Like the pine trees lining the winding road,
I got a name, I got a name.
Like the singing bird and the croaking toad,
I got a name, I got a name.
And I carry it with me like my daddy did…
— Songwriters: Charles Fox, Norman Gimbel
© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
(made famous by Jim Croce)
Yes I have a name. And this is how I came to receive it.
My father was named Donald Joseph Girard. As my name is Joseph Donald Girard, one might easily imagine — as I did for years — that I simply have his name, turned around a bit. I was an adult before I learned “the rest of the story.”
My mother was a Catholic nun for about a year and a half. That’s an important part of the story. But first we must touch upon her biography a bit.
She was the youngest of three children from a broken and very dysfunctional family. After the divorce, she, her mom and sister emigrated to the US from Canada (illegally overstaying a visa, by the way — an illegal immigrant; a Dreamer) when she was age 11. They struggled with poverty and moving from house-to-house through her difficult pubescent and adolescent years. She has confided that she lost all interest in religion, faith and lived with a gray set of morals.
Always a “connector”, she had formed a few close friendships with girls who seemed to have their “stuff together.” Two I can recall — because they remained life-long friends — were Lorraine and Joan. Both sweet ladies, whom I got to know much later, and both Catholic.
My mom came to the realization she needed some direction in her life. She started occasionally attending Catholic church with her friends and took to it well. More frequent attendance and instruction in the faith followed. Then full conversion. It’s said that “There is no believer whose belief is stronger than that of a convert”; and that was certainly true of my mother.
A few years later she entered the convent, first as postulant, then as novitiate. She took the vows of service and poverty, donned the habit, took a new name (Sister Mary Lourdes) and began her new life.
It was — up until then — the most wonderful thing that had happened to her in her life. A new city where she was welcomed (St Louis). A loving, caring, generous faith community. A beautiful Convent, with her own room (although tiny), where she wouldn’t have to move every few months. Having given up money and possessions and image — well — she didn’t have to worry about those danged things anymore. A world of possibility and freedom and love opened up to her that she couldn’t even have otherwise imagined.
It lasted just over a year until she had her doubts. After a period of counseling and meditation she became our own version of Maria, from The Sound of Music. She left the order before taking her final vows. Something else was calling her.
Whereupon she returned to her previous hometown (Chicago) and took up the life of a single woman again. But this time dedicated to virtue and service, with a clear direction on morals.
A few years later she was whisked off her feet by a very good dancer. A witty, charming, energetic nice young man, with a promisingly budding career, and at least a nominal commitment — at the time — to the same Catholic faith. Heck, they met at a CYO dance (Catholic Youth Organization).
The relationship soon got serious, and they began discussing kids. In that regard, she had only one criterion. The first son, if they were so blessed, must be named Joseph.
Now I can tell you why that name was her firm choice. The name of the Order that so transformed her life was … The Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet.
My parents remained loyal to each other the rest of their lives. They remained loyal to the church. They remained loyal to St Joseph, donating to many different charities named after him, including Little Sisters of the Poor, whose patron saint is St Joe.  
I’ve carried my name proudly. I’m not Catholic — or even very religious — anymore. Yet I have kept a little plaque of St Joseph the Carpenter up in my room for many decades, wherever I go. It was a gift from my mom when I was a lad. I keep it as a reminder of the loyalty and commitment of my parents. And why I have my name. And what I have to do.
I must be loyal to my parents by living a life they would be proud of.
Well that’s my blubbery autobiographic piece. Sorry for any apparent “virtue signaling.”
Joe Girard © 2018
 My mom passed in 2006. My dad’s devotion to St Joe and my mom continued, as he wrote these checks until he passed in 2014.
 Some of these charities are now supported by my wife and me.