Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nun abuse
Churchgoers hear a shocking tale of childhood abuse
12:00pm Thursday 18th November 2010

Print Email Share Comments(8) By Helen Orrell »

A WIVENHOE woman has spoken of the torture and torment she suffered at the hands of “sadistic” nuns as a child.

Churchgoers in the town listened in horror as Frances Reilly recounted tales of the institutional abuse she suffered in an orphanage run by the Poor Sisters of Nazareth, in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

She told the congregation at St Monica’s Roman Catholic Church she was bathed in disinfectant, locked in cupboards and given daily beatings.

Yet when Government inspectors visited the orphanage, they completely missed signs of abuse, with children being silenced by fear of reprisals.

She said she and other girls wrote pleas for help on paper aeroplanes and threw them over the walls in the hope of being rescued.

When her father got in touch, she believed she had found a way out – only to learn he had died, when it was announced in morning prayers, one day.

Mrs Reilly’s first book, Suffer the Little Children, tells of her experiences under the nuns’ cruel regime. It was published in 2009 and recently found its way to Father Paul Keane, the priest at St Monica’s, who invited her to speak at the church, in De Vere Lane.

He said: “I simply thought it was the right and just the local church community had the chance to hear her story. The only thing we could do was listen to it.

“I was inspired by meeting Frances last summer and I’m very grateful she was kind enough to talk to us.

“I have had many people say to me they are pleased this is happening in the parish.”

Mrs Reilly, 56, said: “When he invited me in, I’d only been in a Catholic church once since I was a child. I thought it was absolutely huge for a Catholic priest to allow me in to talk about what I had been through. I have so much respect for him for doing that.

“I don’t blame the Catholic church for the fact paedophiles and sadistic women worked there, but what I was annoyed about was how it dealt with our complaints. At least now, people are starting to listen. People like Father Paul will do the Catholic church a lot more good than those who have tried to sweep it under the carpet.”

The mother-of-five finally won a ten-year legal battle against her tormentors in 2008 and was awarded an undisclosed sum in compensation, as did dozens of other victims.

Mrs Reilly is still campaigning for a full apology from the Government and the Church.

The Poor Sisters of Nazareth was founded in the mid-19th century in Hammersmith, London, to care for the very young and the very old.

For more than 100 years, Nazareth Houses all over Britain were home to thousands of children. The order no longer cares for children, instead running residential care homes for the elderly as the Sisters of Nazareth.

The order also operates in Australia, South Africa, the United States and Ireland and has been the subject of hundreds of abuse claims from those who were once in its care.

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