This narrative is taken from the introduction to my third book, The Sexual Believer.
Noel Cooper grew up in the 1950s, a decade that shared many characteristics of the Middle Ages (or at least the nineteenth century) for Catholics. I attended Catholic universities through the entire decade of the sixties, an era of immense upheaval in both the church and secular society.
Patricia and I married in 1971. In the 1980’s, as a mother of three working full-time as a classroom teacher, my wife completed her bachelor’s degree. It included courses in Women’s Studies that inspired another significant phase in my education. Together we were a congenial and successful parenting team. Every day Pat taught me more about the true meaning of relationships and love, until death took her away from our family in 2002.
Our three sons were born in the seventies, grew up in the eighties, reached adulthood in the nineties, and married in the 2000s. Now I am a grandfather watching the development of yet another generation. My sons and their wives continue to grow in love and deal with life’s joys and sorrows as principled human beings.
The most surprising recent development in my own life was my marriage at the age of sixty-six to a woman, also named Pat, whom I had known through most of the 1960s and had not seen for more than thirty-five years until she bumped into mutual friends about a year after my late wife’s death.
I am also very conscious that everyone’s background has an effect on attitudes and values. My ancestors, of English and French heritage, have lived in Canada since the early 1800s. My mother grew up in a bilingual Catholic family in the Gaspé region of Quebec. Members of my father’s family were farmers in Western Ontario, faithful adherents of the Methodist tradition. My dad became Roman Catholic when I was still a baby—not a popular thing to do from the viewpoint of his family of origin, but they were always most welcoming and generous to us. My late wife’s heritage is Irish Catholic and English Protestant, also Canadian for several generations. Both of us are the products of our Northern European roots and our 1950s upbringing, for good or ill.
I have also had experiences that are not shared by the majority of Roman Catholics. Ordained a priest in 1965, I studied theology full time for seven years after earning my bachelor’s degree. I earned postgraduate degrees in theology and Sacred Scripture during three years of study in Rome, taught scripture in a Canadian seminary for two years, was officially restored to the status of layperson in 1970, married, and worked as a religious educator, teaching “theology” to both students and adults in a Canadian Catholic school system for almost thirty years until my retirement. In that role I was responsible not only for the religious education programs in our school board (which now includes more than 50,000 students), but also for what we call Family Life Education, a program about family, relationships, emotion, sexuality, and values. I have spoken at numerous parent meetings, some of them quite contentious, especially in the early years of the AIDS crisis. I have also taught teacher courses and conferences about religious education and family life education from 1970 to the present. After retirement I worked on a (non-religious) program for fathers of young children and learned about the joys and concerns of contemporary married life and parenthood in that context.
Since retiring on pension in 1998, I continued until 2010 to teach religious education courses for teachers, and have published four books, which are presented on other pages of this site.