Tag Archives: catholic nuns

This page, including text and images, is Copyright To Anne Frandi-Coory
All Rights Reserved 6 August 2015
Excerpts from a letter sent  to Anne Frandi-Coory by Sister Bernadette Mary, Archivist
Home of Compassion, Island Bay Wellington, New Zealand.

February 2002

Dear Anne

In response to your enquiry about the time your mother spent as a novice with the Sisters of Compassion, the following is what I have found in the Convent’s Register:

Your mother was 19 years old when she entered the Convent at Island Bay on the 7th December 1939 as a postulant. This is a kind of probationary period to find out whether or not a person is suited to the religious life. There was a separate wing set out as the Novitiate in the red brick building which had been built in the early 1930s, and was where all the novices were trained.


Novitiate Home of Compassion

Sisters of Compassion Convent (Image and text Sister Bernadette Mary)


A note made four months later, in April 1940, reveals that the Novice Mistress found Doreen to be a very highly strung person, but her manner was always pleasant. By July, Doreen always seemed to be worried about her family at home, especially her mother. However, she wanted to become a novice and looked forward to her reception into the Novitiate, the next stage of training to be a Sister of Compassion.

In July Doreen had to write to the Superior General asking to be admitted into the Novitiate, and giving her reasons for wanting to do so; that is the usual procedure. Apparently she was formally accepted, for on 15th  September  1940 she was received as a novice, together with four other young women. She was given the name Sister Mary Martina.


Home of Compassion

Postulants wore a black dress, cape and hat, Novices in white veils as on the front left of photo.  Sisters’ habits were navy blue with  light blue piping. (Image: Sister Bernadette Mary)


We all had to go through the same kind of training that Doreen would have had during her postulancy and Novitiate days, and although looking back, things were hard, we were never unhappy or abused in any way. Most of the time we were kept very busy indeed, either working in the laundry or caring for the babies and children, which didn’t give us much free time for idleness, I can tell you from experience.


Original Home of Compassion

(Image and text: Sister Bernadette Mary)


At the age of twenty Doreen requested to go home and subsequently left the Convent on 16th November 1940. There are no further comments in the Register. Any medical records were returned to Doreen when she left and there is no record of her being sick or having a nervous breakdown during her eleven months at the Convent.

I believe that Doreen often came to visit the Sisters after she had left the Sisters of Compassion. She rode out to the Convent on her bicycle which she had named ‘Martina’.

Yours Sincerely

Sister Bernadette Mary


Doreen & friend

Anne Frandi-Coory’s mother Doreen on right of photo (Image: Parkhill Collection)


The old Home of Compassion and Convent were demolished in the 1980s.

Read More: Letters To Anne Frandi-Coory


Father Kevin O'Donnell

Paedophile Father Kevin O’Donnell


In my blog post dated 2 July 2013 How Catholic Dogma Aided Paedophile Priests’ I wrote about Chrissie and Anthony Foster’s book in which they describe how two of their daughters’ lives were destroyed when they were repeatedly raped from the age of five, by Catholic paedophile priest, Father Kevin O’Donnell.


Hell on way to heaven


During the long battle to save their oldest daughter Emma, from more attempts at suicide by drug overdose and self-harm, she was admitted to one psychiatric unit / detox. clinic after another, over the years. Emma struggled, with some success, along with the loving help of her family, to overcome her addictions. It was a one-step-forward and a two-steps-back progress. Try as she might, Emma could not erase from her memory, what Father Kevin O’Donnell had done to her.

Emma was fast running out of psychiatric unit options because of her continual breaking of the units’ rules. However, one day in desperation, her mother found her a placement in a clinic run by the Catholic Church. Although she was hesitant about sending Emma there, she was comforted after being reassured that all the counsellors were professionals. But Emma had only been in the unit for a few days, when she phoned her mother and told her that a woman at her counselling sessions was a ‘practising Catholic and wore a cross’.  Emma was agitated and anxious. This woman was pressuring Emma to admit she was at fault for the abuse she was subjected to. Later that day, Mrs Foster rang the manager of the unit and explained her concerns about what Emma had told her. The manager stated that it wouldn’t have been a qualified counsellor and she had no idea who the woman was. She suggested Emma may have been speaking to a tea lady or cleaning staff.

A few months before she died at 26 years of age, from an overdose of her medication, Emma refused to see or talk to her mother. Chrissie Foster was hurt and bewildered. She was devoted to her daughter’s welfare and recovery, as was Mr Foster and their extended family. In the past, Emma had written many notes and diary entries, declaring how much she loves her family and how supportive of her they always are. But, she adds, her mother is the one she loves the most; she is always there for her.  That’s why Mrs Foster found it difficult to understand why Emma didn’t want to talk to her. She was hopeful that it meant Emma was trying to stand on her own two feet, and this could be a good turn of events.

Following Emma’s death, Mrs Foster had the heartbreaking task of packing up Emma’s belongings from her bedroom in the house she had loved, had decorated and furnished herself.  Loose sheets of paper were lying about all over the place. After collecting them up in a bundle, Mrs Foster sat reading the many notes Emma had jotted down in her neat hand writing.  A few of the diary notes covered her stay at the Catholic unit. She writes about the counselling sessions she attended and how traumatic they were because the counsellor was very critical and angry:  Why had she not run away? Why had she not told anyone about the abuse at the time? Why didn’t she call out?  Emma wrote: I told her I was five or six, he had all the power. Emma also wrote that she was made to feel it was her fault she had been abused. Anyone who has read Chrissie Foster’s book will know how those options would have been impossible for Emma given her age, the school environment in which the sexual abuse took place and her Catholic upbringing.  But most of all, they would have been impossible because Kevin O’Donnell was a paedophile with over 50 years experience. His victims describe him as an old man who was  frightening and angry. He continuously told them they were evil while he raped them.

Mrs Foster could not stop thinking about this ‘practising Catholic’ who was posing, unchallenged, as a psychiatric counsellor.   She believed no psychiatric unit in the 21st Century in Australia should be employing untrained counsellors. The woman obviously wouldn’t believe a priest was capable of sexually abusing children.  The ‘counsellor’ had intimated to a troubled Emma that she held priests in the highest esteem but despised the victims who claimed that priests had sexually assaulted them.

A distraught Mrs Foster phoned the Catholic Psychiatric Unit on a Sunday morning to enquire after a counsellor.  To her shock and horror, the helpful receptionist informed Mrs Foster that there was a nun on duty 24/7 to talk to patients.  So it was a nun who was employed as a professional counsellor at the unit and who was responsible for turning Emma against her mother. Emma had said to another person not long before her death, that the abuse was her mother’s fault, her own fault, and that the counsellor had angrily told her that Father O’Donnell had not raped her.

It becomes clear in Chrissie Foster’s book ‘Hell On The Way To Heaven’ how much Emma’s stay in the Catholic psychiatric unit affected and undermined her inner resolve to overcome her addictions and get her life back on track once again.  The years of addictions and self harm had taken their toll, but Emma was making progress, albeit slow. However, once she was coerced into severing ties with her family, and to rely completely on the unit for all her support,  she had come full circle; under the control of staff who preached Catholic dogma. Her fragile psychiatric condition could no longer put up a fight. She died alone in the house her parents had helped her buy with her share of the compensation money the Catholic Church had finally awarded to her and her family, after years of legal battles.


Anthony and Chrissie Foster

I know full well, from my time as an observant and devout Catholic child, the esteem and reverence in which most nuns hold priests. They too believe that priests are representatives of God himself upon this earth, and can do no wrong. Nuns are true brides of Christ.


-Anne Frandi-Coory 7 July 2013  …  Read more here: How Catholic Dogma Aided Paedophile Priests

Updated 30 June 2015

Comment  on my post dated 9/12/2011,  from David Anthony in America:

To Anne Frandi-Coory: – What a touching note.   [from post: My Father, Joseph Jacob Habib Eleishah Coory].

Anne blog

Anne Frandi-Coory


David writes: You mention Aramaic: I have a little story for you…

About 30 years ago, about 1978-1980, my jidoo [grandfather] was visiting my house when a distant cousin from Lebanon visited.  My jidoo’s parents came to America in 1892. He was raised speaking what he and we thought was Arabic. He spoke it fluently- after all, it was what was spoken in his household growing up.

Well, when my cousin, who recently came from Lebanon fleeing the civil war, visited, they (my cousin and my grandfather) both spoke to each other in [what they thought was] Arabic. They couldn’t understand one another. My cousin said my grandfather wasn’t speaking Arabic, but a language much older. He said it was like an Italian listening to Latin.

So I came to find out that my jidoo didn’t really speak Arabic. The language he spoke so fluently was ancient Syriac- as you know, a version of Aramaic. The “Arabic” words I picked up as a youth tended much more towards Aramaic. In fact, many years after my jidoo passed away, a very good friend of mine from Zahle told me that the few Lebanese Aramaic words my dad and I spoke had a strong northern (Ehden) accent. :-)

Just one other note: Anxiety runs rampant in the Lebanese side of the family. For some, the levels of anxiety run so high that it’s disabling. I’m wondering if there’s a similar issue in your family.

Two reasons; 1) Lebanese boys were forced to sit in the back of all classes. Italian and Irish boys sat in front. 2) As my dad had terrible nearsightedness, and he wasn’t allowed to sit in the front of the class because of his skin color, he could never see the blackboard. In order to take any notes, he’d copy notes from the student sitting next to him. When he got caught by a nun, which was often, he’d get sent to the Principal for copying notes. The Principal would tell him to put out his hand, which would then get beaten pretty badly.

Finally,one day, when he was in 8th or 9th grade or so, he came home with such a beaten hand that my sitoo [grandmother] noticed. After she insisted he tell her what happened, my dad then explained what happened. Right away they went and bought him his first pair of glasses. After that, he could see the blackboard better- and his grades went sky high.

But the damage was done. By tenth grade, he left school to work in a factory, partly driven, I’m sure, by the beatings.– David Anthony.


A very old photo of my grandmother, Eva Coory’s mother and brother, taken in Bcharre, Lebanon.


Dear David

How wonderful to hear your story. Yes, Aramaic is derived from an ancient form of Syriac and is now spoken only by small pockets of Syrian peasants and by Maronites in Bcharre, Lebanon. It was also the language that Jesus spoke. I did much research into my grandparents’ history and the history of Lebanon in general. My grandfather’s ancestors moved to the hills of Lebanon (Bcharre) around the 14th Century, from Iraq.

It is uncanny how similar are our fathers’ stories. My father, Joseph, was also beaten by the Catholic Brothers at school, and finally one day he ran home and refused to return to school. He was also shortsighted and told me he was often beaten because he couldn’t speak English, only Aramaic!

You may be interested in my book ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?’ A personal story, but which also delves deeply into the ancient history of my ancestors and the Aramaic language, which was eventually swamped by the advance of Islam and Arabic, which became the lingua franca of the Middle East.  BTW, Zahle is a name that pops up in my grandfather, Jacob Habib Fahkrey’s family tree.

Anxiety runs deep in my family tree as well.  In both the Lebanese and Italian sides of my family, volatile personalities reign.  My children have inherited the tendency to anxiety, although nowhere near as intense as preceding generations. Of course, both Lebanese and Italian peoples express the whole range of emotions vividly, which can sometimes be quite intimidating to others.

I agree with you about the blatant racism that thrived in those times. Once again, both my Lebanese and Italian ancestors experienced this.

I would love to hear more of your story.

Best wishes,

Read Here:  The Maronites In History 


The Abbess was of noble blood

Catholic Sisters of Mercy; four biological sisters.The nun on the right was the closest Anne Frandi-Coory came to a mother figure; her face is the one she remembers as an infant in a Catholic Orphanage nursery. (see ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?’)

But early took the veil and hood

Ere upon life she cast a look

Or knew the world that she forsook

Fair too she was, and kind had been

As she was fair, but ne’er had seen

For her a timid lover sigh

Nor knew the influence of her eye

Love, to her ear, was but a name

Combined with vanity and shame

Her hopes, her fears, her joys, were all

Bounded within the cloister wall:

The deadliest sin her mind could reach

Was of monastic rule the breach;

And her ambition’s highest aim

To emulate St Hilda’s fame

For this she gave her ample dower,

To raise the convent’s eastern tower;

For this, with carving rare and quaint,

She decked the chapel of the saint,

And gave the relic-shrine of cost,

With ivories and gems embost.

The poor her convent’s bounty blest,

The pilgrim in its halls found rest.

Black was her garb, her rigid rule

Reformed on Benedictine school;

Her cheek was pale, her form was spare;

Vigils, and penitence austere,

Had early quenched the life of youth,

But gentle was the dame in Sooth

From: Sir Walter Scott, ‘Marmion’, The Immolation of Constance De Beverley


My mother was a defeated nun and a defeated mother. She entered a convent to escape the inescapable: LIFE.  (See Previous Post: My Mother Was A Catholic Nun. 

For hundreds of years, young women and girls have been entering convents for various reasons.  Fathers and other patriarchs sent unmarriageable or unmanageable daughters into a cloistered life. Daughters whose mothers had died were also sentenced to life imprisonment, with or without their consent.

“A Drama of Science, Faith and Love”

Even Galileo, that illustrious 17th Century  scientist, and devout Catholic, confined his eldest daughter from the age of thirteen (1616)  to San Matteo convent in Arcetri.  His daughter, Virgina was deemed unmarriageable because her father had never married her mother, the beautiful Marina Gamba of Venice. Virginia (Sister Maria Celeste) lived out her life in poverty and seclusion in the convent (Order of St Clare) , as did her younger sister, Livia. Unlike Virginia, very little is heard from, or about, the “silent and strange” Livia.   Virginia  lost all her teeth by age 27  because of her lack of a nutritious diet.  It is worth reading  ‘Galileo’s Daughter’ by Dava Sobel, a gifted author, for more on these remarkable lives.  We know so much about Galileo and Virginia because of the correspondence between the two.  Ms Sobel also covers the horror of Galileo’s life and his banishment to house arrest in Ravenna, at the hands of the Holy Inquisition headed by Pope Paul V.

The Florentine poet, Dante Alighieri, was exiled from his beloved Florence in the early 14th Century by Pope Boniface Vlll (Cardinal Caetani), with support from the French.  Dante’s only daughter, Antonia, was confined to a convent in Ravenna where he was living at the time in 1320.  Antonia took the name Sister Beatrice, the name of Dante’s beloved.

In this day and age, the numbers of young Catholic women wishing to give up their freedom “for God” is dwindling.

What is worrying is that sexual harassment and abuse from priests and bishops continues, particularly in third world countries.  Rape is common because the clergy believe these nuns to be free from aids, unlike prostitutes. If the nuns’ abuse is uncovered, or they become pregnant, they are the ones to be thrown out onto the roads.

(See previous post  ‘Kiss of Betrayal’)

In an extreme case of double standards, always rife in the catholic Church, a nun at a Catholic hospital in Arizona was excommunicated because she approved an emergency abortion last year to save the life of a critically ill young patient.  Imagine the hundreds of  sexually abused girls and boys who could have been spared lives of misery, if paedophile priests had been excommunicated and reported to police, instead of being shifted around from parish to parish?


From the pen of  The Ethical Nag The Vatican has now launched an “apostolic visitation,” or investigation, of every one of America’s 60,000 religious sisters, accused with having what Vatican spokesman Cardinal Franc Rodé calls “a feminist spirit” and “a secular mentality”. At a time when the male leadership can be blamed for bringing the church to a state of global crisis, even the modest roles accorded to female clerics have come under attack from these men.

Not surprisingly, the appeal of joining a Catholic religious order as a career choice is plummeting. Fewer than 4% of North American Catholic women have even considered becoming a nun, according to 2008 data from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. And that’s less than half the number compared to just five years earlier.

And no wonder. Dr. Tina Beattie, who teaches Catholic Studies at Roehampton University in the U.K., gives far more disturbing examples of how the Vatican treats its nuns.  For example:

“In 2001, senior leaders of women’s religious orders presented evidence to Rome of the widespread rape and abuse of nuns by priests and bishops, with a particular problem in Africa which has no cultural tradition of celibacy, and where the threat of HIV and Aids means that priests are more likely to prefer sex with nuns than with prostitutes. The Vatican acknowledged the problem and there was a brief flurry of media interest, but this is a scandal which has disappeared without a trace.”

I don’t know whether any Mercy nuns were sexually abused by Catholic clergy when I was a child  in their care, but I well remember the awe and deference the nuns exhibited in the presence of priests, bishops, and cardinals.  Once I understood the hypocrisy and double standard encouraged by the Church’s teachings, I found these displays sickening.

-Anne Frandi-Coory 3 February 2011

Read more about ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?’  

Motherhood - The Ideal. Massimo Stanzione, Naples 1640s

Hello Elizabeth,

I do empathise with you although I wasn’t adopted myself, but two of my half siblings were. I wrote about them in my book Whatever Happened To Ishtar?. See more on my blog about the negatives of mother/child separation, adoption under category Adoption & Separation. I was abandoned by my mother and placed in an orphanage, but I at least knew who my biological parents were. In all the years I have met and spoken with adoptees, I only ever met one man who did not wish to trace his biological parents. What came of my talking to adoptees was that it didn’t matter how good or bad their parents were; what mattered to them was knowing who and what their bio parents were, and why they were given up for adoption. It seems to me that adoption itself isn’t always bad, it is how it is carried out.

In the past, women like my mother, were forced by Catholic nuns to give up their new born babies, and most of these mothers never recovered from their loss. See Philomena’s and Sheldon Lea’s stories on my blog. The nuns never allowed these mothers to contact their lost children; refused to pass on information about the adoptions or the mothers’ names. The suffering in these cases, for mothers, and children,  was  life-destroying.

I understand what you are saying when you talk about your dad’s spirit being with you. The father you didn’t get to meet. I feel the same about my mother. The emotional pain she transmitted to me, persisted until I finished writing the book and she finally was at peace. Take care. Anne.

Visit Adoption Critic for ‘Dear Incubator‘ letter and comments…….

Updated 14 November 2014  


Paedophile Priests Sent Abroad…….yes, children are still being sexually abused by Catholic Priests and yes the Vatican is still shifting them to poorer countries! 


A message for Pope Francis:  


pope francis


Get your own palace (The Vatican) in order before you preach to the rest of the world about peace and kindness. As far as I can see, you have done nothing different to any other pope before you, when it comes to transparency about the Catholic Church’s scourge of clerical child sex abuse!

Paedophile priests are still being shuffled around the globe, this time to Africa, Asia, South America etc. Until we see paedophile priests defrocked, convicted and sent to prison, your words are just empty words.

Britain Pope

Kiss of Betrayal


This photo is disgusting in light of the Vatican’s cover up of the sexual abuse of thousands of children and the protection of paedophile priests. Just wait for the time bomb of huge numbers of abused children to explode over the next few years in countries such as Africa and parts of Asia.  Children are now being abused in developing countries where these rapist priests have free reign after being exiled from America, Australia, Canada, Ireland etc, to escape conviction.  But not only children suffer from this insidious clerical abuse.  It was revealed in 2001 that predator priests sent to Africa, forced themselves on nuns, because they were free from Aids/Hiv virus.  Convents stripped the abused nuns of their vows and evicted them from the convent with no means of support.  Of course, the offending priests were free to continue their abuse.  Anyone like me who was indoctrinated into the Catholic faith from infancy, will know first hand the adoration which nuns bestow on priests.  So, like children, they are powerless and vulnerable in the hands of a  priest intent on his own sexual gratification.

The Vatican has a priority list when in damage control and spin: Protect its wealth, priests and reputation. Women and Children’s welfare is not considered! The hypocrisy is sickening.

God’s Callgirl-a memoir

My childhood was spent in Roman Catholic institutions and my mother was a novice nun before her marriage (see ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?’), so  this book was of personal interest to me.   But of course it is also a well written and interesting book in its own right, well worth the reading. Another great read I found in a second hand book shop.

Carla Van Raay’s book God’s Callgirl is a perspective of the depths, in my opinion,  of how far Catholicism has sunk since the beginnings of Christianity and the teachings of Jesus.  Carla tells us  about her life from her upbringing within a strict Catholic family,  sexual and physical abuse by her father,  to her entry into a convent as a teenager and her later life as a sex worker. Her life in the convent was spent in prayer and unpaid drudgery, such as cleaning, teaching and needlework (which the convent sold) and when she finally leaves the convent she discovers her parents, who were not well off, were charged by the nuns for Carla’s board and keep!  She re-enters the real world as an innocent in every sense of the word. The convent was run by spiteful and cruel nuns within a strict hierarchy.  The convent’s inhabitants were called ‘The Faithful Companions of Jesus’, ironic to say the least.  Carla triumphs despite the best efforts of her parents and Catholicism.

My mother’s life was also one of hardship and emotional abuse in her convent which was called the ‘Home Of Compassion’.  My mother and I,  like Carla,  never experienced or witnessed any real and heart-felt compassion in any Catholic institutions!  In light of what is being exposed within the Catholic Church in recent times, it brings to my mind that saying  ‘The higher you fly, the further you fall’.

-Anne Frandi-Coory 8 July 2010





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