Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 8 — Cappoquin

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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.


Sr Viola was aware of Sr Callida’s drinking before her appointment in the mid-1980s. She had been approached by a member of the public in the early 1980s, who expressed concern about what was happening in Cappoquin. She suggested that the complaint should be communicated to the Superior in Cappoquin, but she herself did not follow it up.


In addition, she heard reports within the Community: So I would have picked up a little bit from the leader in Cappoquin that there was some – a little concern around the possibility of drink in the childcare home.


When asked whether she had any concerns about the impact of Sr Callida’s behaviour on her ability to carry out her work, she said: Had I any concern? I suppose the answer to that is that I didn’t – because I had never seen it personally and I had never seen the effects of it and everything I was hearing, if you like, or seeing myself didn’t support the fact that it was affecting management or the home. So, I didn’t address that part of it then.


She did not take immediate action, but instead set about building trust with Sr Callida: my memory, would have been that if this is a concern then we need to build trust, to build a relationship, to come to some understanding of childcare, so that we can address the issue when we have more concrete evidence. So that was a deliberate decision that we took.


Sr Viola said that this process of building up trust involved calling over to the group home and having tea with Sr Callida on a few occasions during the year, as well as attending in-service days with her.


The emphasis, however, was all on Sr Callida and, by her own admission, Sr Viola did not talk to the staff or to the children during these visits. She did not identify the chronic problems that were causing such difficulties for the children and the staff there: I certainly would have felt that the place looked okay. The children looked okay. To me, I wouldn’t have had any immediate concerns at the time.


This was a missed opportunity, and it allowed Sr Callida to continue behaviour that was, by any standards, inappropriate and dangerous.


Sr Viola appointed Sr Serena as Superior to the convent in Cappoquin, and gave her instructions to keep an eye on Sr Callida and report back on her behaviour. At the same time, Sr Callida’s previous confidante, Sr Melita, was transferred from Cappoquin and appointed as Superior in another school. This was regarded by Sr Callida as a great loss, both to her personally and to the group home, and she and a number of the children rang Sr Viola to express their dismay at Sr Melita’s departure.


Sr Viola gave evidence that she had briefed Sr Serena on Sr Callida’s alcohol problem when she appointed her to Cappoquin, and had asked her to monitor the situation for her. Her evidence in this regard was vague, however: I would be very surprised if I didn’t. Because it was the thing that we had seriously tried to build. Liliana19 and myself had seen that as a concern and it was like please observe, please support, please build the relationship and keep in touch with us.


Sr Serena in her evidence was quite clear that she was only told to integrate Sr Callida into the Community in the convent, and was not asked to monitor her drinking.


Sr Serena found the move to Cappoquin difficult. When asked by Sr Viola to go there as local leader, ‘very, very, very reluctantly I said yes’.


Sr Serena did not see her remit as extending to the children in the group homes. She stated that she was the leader of the Community in Cappoquin, and also had teaching duties in the local secondary school, but did not regard the running of the homes as something she was concerned with. She visited Group Home A very regularly, as her friendship with Sr Callida grew, and even helped out with homework occasionally, but she never saw her role as any more than that of a visitor.

  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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