Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 8 — Cappoquin

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The problems were compounded by Sr Callida’s reluctance to disengage from the Institution and the children in it: At first it was she would kind of meet the children coming home from school, just down the road and be speaking to them as they were coming up. She would just sit on the wall. Some of the young people would have felt uncomfortable about that. Another young person, a five year old girl, was being taken out by another nun, Sr Serena. At first what I was aware of, like, she had befriended this young person and would take her for a spin maybe once a week or once a fortnight, down ... to her family home. I subsequently found out that she was picking up Sr Callida on the way, they were meeting. So I had to put a stop to that as well, that access.


He also observed that some of the children were psychologically damaged by the manner in which the previous Resident Manager selected a number of favourites.


Mr Lloyd set about introducing changes. New staff rosters were developed, pocket money for the children was introduced, and the children were allowed out for proper and constructive reasons. He set about getting the younger children fostered out to befriending families. Proper contact between children and their families was introduced and encouraged. He found that some of the children had been in care for far too long. No real attempt had been made to consider when they would leave care. He held meetings with social workers to build up a profile and history of the children, some of whom had no idea why they were in care in the first place.


There was no aftercare system in place. He introduced a system, whereby a staff member was allocated to each child. They worked their normal roster, but had specific responsibility for a particular child’s homework, dental visits etc. They then submitted a quarterly report for the Resident Manager on the progress of each child. He moved the office from Group Home A to Group Home B, in an effort to redress the feeling amongst the staff and children that one house was more favoured than the other.


He encountered huge resistance from the senior social worker to his efforts to review children properly and to the introduction of fostering. He also encountered interference from the former Resident Manager, as outlined above.


Ms Linehan and Ms Waters subsequently worked under Mr Lloyd. They described the contrast between him and Sr Lucilla. The changes brought about by the new manager resulted in proper structures being put in place; training for staff improved; regular staff meetings were held; and the children were much happier, safe and more settled.


The Congregation’s submission that this witness had a tendency to overstate the degree of his own contribution was unfounded. Mr Lloyd was an enlightened and progressive Manager, who transformed the working conditions for staff in the group homes and created a secure environment for the children.


Sr Callida was appointed as Resident Manager to Group Home A in the late 1970s, and the problems identified by the former staff members who gave evidence to the Committee were apparent almost immediately. In particular, Sr Callida’s drinking became known to the Community in the convent in the year following her appointment, but nothing was done to ensure the safety and protection of the children in her care.


Sr Rosetta was Resident Manager of Cappoquin for two years in the 1970s, and she appointed Sr Callida as her successor. Sr Callida was a young Sister who had worked in the group home for some years prior to her appointment. She had completed the childcare course in Kilkenny in the mid-1970s, and was a secondary school teacher by profession. She was, in short, an ideal candidate to take up the position of Resident Manager, and appeared to have all the attributes necessary to make a success of the job. However, there were fundamental flaws to her character that caused major problems in the School: she was not a good manager/administrator, and she had very poor communication skills. These flaws were exacerbated by her relationships with two members of the Community that prevented proper monitoring of her behaviour and a long-standing problem of alcohol dependency.


The problems caused by Sr Callida’s personality were obvious to any observer of the group homes, and yet the Sisters in the Community in Cappoquin failed, for over a decade, to act to protect the children in her care, who were traumatised and neglected as a result.


Sr Rosetta identified Sr Callida’s drinking problem as dating to an incident in which one of her residents was killed in an accident on his first day at work. He was 16 years old at the time, and his death had a severe impact on Sr Callida. Other Sisters who gave evidence to the Committee have also traced her alcohol dependency to this event that occurred in the late 1970s: It was the first of drinking that I heard was that the older boys who came back and knew him in St Michael’s and stayed in the group home, I heard there was drink flowing, but I couldn’t do much about it at that sensitive time. Seemingly it must have gone on from there, that was [the late 1970s], I don’t know which. I think that made an awful change in her life. Maybe I didn’t give her enough attention to help her over that or whatever. It was only looking back on it maybe I should have. The drink story went on from there.


Sr Rosetta confirmed that other members of the Community shared her concerns at Sr Callida’s drinking. Members of the public also voiced their concern: ‘Yes. Well, there was other people outside told us too about it’.


Until the early 1980s, Sr Rosetta continued as Superior in the convent in Cappoquin and did nothing to address the issue of Sr Callida’s behaviour, other than, in the late 1970s, to appoint a fellow Sister, Sr Melita,17 as a ‘companion’ to encourage her to interact more fully with the Community in the convent. Unfortunately, Sr Melita’s ability to alert her superiors as to the seriousness of Sr Callida’s mismanagement of Group Home A was compromised when they developed a close intimate relationship. Sr Melita remained in Cappoquin until the mid-1980s, when she was transferred.


Sr Rosetta was then replaced by Sr Leola,18 who let matters deteriorate even further.


In the mid-1980s, the six Sisters of Mercy convents in the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore came together under the overall control and direction of the Provincial Superior of the Diocese, who was Sr Viola. This Sister thereby assumed ultimate responsibility for the Sisters’ undertakings in Cappoquin.

  1. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period.
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  21. This is a pseudonym. Sr Lorenza later worked in St. Joseph’s Industrial School, Kilkenny. See St Joseph’s Industrial School, Kilkenny chapter.
  22. Mother Carina.
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