Ms Tierney said that Sr Serena,12 the Superior of the convent often stayed overnight in Group Home A with Sr Callida. This Sister did not interact with the staff at all but, she said, had a particular child whom she singled out for attention and whom she would keep with her during her visits to Group Home A: She just was around all the time. She was around all the time ... Every day after work she would come and she would call into our place most days after work. It was a regular occurrence. She would stay and wander around and she would be down to Callida. She had a little pet that was her little pet, one of the kids that was there, and she would come in and she would make a big fuss over this child and hold her hand and wander around and really make the rest of the kids feel very inferior to this one particular child.
She described an occasion soon after the appointment of Sr Serena as Reverend Mother to Cappoquin: I remember that day, Sr Serena had just started, she was just made Reverend Mother and she had visited Group Home B that evening, we arranged that she come and have tea with the kids and staff and Sr Callida came in that evening. The kids had just left the table and she came in and she was clearly under the influence of drink when she came in.
She did not discuss Sr Callida’s obvious intoxication with Sr Serena at the time. It was not an isolated incident, because she had witnessed Sr Callida’s intoxication on other occasions. She said that the staff and children discussed Sr Callida’s drinking with her and amongst themselves, and that it was a problem throughout Sr Callida’s time there, ‘No, I don’t ever remember a time when it wasn’t a problem’.
She then contacted the Reverend Mother, Sr Serena, in the convent, and again raised the issues she had highlighted in her letter to Sr Callida. She told the Committee: eventually I got a meeting. I went to Sr Serena and we met, Sr Serena, Sr Callida and I, we met in the office in Group Home B. But it wasn’t a successful meeting, because Sr Callida, she did a lot of crying and she was going to open the door and a few times Sr Serena said to her, "Callida, come back and sit down". It came to nothing, we got nowhere.
Sr Serena then held a staff meeting, where some of the staff members who had been complaining did not support Ms Waters and so, according to Ms Waters, Sr Serena felt she could not take the matter any further.
Ms Waters said, ‘I just couldn’t stick it any longer, I couldn’t cope any longer’ so she went directly to Sr Viola15 who was the Provincial and the person to whom Sr Serena was ultimately accountable. She raised the contents of the letter she had written to Sr Callida with Sr Viola. Sr Viola came to Group Home B a month later and interviewed all the staff who, this time, were prepared to confide in her. Her findings resulted in the dismissal of Sr Callida.
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.
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 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.
At first, Sr Serena felt she was resented by the children and by Sr Callida, who were still feeling the loss of Sr Melita. By degrees, however, she built a close relationship with Sr Callida: Yeah, the friendship between us developed. Yes, it took almost a year, I think, before – well, it took her a long time to warm to me, as well, because I think Sr Melita was a good friend of hers and I felt Callida probably missed her a lot. And it would have taken Callida a long time to get to know me as well. So, it didn’t happen overnight, it was a process over really the first year, I think. The first year.
They would both return to the group home after a night out, and Sr Serena stayed with Sr Callida overnight.
Sr Serena confirmed that the children were left under the care of a lay worker during these excursions.
Sr Serena conceded that it was unusual for a Sister in a Community to go away for the weekend with another Sister, ‘Well, you know, I know it wasn’t right. It wasn’t’.