Philomena spurs alumni effort to help mum know her son

Philomena Lee

Several Catholic High School alummni in Illinois are seeking 'to help a mum know her son' and the mother they are reaching out to is the woman upon whom the Oscar-nominated movie Philomena is based.

- Catholic News Service

The 'son' is Michael Hess, from the Boylan High School class of 1970. The idea to reach out to Philomena Lee was hatched long before any of Hess' former classmates ever heard about a movie. Their goal had everything to do with fond memories of Mike as a good, faithful and talented friend.

About a year ago Lynn Cuppini McConville, Boylan's director of advancement, was asked if she knew about the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith. It was brought to her attention by Boylan staff member Ingrid Jansen. Jansen's sister-in-law lives in Ireland, happened to read the book, and was surprised to see Rockford mentioned.

McConville said she checked it out and couldn't believe that the lost son mentioned in the book was Hess, a fellow classmate and friend who she remembers as being 'such a nice and intense young man'.

She said she was hesitant at first because the story highlights harsh attitudes and an unattractive chapter in Church history.

Lee gave birth at a convent home in Ireland for unwed mothers. Once her son was born, like other young mothers, she was forced to 'relinquish full claim forever' for her son so that he could be adopted. She also had to work in the attached laundry to pay off the debt she owed the nuns.

It was the fond memories of a 'wonderfully talented and kind person' that compelled McConville to email and Facebook several of her fellow alumni about the book and its Boylan connection. And so they began to reminisce about days gone by.

FULL STORY 'Philomena' story spurs Catholic alums' effort to help mom know her son (CNS)

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