In her memoir, Anne Ierardi chooses to paint in contrasting colors, literally and figuratively. “If you’re just Catholic, and you never walk into a Protestant church and have a conversation, you end up parochial,” she says. “If you don’t have experience with anyone from a different race or sexual orientation, you can never ask questions. There was a pull in me — a sense that there’s always something more out there.”
Ierardi is a painter, a writer, and an ordained minister. Her book, Coming Alive, “is a cumulation and a transition,” she says, that traces the way she found the pieces of her identity from the time she left California Lutheran College, to her wedding day, to the loss of her brother Johnny to AIDS.
Ierardi reflects on the decisions she made, like leaving school to return to Boston to attend Emmanuel College for a year, and the choice between leaving or staying in the male-dominated religious sector. With each step, she confronts shifts in her faith and ministry.
Sprinkled in are stories about her Italian-American Catholic family and traditions, her AmeriCorps romance in Kansas, discrimination and gay liberation, astrology readings, and the inspiration she found in hidden places on Cape Cod.
These stepping stones come together in a mosaic of her life. “I realized that in the span of one year, I went to gay pride and then ended up at a church with a gay pastor,” she says. “Then there’s the losses, the things you don’t expect. Judy and I got married in a full church in Orleans, and six months later my brother died. So, there were some years when joy and sorrow were all mixed in together.”
It took her 17 years to put the stories in her memoir together. “I took many breaks,” Ierardi says. “That’s part of it coming to fruition. You can’t be a renaissance woman and have one thing. You have many different callings and responsibilities.”
Ierardi lives in Yarmouth Port. Her paintings have been shown at Castle Hill in Truro, the Provincetown Art Association, and the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis. She cofounded the Healthsigns Center, a sanctuary for spiritual guidance, contemplative worship, and creative gatherings. For five years, she interviewed musicians and wrote a column for the Barnstable Patriot. She credits the wisdom passed down from other members of the local branch of the International Women Writers Guild with helping her to finish her book.
“Like Alice in Wonderland, I still fall into holes,” she writes. “These holes, these gaps are not like the story of the person who keeps falling into the same hole over and over. Instead, I fall into spaces of wonder and amazement. What if?”
In her memoir, Ierardi captures the people in her life with compassion, which she says comes more naturally to her because of her experience as a therapist.
“I was a therapist for 30-some years, and it was a change from being able to not just listen but express my own self through writing,” she says. The chapters about loved ones, like her late dog, Duchy, poured onto the page. “He was my co-therapist,” she says. “He was very soulful and had a sense of what people needed.”
The memoir is punctuated with photographs, original art, and quotations from the Bible and various writers.
“When I was a freshman in college, I had a huge poster in my dorm room with abstract forms in bright colors,” she says. “In each block, there was a quote by someone — either somebody famous or something my roommates said. In my journals, I write down things people say, poems and ideas about what life is about and how we get the most from it. Who is God? What does it mean to be Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, or Jewish? The big questions moved me.”
As one’s life is transforming, Ierardi says, it’s important to have dreams and not to play it safe. “It may take many years for certain things to manifest,” she says. In choosing to change one’s path, there will be losses, but it’s those same experiences that will bring you joy, confidence, and vision, she says.
Ierardi will be heading to Washington on June 24 as a nominee for the Next Generation Indie Award, LGBTQ category.
“You embrace the questions, and you live into them through these experiences and the people that appear in your life,” she says. “You start with a blank canvas or an idea, and you don’t know where it’s going to take you. It’s called coming alive.”
The event: A talk on the process of writing a memoir by the Rev. Anne Ierardi
The time: Thursday, June 16, 6 p.m.
The place: The Marc Jacobs Reading Room, Provincetown Public Library, 356 Commercial St.
The cost: Free