- Women of the Cloth (1996)
- Contemporary Religious Ideas (1996)
- Walking Shoes – A Soul Journey (to be published)
- Everyone has a Story (to be published)
- numerous newspaper columns called Traveling Companion for Mississippi Today, Gulf Pine Catholic
by Victoria Randle (SHS) 2002
Father Michael Tracey is not only a priest, but he is also a rising Mississippi writer. Tracey’s works of literature are primarily based on what people can relate to in their everyday lives, so they appeal to people of all ages, race, and sex.
Michael Tracey was born on July 9, 1947, in Killawalla, Westport, Ireland, to William and Mary Tracey. While living in Ireland, he attended St. Patrick’s National School in Killawalla, St. Mary’s College in Galway, and St. Patrick’s College in Carlow. On June 14, 1972 at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Killawalla, Rev. Joseph B. Brunin ordained Tracey as a priest (Tracey).
Starting in the 1972 to the mid 1980s, Tracey served as associate pastor for many parishes. In 1977, when the Diocese of Biloxi was established, Bishop Howz appointed Tracey as its first Director of Youth Ministry. Also in 1977, Bishop Howze appointed Tracey as the Associate Editor for Mississippi Today, the weekly Catholic newspaper for Mississippi Catholics, and Tracey worked there until 1979 (Tracey).
In 1985, Tracey received a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Ministry from Fordham University in New York (Tracey). After Tracey received his degree, he returned to the Diocese of Biloxi to become Director of RENEW. While the director of RENEW, Tracey created several small group faith sharing booklets for participants that are now being used in many dioceses in the United States and Canada today (Woman of the Cloth, 345). He also served for a time as pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Hattiesburg.
In 1996, Father Tracey published his first novel, Woman of the Cloth. This novel is a story of a woman’s struggles to realize her dream, gift, and true potential in a dysfunctional system (345). Currently, Tracey is working on another novel called Everyone has a Story. He does have another novel, Walking Shoes – A Soul Journey, that is completed, but he has not contracted any publishers yet. In addition to the written articles for various national Catholic newspapers and magazines, Tracey is also a contributing author to a book called Contemporary Religious Ideas, a book published in 1996 by Libraries Unlimited (Tracey).
Father Tracey served as pastor of Our Lady of the Gulf parish in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and continued to write his regular column called Traveling Companion for Gulf Pine Catholic newspaper for the Diocese of Biloxi (Tracey) until his retirement in 2013. He says, ” Through the decades of writing, I had the opportunity to share some insights, stories and maybe wisdom gained from peddling a bike at such ungodly hours of the night. Through the years of writing such columns, I met so many wonderful people who encouraged me with their compliments. It was humbling to know how the Lord was using a gift given to bring a smile, a word of encouragement to someone who needed a boost.”
In addition to his newspaper column, Father Tracey has also written several books besides Woman of the Cloth, including a Hurricane Katrina memoir and a fable called The Crooked Christmas Tree. He also collaborated on a book titled Contemporary Religious Ideas.
Tracey retired in 2013 and returned after forty years to his native Ireland.
A Review of Woman of the Cloth
by Victoria Randle (SHS)
Woman of the Cloth is a controversial novel written by Michael Tracey. The topic of this book has never been written about in fiction, but Father Tracey writes with an inside view of the caste system that everyone avoids discussing.
In Woman of the Cloth, the main character is Mary Trotter. Mary is a social worker and a religious education coordinator who struggles with her identity. Mary is devastated by a failed marriage and the loss of her only son, so she starts searching for her place in life. As Mary struggles with her identity, she is drawn to the idea that she wants to become the first woman Catholic priest. She knows that there will be a problem once she reveals her secret as the Catholic church does not accept women priests.
Once Mary is ready to reveal that she wants to become a priest, she tells her best friend Father Jerry Becker. Father Jerry Becker and Mary Trotter have a special relationship because they were each other’s first love, and they had a child together. Once Mary confesses to Jerry that she wants to become a priest, he is very shocked because he knows that a woman can not become a priest. Jerry gives Mary his advice about her situation but tells her that she should consult with someone else who is involved in the church and therefore have a second opinion to go by. Mary follows Jerry’s instructions, and the next person Mary tells her secret to he is Father Larson, who is not very helpful to her. She consults with a third person, Bishop Schwartz, and he is very helpful to her.
As the novel progresses, Mary’s dream comes true with the help of Bishop Schwartz. Mary never gives up on her dream; that’s what makes this book so interesting. In conclusion, I really enjoyed this book. This book kept me wondering if Mary was going to give up on her dreams because there were so many problems that she had to deal with to attain them. I recommend this book to all people who like to read and people who are interested in how the caste system works in the Catholic Church.
by Victoria Randle (SHS)
1. When did you become interested in writing?
“I started writing in college, doing mostly critical reviews of plays performed on campus. That writing expanded to a more reflective type of writing and then to writing articles for newspapers and magazine and eventually to novels.”
2. How long did it take you to write Women of the Cloth and where did you get the idea for this book?
“It took me four months to write the initial draft Women of the Cloth. I got the idea for the book at about 3 a.m. one morning. I woke up, had a pen and notebook by my bed and started to write for 15 minutes. In that time, I had the outline of the book written and the last sentence. It is ironic that, in all the edits to the book, the last sentence never changed.”
3. What author do you think has influenced you the most?
“I have been told that I write in the style of Flannery O’Connor. There is a certain similarity between many Irish authors and Southern authors as far as style is concerned. We have a similar approach to and perspective on life.”
4. Who is your favorite author/authors?
“My favorite authors are Flannery O’Conner, William Faulkner, and Annie Dillard.”
5. Have you received any awards for your writing?
“The greatest award one can receive from writing is knowing that what one writes impacts the lives of one’s readers. I am constantly receiving letters and emails and personal contacts from people who read my writings, telling me how much of an impact my writing has on their lives. That is the greatest award.”
6. How do you come up with topics when writing your column for the newspaper?
“One of my great gifts is that I tend to see life and the lives of people I meet from different perspectives where others might see obstacles. I am very conscious of my Celtic roots and its outlook on life and how that is reflected in my own outlook on life and my thinking. I don’t necessarily start out to write an article. The raw material for my articles come form my encounters with people on a day to day basis. By reflecting on such encounters, I am able to to share some reflection and insights because of such encounters. I can sit down at a computer and just allow the article to flow without any notes or pre-planning. It just flows naturally; I presume that is a special gift which I try to cultivate.”
7. Are you currently working on a new book? What is it called? When will it be published?
“I recently finished a book called Walking Shoes – A Soul Journey, but have not contracted any possible publisher yet. I am also working on another novel, tentatively called Everyone has a Story.”
8. How has Mississippi or living in Mississippi influenced your writing?
“Being exposed to Mississippi authors at an early age and now living in Mississippi has impacted my writing. Mississippi has provided the raw material for my writing; the way of life I encounters, the attitude and outlook of the people provide the fodder for my writing experience.”
- Information about Michael Tracey’s retirement.
- Here you can find information about Our Lady of the Gulf Church where Father Michael Tracey was the pastor.
- Tracey, Michael. “About the Author.” Women of the Cloth. Jackson: Town Square Books Inc., 1996. 345.
- Tracey, Michael. E-mail interview. 27 March 2002.
- Tracey, Michael. “Introducing Fr. Michael Tracey, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.” Tracey on the Web.
- Ed. Michael Tracey. March 2002. Home page. March 19, 2002 <http://www.mtracey.net/Into.html>.