New Cincinnati Friends Meeting (CFM) member Mardi Fallon’s spiritual path began as a child “with peak experiences” and a devout Catholic upbringing. She dipped into Buddhism and worshiped for five years with Community Friends Meeting before discovering her current spiritual home.
A desire to get back in touch with those early encounters and “the kindness, generosity, love and feeling part of something instead a part from” encouraged Mardi to seek membership here.
She is never far from her sidekick, seven-year-old grandson Robert, a vibrant young Friend.
Mardi lives in Ft. Thomas, Ky., but grew up in Springdale, OH, with an older sister. Her grandmother and mother were large influences in her life. “My mother was a bit of a free thinker and said she didn't care what religion I followed as long as I had a personal relationship with Jesus. Her faith had a luminous quality, an openness that transcended just praying. I was aware as a kid that her faith was deeper than others I saw.”
While her mom attended mass, Mardi often stayed home with her grandmother to cook brunch. “She was a great baker and I loved spending time with her.”
Mardi completed public school, graduated from Mount Notre Dame High School and Xavier University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. “Mount Notre Dame was the first place anyone said I could do anything. The counselor, Mrs. Hipskind, applied for a scholarship for me and to choose between St. Mary's near Notre Dame and Xavier. She believed in me.” Mardi was the first in her family to obtain a college degree, though her sister attended college and her dad’s job at Fernald required advanced study.
Mardi changed her Montessori-education major to psychology after a favorite teacher, said “he did not know why he bothered teaching girls because all they want to do is get married. Xavier had just opened full time to women; I was going to prove him wrong. I also wanted to understand my family and how to help other people.”
Mardi returned to a master’s degree, derailed when her advisor died, ten years later and earned a doctorate in counselor education.
In her thirties, Mardi studied with master Dae Gak at the Cincinnati Zen Center, and pursued meditation with Tibetan and Cambodian monks she remembers as “gentle spirits. I received a blessing from a rinpoche once.”
Perhaps that training prepared her to adopt siblings with special needs in her 40s and as a single parent. Her path has been rocky at times.
Burned out working and raising children, Mardi confided “about how empty I felt and wanted a spiritual life again,” to her sister, who directed her to Quakers near Xavier. Mardi and Robert, an infant, attended Community Friends for five years. “They were really sweet.” However, Mardi wanted “something more embracing and with a program for children.” That led her to CFM.
“Looking within and the silence from meditation all those years really resonated with Quakerism. I have come to believe independently that the best part of God is in us and the rest is ego. I really want to let go of the ego stuff and let that of God pervade. I was prone as a child to peak spiritual experiences and gotten out of touch with that. I wanted to get that back. I am getting closer.”
When Mardi took minister Jim Newby’s Introduction to Quakers class, she felt very aligned with the SPICES (simplicity, integrity, community, equality and stewardship) testimonies, which “just opened the door” to her seeking membership.
Robert, once tagged for failure to thrive, is “doing awesome and connecting to other children" here, Mardi reports. “(CFM member) Elaine Williams is helping me with finances and digging out.” Until recently, Mardi supported and cared for her daughter, three grandchildren, her daughter’s friends and dying mother. “My mother had dementia and all of the caretaking was such a zoo that I had to cut work back to part time. My new job as a counselor pays well and is only a 20-minute commute.”
Now, it’s just Mardi and Robert. Mardi says life is finally “manageable,” though both she and Robert “need recovery time” before she tackles projects on her 100-year-old house. She acknowledged she has not had an easy path, but it seems on track with CFM as her faith community.