Some of the priests we only rarely saw outside class. Virtually our only contact with them was when they taught us. Some of them lived mainly in the old house, which was where the Bronte sisters used to go to school and later taught.
It looked very nice and comfortable there but we generally only got in there to clean it. The library and TV room (which we didn’t get to see much) was just inside the old house as was the infirmary and Fr. Valmaggio’s surgery.
Fr. Cerea live in that part.
He taught History and Latin.
We didn’t do Latin until second year so it was only History he taught us in first year. I didn’t hit it off with him at all at first. Whenever he asked me questions I wasn’t able to answer. It was more nerves than not knowing the answer, although it was sometimes both. There were three of us, Kevin Benn was another, who were considered the dunces in the History class.
Luckily Fr Cerea had read the report from my school which was good and he frequently said that he couldn’t understand the difference in performance in his class and what he had expected from me – otherwise I might just rotted there as I had completely lost confidence.
Sent to the Front
One day, after I couldn’t answer another question he suddenly said “come up here” and he put me into a desk right at the front of the class. It was the best thing that could have happened to me. There was a sea change in my performance in History. Suddenly from being one of the dunces I was up at the top of the class.
I remembered virtually everything he said from then on and got on with Fr Cerea very well. Indeed I was sometimes accused by one boy of being his pet. He was almost like a father to me (with a small ‘f). History became my favourite subject and Fr. Cerea my favourite teacher. It pleased him a lot that I remembered everything that he said next time round.
One boy, in particular, never used to like it. He was always top of the class overall at the end of the year and was a good hard studier and it annoyed him more than a little that I avoided studying at all costs.
I remember one time Fr Cerea was so pleased at an answer I gave him that he said he was going to add on a full extra mark at the next test we did. I didn’t really understand about the mark. Was it an extra mark at the next class test we would get or the end of the year exams. I wasn’t sure, didn’t enquire and didn’t really care as it wasn’t a big deal to me.
However, it was a big deal to this boy. He mentioned it a few times to me saying that it wasn’t right or fair for me to be given an extra mark in a test for something I got right in the class.
He even came up to me when we were on our walk to enquire about it and whether I thought it was fair or not. I don’t think anybody else in the class cared except this boy, and I certainly didn’t care if I got an extra mark or not. What was most important to me was that Fr Cerea was delighted by what I had done and that was far more important to me than a mark in an exam.
As I said, he felt almost like a father to me and I looked forward to his classes and, to be honest, he treated me like a favourite son and always smiled with great pride when I got a hard question right.
It was a very important relationship to me. I’m sure some people reading this will be thinking “I wonder if there’s something funny about all of this” but there wasn’t on either side. It was just a favourite teacher / favourite pupil relationship.
When you are living away from home at the age of eleven you need something like this. Looking back, I was very lucky. Even away from home I inherited a father. There were loads of other sad, lonely boys who never did. There weren’t enough priests to go around and many of them weren’t interested in this kind of relationship anyway.
This made it easier for Fr Pinkman, whose job in charge of the junior boys gave him close contact with the youngest of the boys in the school between the ages of 11 and 13.
Lured Into Pinkie’s Net
Perhaps if I hadn’t had that father / son relationship with Fr Cerea I might more easily have been lured into Pinkie’s net that many of the other small boys were lured into. I did want to get on with Pinkie as he was our appointed father who had to be shared by about 55 boys in the junior school. The fact that the other priests didn’t see much of us outside class made it very easy for him.
I got on pretty well with Pinkie in first year – but perhaps I wasn’t quite ready yet. The technical definition of a paedophile is someone who has sex with someone below the age of puberty. That wasn’t Pinkie as far as I know. It was under-age boys who had just reached puberty that he had an appetite for – and this fox was in sole control of the whole hen coop at St. Peter Claver College.
The boys he did lure in, many of them were very badly hurt by it even into later years of their lives. Some were never fixed.
However, there were others still who Pinkie didn’t lure but who weren’t able to have a father / son relationship with any of the priests there. The senior boys and junior boys were kept apart and led mostly separate lives, unable to talk to each other except at certain times. Some of the junior boys of eleven and twelve must have been lonely. After a while the other boys there became their brothers and so that relationship must have helped them through.
My emotions about the place are mixed but mostly positive. There were a lot of good things about it.