybody around them would start to laugh.”
    Brenda went on to teach CCD at St. Mark in Chalmette for 24 years and then moved to Our Lady of Prompt Succor, where she has taught religion at the school and run the CCD program. Her greatest memories are the questions kids used to ask. A third-grade boy once confided to her after a lesson on the Ten Commandments that he had committed adultery.
    “I had to look at him and say, ‘I don’t think so, honey,’ and then I tried to explain it to him in children’s terms,” Brenda said.
    After hearing a lesson about protecting your “private parts,” a child asked what those were. “Anything that’s covered – from your neck to your knees,” Brenda replied.
    Now, unfortunately, kids don’t ask those questions because TV has taught them everything they need to know.
    “Or, they’ve heard their dad or mom talk,” Brenda said. “The biggest challenge today is the family unit. The hardest thing today is to get these children to go to church. Let’s face it, family life is not always what it’s supposed to be. Kids are raising themselves these days, and that’s a shame.”
    That’s why Luke will drive Brenda every Monday evening from Mississippi to Chalmette, a 120-mile roundtrip. Changing one child’s life is an awesome responsibility. While Brenda is teaching inside,  Luke sits in his car for two hours, waiting for her to return.
    “I can’t get him to take the ‘safe environment’ class, so he prefers to sit in the car,” Brenda said. “He’s a blessing. He waits in the heat and the cold and the rain – whatever.”
    When Brenda was honored recently by the archdiocesan Office of Religious Education for her 50-plus years of service, she joked that the award belonged to her husband for putting up with so many of her absences.
    But each night, they share the ceiling – and their Michelangelo moment.
    “I think he did the ceiling for himself, too, because he lies down and looks up there, too,” Brenda said. “It kind of makes you feel like you’re protected, that you are wrapped in love. It’s very hard to explain when you’re lying next to somebody you love, and you thank God every day for that.”
    Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at pfinney@clarionherald.org.

Site Administrator

➤ Lloyd Robichaux | Site Administrator | Art Director | Webmaster | lrobichaux@clarionherald.org | (504) 596-3024 | Fax: (504) 596-3020

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.