In the last couple of years I have attended Old Boys’ reunions and I am pleased to say that there is still an irreverent cheeky playfulness at work amongst many of these middle aged men. As the drinks flow and humorous stories are exchanged of our wild and often unsupervised free time, the conversations turn to a more dark side. Sadly, it is clear to me that relationships between some of the boys and Priests were neither cold nor distant but something altogether much darker and more troubling.
Over the years, whenever I have spoken of my time in the Verona Fathers I have spoken only of my fond memories, of the camaraderie and the freedom given to us to explore and play.
I use this blog today not only as a cathartic exercise for me, but also as an appeal to you as an Old Boy, the only people capable of understanding my long term attachment to Mirfield, and the subsequent revelations that have exposed the extent of the betrayal.
If you have a story you wish to share, if there was a part of your life which is still in pain like mine and that of others please feel free to contact me.
I also had experience of Nado’s attempt at intimacy with a narrow escape the outcome of that. I hope that, when the ongoing legal procedures have reached their conclusion, you can have closure.
For my part, the outcome was a sense of betrayal and a lack of respect for the priesthood.
Does anyone know what happened to Fr. Pinkman, Fr Vallmagio or Mr. Riddle? I have heard their names mentioned severel times in relation to grooming and abuse.
Hi Chris[which chris were you?] To the best of my knowledge Vallmagia is dead ,Pinkman Im not sure but I think that he has also died.James Riddle Ihave no idea of .However I do know that he arrived at Mirfield via Ampleforth.Some serious abuse occured at Ampleforth which is well documented regarding members of the religeous order I do not know if any lay people were involved.
I have heard that some of his behavior was questionable but his arrival coincided with my departure. But some times two plus two does equal four!
I attended St Peter Claver College for four years and watch abused boys arrive with a smile and leave destroyed. I have waited some 35 years myself to see if the silence would be broken.
The sadness in my heart is still so strong and mine and my brothers lives have been affected positively and negatively by what we experienced.
There is strength gained by being there but so much harm too.
I am so sorry that so many boys have suffered not just sexual abuse and indeed physical abuse, but the harm to our emotions and lifetime hurts and difficulties. Now is the time to father together and try and heal from what took place.
There was good in that school, but there was thirty years of darkness that needs to be dealt with.
Kind thoughts to all…
I think sexual abuse was present on and off, my brother recalls inappropriate behaviour between Priests and Boys, but it is very difficult for people to be open and in particular much of this was 40 years ago or so.
The psychological damage caused is easier to recognise. I remember Father H saying he hoped our parents homes were burning during the 80’s riots!
The diet we were given whilst the priest feasted and drank to drunkenness was no better than being in an abusive family home, particularly humiliating that they made boys wait their tables and serve them whilst we ate utter junk.
I recall boys getting into their alcohol cellar to find huge quantities of spirits and wine for the Priests, father Kelly was clearly often drunk whilst teaching!
Father Cerea took a personal dislike of me and frankly I hope he found forgiveness in his personal Jesus because he had contempt for many of us innocent 11 year old boys.
But many of us know that having male only care for young boys of 11 years of age was wrong. The church and Pope has asked for understanding about abuses that were rampant in the 70’s and 80’s, well thanks for asking but until they have the crown jewels (one priest’s description of a boy’s testicles as he grabbed them) to admit that the whole male only system was a sin against their God, then they can wait for ever.
The Verona Fathers ruined many of our lifetime prospects, poor education, and destruction of confidence and hope. They can’t do anything to give me back the years wasted during and after leaving there loving care.
I dread to think what they may have done to boys in Africa if they got away with so much in Mirfield.
I am sure there were many happy and positive years between the darker days, but I think it goes without saying the place owed because society moved on and for good reason.
We all know there were many Good Priests there but I question how silent they all seem to have been since. I know many are dead but some are still around, let’s see if any have the courage to break ranks and talk openly about those days and voice their regret outside of a confessional, somehow I think it will remain silent, because that’s how it works.
To all the pupils who know me, remember I was a paying pupil at the school and I can promise you I was treated very differently to you, in the darkness and privacy of the Fathers’ rooms, rooms that no 11 year old should ever have been ordered to enter. I know and clearly recall many lost hours that many of you will likely never remember, and that is a blessing.
This for me, is not mainly about relatively rare sexual matters, it is the breaking down of the boy’s spirit to enforce gratitude, servitude and compliance.
In my opinion these Priests were in the main well meaning, but the few and they knew what they were doing, were masterful in their arts and cunning in their delivery.
One priest in particular from Ireland deserves to spend a little time with me so I can deliver what the church and system won’t, let’s hope God had his eyes open in my darkness.
To answer your question about healing, I don’t have the first clue, I wish I did.
At one time I thought that i was the only one, and the best way for me to deal with the feelings and memories was to bury them – forget that it happened, to deny to myself that it happened.
Part of me died when i did that, i lost part of myself, and more importantly a part, a large part, of my childhood was wiped away – a entire piece of my history, of my life, of what made me who i was, became non existent.
I now know that i was not the only one, and that i am not alone.More people are coming forward.
Please can everyone with any knowledge about the Verona Fathers Abuse – post it here. We can not be wrong to tell the truth.
All former boys, staff, maintenance people, GP’s, school inspectors – this is the place to record what took place so that matters can be resolved.
The problem with these matters is the current holders of status in the Verona Fathers may be totally unaware of what took place, but YOU are not.
One of our former boys has committed a terrible crime and is behind bars forever, it is my view he is there in a small part due to his neglect as a child in the school.
It was not right what took place and it is NOW time in 2011 and 2012 for the truth to be told. Anything else – then the abuse continues.
God Bless and BE STRONG for those that are weakened.
Please could you contact Ben Berrell
I was sexually abused by Valmaggia as well as verbally and mentally by the old ogre Cerea, and physically and mentally by the psychopath Ceresoli (now a bishop, God help us.) Valmaggia was the infirmarian. If we were ill we had to report to him. I caught the flu once and went to tell him. I was told to remove my trousers and underwear and was given an intimate examination which had nothing to do with the flu. After a few days I was called back to his “surgery” just inside the old house and the process was repeated. There was no medical justification for this. I am using a false name as I have never told anyone about this and do not want my wife and family to now what I suffered from this monstrous religious order. Words cannot express the cruelty I endured from priests at Mirfield. I only discovered recently about Pinkman (which surprided me, he seemed to be one of the very few good ones) and did no know Riddle. He must have been after my time at Mirfield
Pinkie died of a massive heart attack at 48. Valmaggia is still alive as far as I last heard. He was a Bishop but got booted out of the order.
I have just done some research. Valmaggia asked in 1970 when he was 54 years old to go back for “family reasons” to the area of Italy where he was born, Valcuvia. Five years later he was accepted into the Como diocese in 1975 and given a parish in 1976. He retired in 2005 and died on January 16th last year aged 94. There is a biography of him on the Como diocese website, complete with a photo, still recognisable. However the biography does not mention his time at Mirfield.
Click to access Pagina%2028.pdf
hi degs here
well done on a nice bit of research mirfield boy or rather sherlock.
It is quite unbelievable that this man was allowed to exist in an enviroment which could offer him many opportunities to take advantage of the vunerable.
Was he ever even challenged about his behavior at mirfield.????
All we can hope for now is that there is an after life and a god and there will be a reconing.
For those of us who suffered at the hands of this man you may have mixed feelings relief, and perhaps some sense of closure,but on the other hand anger and a sense of betrayl.
Please keep monitoring the site and commenting, people are listening and are becoming aware of the hidden side of the order.
all the best to you and yours
It was, I am sure, 1969 that Valmaggia left Mirfield.
The reason that it was for family reasons comes as a surprise to me.
Martin Millar has written on the blog that he spoke with Hicks about Valmaggia’s behaviour with younger seminarians – the very next day Valmaggia was off to Italy. He was a parish priest, as far as I know, till just before he died. Have a look at the site below – this was posted by ‘another mirfield boy’ on 29th February 2012
Click to access Pagina%2028.pdf
If Valmaggia is still alive he must be well into his 90s. He was far from young when I was there i the early 60s.Where was he bishop of and when did he get booted out of the order? Was it because of his abuse of the boys? It seems to have taken them a long time to do that, and I find it hard to believe that his exploits were not known to his superiors.
Are you sure about Valmaggia being made a bishop? I have found a list on the Internet of all bishops past and present and he is not on it. Ceresoli, however is. He was bishop of Awasa in Ethiopia but resigned a few years ago. Are you getting them confused?
I am urgently seeking the support of past students who were sexually abused at Mirfield to step forward and assist a legal claim that is being lodged by a number of ex-students. My name is Bernard Berrell and I attended at the Verona Fathers during the years of 1965-67 and was sexually abused by Father Pinkman. or contact Matthew Blake at email@example.com.
i was there only 1 year sept 1972 to july 1974 and while i was there everything was fine, all this must have happened earlier or later
One of the abusers left the order in 1970 and another probably around the same time, so they were before your time. Both are now dead. There were physical and mental abusers as well. One of these I still consider the most evil man I have ever met, far worse than the priest who sexually abused me, but they too might have left by your time. There was another sex abuser who is still alive being protected by the order, but I’m not sure when his escapades took place. They may have been before or after your time.
Hello Another Mirfield Boy,
Thanks for your recent input to the blog – what you have written is important and appreciated by a number of Mirfield old boys.
Please do not hesitate – keep writing more.
Fortunately it appears that you were one of the lucky ones. I was there 1971 to 1973 and sadly was not so lucky. I was abused on every level. Sexually, emotionally and physically. An experience which has stayed with me all my life. Until this last week.. (04.11.14) I had absolutely no idea that others had endured anything like what I had nor that there has been litigation and compensation.
Having attended from 79-83 i am a little surprised at the comments raised here. i had no idea that this went on. My time at Roe head was good and i remember my time with fond memories, apart from the food, i am sure the rations during the war were better, whilst the priests had there feasts. i remember Peter Hopkins as i was in the same class as your brother.
As a contemporary of Paul’s I’ve got to agree with him say that there was nothing like this during my time. I also look back at Roe Head with fond memories (despite at least one encounter with Ched’s Latin or Italian dictionary and many more with the sharp side of his tongue). However, the lack (or at least the apparent lack) of controls and checks was astonishing although to be fair it really was a different world back then and I couldn’t imagine now letting a twelve year old of mine go away from home. I would hope that nothing like that which happened to those prior to my time occurred when I was there but I do think there were a number of boys who were not particularly “street wise” (as much as you can be at that age) and some who I would have described a “vulnerable”. I often wonder what has happened to some of those.