Parmadale Children’s Village of St. Vincent DePaul in Parma started accepting orphaned children in 1925. In 1964, a 4-year-old Carolyn Foland, now Carolyn Mason, started what she called a living nightmare at the village.
“I was scared. I was scared being in there a lot,” said Mason.
Now in her 60s, she has revisited the former grounds of Parmadale that’s in the process of being demolished, and she’s opening up for the first time publicly about her claims of serious physical abuse at the hands of the nun who was in charge of her.
“Sister Myra was very mean, almost to the point of evil,” said Mason.
She wiped away tears as she described beatings she claims came from Sister Myra Wasikowski.
“If I had bruises, which one time she blacked my eye really, really good so, that Sunday I couldn’t see my grandma and grandpa because it was too bruised and black,” said Mason.
She described the physical abuse as brutal and said Sister Myra, at times, would even enlist some help.
“Sometimes she would have another kid beat you up,” Mason told us.
“She had two faces. One was the devil and one was Sister Myra,” said Debbie Demming. She, too, was at Parmadale in the 1960s. She showed us a picture that she said was her wiggling away from Sister Myra’s lap. Demming was just 10 years old.
“Sister Myra would strip you down, bare naked, have the girls hold you down on a bench that was there by the lockers and beat your butt with whatever she could find,” described Demming.
She showed us a scar that she said she got from the nun. “She cracked me in the back of the head with a hand brush, split my head open,” said Demming.
She told us kneeling on rice and hairbrushes for extended periods of time was all too common. And if all of that wasn’t bad enough, she and Mason described even more.
“If you didn’t eat your food or you got sick at the dining table, she would make you eat your vomit,” said Demming.
“Spoon it back (to you),” said Mason.
“She would feed you your own vomit?” we asked.
“Yes,” said Mason.
“My God! How can anybody do anything like this?” questioned Sharon Ponomarenko during a recent interview with News 5 Investigators. She told us she has vivid memories of a different nun at Parmadale when she was there in the early 60s. She said she watched that nun beat her brother there.
“She hit him so hard his knuckles were bleeding to the point where he passed out,” said Ponomarenko.
In fact, we found anonline message boardthrough a national group called Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. There are numerous posts claiming abuse by nuns happened frequently at Parmadale.
“I can recall some awful beatings…” wrote one person.
There are many references to Sister Myra including “I was pushed down the basement stairs got 7 stitches in my chin…”, “terribly abusive…”, and “Sr. Myra, A.K.A. the Antichrist…”
An essay by Kathleen McChesney on the impact of the U.S. bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People drew a sharp rebuke by the executive director of the Survivor's Network of Those Abused by Priests.
Zach Hiner, the group's director, said the steps outlined in the charter "needed to be taken," but he likened McChesney's essay to "patting oneself for winning the marathon when you're only a mile in."
Hiner, in a Jan. 10 phone interview with Catholic News Service, said "delayed disclosure" of abuse is "a fact." He noted that "most people in the United States do not come forward until their 50s," so anyone abused in the past 20 years "would not likely be coming forward until 2030, 2040."
The essay by McChesney, the first person to head the U.S. bishops' Office for Child and Youth Protection, was published Jan. 5 by America Media, one day before the 20th anniversary of the first in a series of Boston Globe reports on clergy sex abuse and cover-up.
The government agreed to a landmark settlement to repair the system and compensate those families harmed by it. It potentially ends many years of litigation.
The Canadian government announced Tuesday that it had reached what it called the largest settlement in Canada’s history, paying $31.5 billion to fix the nation’s discriminatory child welfare system and compensate the Indigenous people harmed by it.
The agreement in principle forms the basis for a final settlement of several lawsuits brought by First Nations groups against the Canadian government. Of the overall settlement, 40 billion in Canadian dollars, half will go toward compensating both children who were unnecessarily removed, and their families and caregivers, over the past three decades.
The rest of the money will go toward repairing the child welfare system for First Nations children — who are statistically far more likely to be removed from their families — over the next five years to ensure families are able to stay together.
“First Nations from across Canada have had to work very hard for this day to provide redress for monumental wrongs against First Nation children, wrongs fueled by an inherently biased system,” said Cindy Woodhouse, the Manitoba regional chief at the Assembly of First Nations, the largest Indigenous organization in Canada.
“This wasn’t and isn’t about parenting. It’s in fact about poverty,” she said at a news conference, adding that more than 200,000 children and Indigenous families are affected by the agreement.
The deal is an acknowledgment that the child welfare system was better resourced to remove children than to support them in place. The system was the product of discriminatory policies put in place and enforced over generations against Indigenous communities.
Of those eligible for compensation, experts hired during the litigation have estimated that 115,000 children were separated from their families since 1991, said Robert Kugler, a lawyer who represented First Nations complainants on two different lawsuits, during the news conference.
While less than 8 percent of children under 14 in Canada are Indigenous, they make up more than 52 percent of those in foster care, according to 2016 census data.
In the United States, the terrible truth that Catholic clergy have sexually violated children has been known publicly now for at least 36 years. For this truth-telling, we are indebted to journalists such as Jason Berry. In stark and unsparing detail he documented in May 1985, writing for the Times of Acadiana (and NCR), the predations of admitted serial pedophile Fr. Gilbert Gauthe in the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana.
Over the decades others followed Berry's groundbreaking truth-telling, often against and despite enormous pressure to remain silent. Led by many courageous survivors and their families, of notable mention are the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Bishop Accountability, the Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The New York Times and several state attorneys general.
In January 2019, ProPublica publishedan interactive national directoryof credibly accused clergy drawing on the published disclosures of dioceses and religious orders.
There are serious and profound changes taking place in the Catholic Church to acknowledge and prevent child sexual abuse by clerics and laypeople. The number of priests convicted in the Philippines is zero. Clerical child abuse has become a crisis for the Church as an institution.
We celebrate this December Pope Francis’ historic decree that approved a new law,Motu Proprio Vos estis lux mundi, to protect child victims and prosecute any clergy accused of child abuse. It covers bishops who cover up acts of abuse by priests or laypeople. Every complaint of child abuse must be reported and investigated immediately and reported to the Church and the civil authorities.
By Gabrielle Hays EducationDec 8, 2021 6:02 PM EST
ST. LOUIS – Against their wills, Thomas and Mary Brown, Moses and Nancy Queen, and Isaac and Susan Hawkins were taken from a White Marsh, Maryland, plantation in 1823, forced to leave their families and children 800 miles behind to help the Jesuits in their founding of the Missouri Mission.
Enslaved people were essential to what Jesuit institutions in St. Louis would become. The Jesuits moved another 16 to 18 enslaved people to St. Louis from Maryland in 1829, the same year the Society of Jesus took over St. Louis College, known today as St. Louis University.
Nearly 200 years later, descendants of people the Jesuits enslaved are learning and reclaiming the stories of their ancestors and pushing the institutions around them to tell a complete story, one that includes their families and the harm that was done.
“I believe souls can’t rest until fundamental wrongs are done right,” said Rashonda Alexander, one of the descendants.
Almost 20 years ago, clergy abuse survivor Phil Savianotoldthe first Voice of the Faithful conference: "I am not faithful." He said the repeated assaults he suffered from Fr. David Holley had led to losing his faith before he even went through puberty.
Since Gov. Murphy signed a 2019 law that suspended the statute of limitations for civil sex abuse lawsuits for two years, more than 1,200 cases were filed -- two-thirds of them against clergy or a religious institution.
A window to justice opened, and the people who had spent years or decades harboring an unfathomable pain stepped through it.
But the deadline for those victims to file suit ended Tuesday, and examination of the available data makes this much clear: The suspension of the statute needs to be extended, and our lawmakers should consider waiving it entirely.
Victims of abuse need time to decide whether they can share their experience. That’s why the bill championed by Senator Joe Vitale was crucial, because the previous window for civil action in our state was preposterous: Victims had to bring civil suits before they turned 20 or within two years from the time they connected their trauma to the abuse.
That’s why one examination of these lawsuits filed during this two-year window is revealing. The Record reports that 80% are based on allegations that took place between 1960 and 1990. Only 40 are related to incidents that occurred after 1990.
2023 has been a long year with many ups and downs for us all. As we close out the year, we at SNAP hope that you are feeling like you are on your way to being healthy, fulfilled, and happy. This past year has brought both successes and challenges. Thanks to the support you have shown in the past, we’ve been able to celebrate the good days and weather the stormy ones. Now, we are once again asking for your support as we work to support survivors new and old as we ‘Move SNAP Forward.’
At SNAP we are proud to have hosted a very well-attended conference in August 2023. This event allowed us to gather friends, survivors, advocates, and allies for a weekend of camaraderie and connection. We were so happy to be able to welcome many first-time attendees to gather in person and are already looking forward to the next conference.
To strengthen our movement for justice, healing, and prevention, SNAP will be expanding our peer support and providing more volunteer opportunities in the coming year. Through this great work, we are ensuring survivor voices are represented as we work for significant change that will benefit children and survivors.
Right now, survivors worldwide are getting the help they need from SNAP, and more and more reach out to us daily, but we need your help to keep those programs going and get our volunteers the training they need to thrive.
Your tax-deductible gift to SNAP can help offset the cost of our important mission. If you are not in a position to contribute, you can still support us by sharing this letter with those who can. As we continue to fight for survivors across the globe, your donation or sharing the great work SNAP does will help us continue our work to protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded, and prevent abuse.
Your donation ensures SNAP will be there for those who need us more than ever!