Comboni Missionaries (Ex Verona Fathers)

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58 responses to “Contact

  1. a very nice sentiement samantha .However I feel that it was partially through a blind belief in religion that these circumstances were given many opportunities to occur.My personal belief is that a religious enviroment is rather like a moth to a flame where these type of actions can go unnoticed or simply be swept under the carpet. Many wrongs as well as rights have been done in the name of god.May your god bless you and look after you,

    • Hi Ben
      My name is Kevin Deignan I am a friend of Tony and co author of this site I was at Mirfield from the late 60 to the early 70, perhaps our paths have crossed at one of the past reunions??.
      I think that due to work comitments Tony visits the site on a less regular basis these days.I have irregular contact with him at the moment so if you get no joy in the near future please don,t hesitate to contact me and I can give him a nudge.
      My email address is
      all the best hope you had a good xmas and I wish you a better 2012


      • hello. my brother Liam Gribben ex Mirfield died in Florida. awaiting coroner inquest. my sisters and brother are on their way today. Liam always talked about his reunions with Mirfield Lads.

  2. My name is Brian Hennessy – I was sexually abused at Mirfield by Father Valmaggia – kept in the infirmary and locked in whilst he pretended that he was carrying out medical inspections. I was so naive. I thought a priest could do no wrong – and so I let him just do what he did. I ended up going to Sunningdale – and then to a psychiatrist – and then I left. It was years later that I realised I was being sexually abused. I thought it only happened to me. I am dumbfounded at coming accross this site.


      A novel by Ray Mouton

      “As a legal thriller this novel effortlessly ranks on par with John Grisham, if not better

      Eamonn O’Neill, UK Investigative Journalist

      ​​“Hundreds of thousands of people have been deeply wounded and even destroyed. This plague of destruction would have continued unchecked had there been no Ray Mouton. In 1985-1986, Ray and I worked together daily when I was a canon lawyer in the Vatican Embassy. Ray fought fiercely to save children from the church. This is much more than a novel. It is an answer to the painful “why?” Why did this happen? Why did bishops put image above innocent children? I remember all Ray gave of himself, how he fearlessly spoke truth to power, and was never intimidated by the formidable opposition he encountered.”

      Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, Leading Authority On Clergy Abuse

      “I traveled from state to state, talking to lawyers and priests, parents and children. I kept wondering how long the Catholic Church had known about all this, and what if anything they’d ever done about it. Eventually, one of my sources told me: “Call Ray Mouton. He knows where all the bodies are buried.” I did call Ray, and he told me one of the most astonishing stories I’d ever heard. He has caught the spirit of that story in his novel, which, although fictional, rings true in virtually every detail.”

      Helen Malmgren, Former Producer, CBS 60 Minutes

      • Good posting, Mirfield Boy. The book was released last month. Thoroughly enjoyed it. It gives a good insight into the defence systems of the catholic church. If you abused guys are thinking of moving with these horrors into the legal arena, it might help to give it a read. The legal intricacies might be American, but the RC church is universal. Mouton’s book helped me realise not only that the abuse is also universal but he reveals its depth. If it is so endemic it is probably going on today. Good luck. A Mirfield survivor.

      • Maybe the Catholic Church – the Hierarchy, the Cardinals and the Bishops, as well as some Priests and influential clergy in the Vatican – thought they had God on their side, and could act in a way that put themselves and The Catholic Church above the laws that most humans have to abide to. Perhaps I am being a little too kind in my thoughts, who knows?

        This reminds me of the song by Bob Dylan – “With God on Our Side.”

    • Hello Brian,
      No, it did not happen only to you. I went to Valmaggia with flu symptoms, only to be told to strip off and have my private parts intimately examined. Since any complaint against a priest automatically incurred expulsion, what was I to do? If I reported him I would have been expelled with bad references, accusing me of trying to seduce a holy priest. That was the way it worked. And my parents, who believed a priest would never be allowed by God to do anything wrong, would have believed the abusers before me.
      Valmaggia left the order, possibly kicked out when his abuses became impossible to cover up, in 1970. After “disappearing,” seemingly back to Italy, on the pretence of “family reasons, for five years he joined the Como diocese as a diocesan priest and soon became a parish priest. He retired a few years ago and died early last year aged 92. I always wondered if his new “employers” were told of his activities, and whether he carried them on in his new post.

      • Could you contact Ben Berrell on to discuss, I am trying to encourage as many fellow students to come forward to assist in our upcoming legal case against the order.

      • hiiiiii
        yes I was aware of Fr Vamaggia and his activities he was the same at Stillington before the community moved to Mirfield. I was a Stillington from 1956 – 1960 ….Mirfield from 1960-64 and Sunningdale 64-66.
        This is the first time I have seen this comment about Fr. Valmaggia

  3. Hi Dave Harrigan here years 1966-70. Have had a couple of the lads contacting me after the Glasgow reunion ref the goings on in those years. The only time I felt uncomfortable is when you had to go sick with Valmaggio.. some strange examinations for a sore throat went on then.

    Retired now, but 37 years in the military has left me hardened to a lot of this but feel really sorry for the lads who still carry the burden. This should be brought right out into the open now and dealt with, and acknowleged, by the Society.

    • Hi Dave
      Hope you are well after all these years. I would be grateful you contact me on issue of some urgency and importance. Not sure if you remember me, we were students together at Mirfield. Can you please contact me by email and I will inform you for the reason of my contact.

  4. I feel less generous in my thoughts than some. What Valmaggia did in my case when he locked the doors of the Infirmary where he kept me for a week – and apparently what he did to others – was a sinister abuse of trust – whereby he used young guys who were totally indoctrinated with the view that priests were somehow spiritual beings who could do no wrong. In the guise of pretending to be a pseudo doctor come nurse concerned with our bodily and spiritual health he was satisfying his base energies on innocents who would neither question nor accuse. It was more than a decade later that I suddenly realised that he had been abusing me for his sexual pleasures – and the shock that I felt was not revulsion so much – but it was the shattering of the myth of sanctity of the priesthood to which I had longingly aspired when I was in my early teens. Valmaggia and his gang of sex groomers were criminals then and are so today. …and when I hear from the pulpit this recent tirade against gay marriage and the rest, I have a feeling of total disgust that an organisation committing global abuse aginst innocents now and in the past can run with such a negative campaign against a group of people who are freely embracing a loving lifestyle without harm to others – whilst they cover up their own deceits and centuries of criminal lust that has harmed the minds and bodies of so many. They should be brought to book – and so should the Society that concealed them and the so called “Church” that hid their foul secrets from the world. I still go to Church to pray – but I hold neither priest nor the Catholic edifice in anything but contempt. Believers do not need those trappings. They can spewak directly to God without them. If anyone out there is going to push for a criminal prceeding against those child-abusers then let me know because I will add my story too to that tale of priestly carnal indulgence.

    • I came across this on the interent

      …..One could be forgiven for thinking that child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy is a “Western” problem. The media inevitably seems to portray it that way. And the most visible scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church over the past decade occurred in the United States and Ireland, with significant problems also cropping up in Germany, Italy, Belgium, Australia, and the United Kingdom, among others in the global “north”.

      In truth clergy child abuse is a global problem. Indeed, there is reason to fear that it runs even deeper in those less and least developed countries where the Catholic Church has both a strong cultural foothold and faces weaker oversight from government and civil society – countries like the Philippines and Brazil, whose recent revelations of abuse by priests are likely only to scratch the surface.

      The problems faced by Catholic communities in developing countries in protecting against abuse are uniquely intensified because dioceses and missionary orders in Western countries generously loan their priests abroad – sometimes with full knowledge that these men are, in fact, abusers of children. Thus one community’s solution becomes another’s hidden scourge.

      Latin American and African countries with large Catholic populations bear the brunt of this pattern of Church behaviour. The combination of vulnerabilities – the often weaker child protection measures and reporting mechanisms, the greater shame attached to disclosing child abuse, and the fact that priests’ past histories of abuse are left behind in their original communities – puts children in these communities at profound risk.

      An article in The Irish Times earlier this month, “Focus shifts to likelihood of abuse by religious in missions”, revealed just how little oversight has been applied to priests, in particular those attached to missionary orders, when they are working abroad. It makes for shocking reading.

      The article concentrates on a set of Irish congregations, the Spiritans, Dominican Friars, and Sacred Heart Missionaries, all of which have significant missionary operations overseas. The abuses that these groups, and other missionaries, permit and abet by moving known or suspected perpetrators abroad is astounding. These crimes were in large part brought to light by the Murphy and Ryan Reports, which identified that some dioceses and orders effectively had policies of moving known offenders out of the country.

      One man, Father Patrick McGuire of the Columban Fathers, abused 70 boys in various countries, 13 of whom were in Japan. Other priests abused children in Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The man identified in the Ryan Report simply as “Brother Adrien” was removed from the Irish industrial school system in the late 1960s after being labeled by his fellow priests as “positively dangerous”. He was then sent on missionary work abroad for 10 years.

      All three missionary orders have been criticized for these actions by the Irish National Board for Safeguarding Children. The Spiritans in particular were called out for moving priests and brothers “either out of the country or to other ministries, where they continued to abuse children”. The executive secretary of the Irish Missionary Union, Eamon Aylward, himself admitted that not all congregations are trying to apply child safeguarding procedures to their members overseas.

      Time and again we have seen how, rather than punish and defrock child abusers, and reconcile with and support the survivors, Catholic Church officials prefer to relocate, relocate, and relocate.

      This unofficial “out of sight, out of mind” policy presents a massive danger to children and families the world over. It must stop. Public pressure must be applied to missionary orders to make them enforce the same, if not more rigorous, safeguarding measures to their clergy abroad as they do in their home countries

    • Hi Brian Five of us are already in the process of taking legal action and welcome and encourage you to join us,


      • just read this …yes I too was aware of Fr Valmaggia and his actions …they also took place in Stilington from 1956-1960.
        This is the first time I have seen this discussed openly

  5. Listen, there is a reunion planned for early next year 2013 at Mirfield. Maybe now is the time to construct a concerted plan and put some money behind it and get legal representation sorted out and take this further. The lads who suffered deserve at least this. Dave Harrigan

  6. Dave, we are already in the process of taking legal action. There are now five ex-students. Can you contact me, Ben Berrell on

  7. Hi Brian Hennesey

    My name is Ben Berrell and I along with four other ex-students of Mirfield are taking legal action against the Order. I would be grateful if you would contact so that we can put you in touch with the solicitor handling our case.

    Regards Ben

  8. I worked for few months for the Verona Fathers when I was 17. This was the early 80s. Some of the boys were the same age as me and being as naive as I was back then, comments telling me boys had been summonsed upstairs for things they couldn’t talk about make me now wonder if this went on till the place closed. I hope you all the support and help that you need. Good luck to each and every one of you.

    • Could you contatc me on I am trying to encourage all those affected or those that can give some testimony to assist us in our forthcoming legal case against the Order. Thanks Ben

    • It did

      I was there until the year before it closed.
      They did sexually abuse me and many others.

      They knew everything.
      Fr Hicks was a vile man, he is not innocent.

      They are still pigs.

      Bring it on scumbags I dare you!

  9. Can I ask anybody who has suffered abuse or they believe they have some information relating to the abuse that occurred at Mirfield to contact Ben Berrell As a victim of sexual abuse I along with four other ex-students have committed to seeking justice. Through our collective approach we can direct our energy towards resolution of this issue. Upon contacting me I will put you in touch with our solicitors who will assist you to “tell your truth”. Through this 360 degree approach we can assemble a more accurate picture of what went on. Regards Ben Berrell

  10. Just to let everyone know the reunion will be in Mirfield on the weekend of the 5th-7th April 2013.Details to follow. Any info regarding it please contact me on avril, I hope that people who havent been before will come. There are at least 25 definites already. Hope to see you there.

    All the best

  11. Dear MOBS (Martin Millar, 1968-72

    I know that this may seem crass beyond belief in view of the theme of abuse that is rightly prominent, but I want to respond to Degs’ original declaration of intent, to open this space up to happy as well as unhappy memories.

    Somebody took a picture of me as a thirteen year old playing the guitar in the front garden in spring 1969. I have never stopped playing since I was introduced to the three chord folksy classics by friendly seminarians. I very much doubt I would have taken up any musical instrument if I hadn’t gone to Mirfield.

    More, as you’ll recall, there was a piano in the library. Once I’d worked out that you could play any chord on the piano that you could on the guitar, I was hooked on that instrument too. No lessons – the same kind of autodidactic learning that figured in the musical education of our heroes, viz. The Beatles, The Kinks and a host of others. So, I owe Mirfield a lot, as music is something I treasure.

    Another declaration of intent, I will be coming to the 2013 reunion, with my guitar.
    Please help me compile a playlist of songs that will help us celebrate our brotherly feelings.

    • Martin,

      I am not a Rod Stewart fan, however i have this good memory of you, in the hall, playing Maggie May, probably sometime in 1971/72. Play it again – it could be a good sing a long after a few pints – during the reunion.

      Soon after hearing you play you showed me the opening chords of the song and that was the start of my guitar playing.


      Mark (Murray)

      • Hi Mark

        Hey that’s a good suggestion. The B side was a big hit too -Reason to Believe.

        You may or not remember but you used to let me, Tommy O’Donnell, Ambrose and David Harrigan, in through a basement window after we
        Came back late from a night out in Huddersfield. Rod’s songs were always playing on the pub jukebox.

        Thanks Mark.

  12. Dear MOBS

    A memory slip in the above reply to Mark Murray. It wasn’t you that used to let us in, it was Mark Kennedy.

    I look forward to the reunion – more song suggestions please.

    Martin (68-72)

  13. This is all awful and shocking , can anyone please tell me when all this abuse happened ,because i was there from 73-74 ,and wasn’t harmed (apart from a boxing match ,got knocked down in 20 seconds) and didn’t hear of any abuse or even any rumours . I must have been very lucky .

  14. Dear MOBS (from Martin Millar 68-72)

    I have a happy memory of young nuns on horseback in the bottom field in the summer of 1970. These were not our own in-house suore but were sisters who had recently joined the order, or had finished their first stint in one of the missions.
    They had come to take part in a great international exhibition of Catholic missions lasting about 10 days and held in a vast space – possibly a circus-like tent-somewhere on the edge of Leeds.

    I inherited Bombardini’s post as translator. Italian was the lingual Franca of any event that brought any visitors our way. My ambition was to become fluent and I took every opportunity to practise. The assembled bevy of Verona Sisters presented a golden one.

    One of them, let,s call her Suor’ Francesca, was 19, and an accomplished horsewoman in her pre-Verona days in her native Spain.

    She was petite, pretty, friendly and tenacious. She noticed a horse in the bottom field and asked me if she thought Fr Fraser would allow her to ride it. I have this strong memory of standing beside her as she pleaded with him. All in Italian.

    Fraser was very congenial, and clearly charmed, he said he would fare una chiamata telefonata to the owner. We waited outside for a couple of minutes and then were called back in. Faster had this grin on his face.

    “Posso, Padre, posso?”

    “Si, va bene. Tutt’a posto”

    Within an hour or so, she had cadged a pair of track suit bottoms from one of the boys and a rope from God knows where, and we were down in the bottom field with quite few boys drafted in to chase the horse towards her so she could lasso it.

    There she stood, with her habit hitched up, tossing the rope. How she transformed the lasso into a harness is beyond my wit or memory. But the next minute she was riding bare-back and catering up and down the field. She offered me a go, but I declined. I remember James Goodlet climbing on and falling off pretty quick.

    Over the next few days, I accompanied the nuns to the exhibition in the minibus.
    I cannot remember which of the fathers drove us – maybe Murtagh or one of the others.

    All the time, it was the lure of the Italian language and the company of young women that occupied my thoughts. The question of my vocation, the existence of God and the point of the missions, could go hang……

    • hello. my brother Liam Gribben lived in Florida, I never knew that he had a heart condition. He was found in his garage yesterday. waiting on coroner’s report. sisters and brother en route just now.he always enjoyed the meet-up with ‘the lads from mirfield’

  15. just read the Tablet article. It really is time that what happened in Mirfield ref the Verona Fathers ….was brought into the public arena. As far as i am concerned the abuse there can fester on and on. The first step is to work with the Press to stimulate the impetus to investigate it. The matter cries to heaven to be dealt with. Closure is so badly needed for all concerned linked with basic justice. The topic is in the arena. Now is the time to deal with and finish with it,
    from Tony Kennedy.

  16. Hello Mark. The news coming out of Scotland about the school has so incensed me that I want to do whatever I can to help our cause. I am so so angry about it all…John McCabe.

  17. Mirfield 64-67. Great to stumble upon this blog. Brings mixed memories. Good stuff ? The football, the broken toffee-crisp guy, numbers game in the wood, 007s car arriving, Fr Grace, Edwin Roberts lifting everyones spirits just by being ‘Eddie’ Roberts and for me… just getting to wear that Inter Milan strip. The bad…Trying to dodge the perv Pinky for three years, Cerea’s venom and Valmaggios idea of how to treat a cut knee. Didn’t know the epidemic was so widespread. I have had a one way communication with the Order over 40 years about the abuse (should have done more, I now know) They and their solicitor finally replied, in denial, last year. I wish everyone well and shall log-in again. I can be contacted at

  18. Hi there every one. Nobody has ever mention me in these blogs. Maybe because I was one of the ‘good boys’ who just sayed in the background . I was at Mirfield 65-71 ( repeated a year ) !! However Valmaggia was a paedo I was one of his victims. It has not blighted my life but I remember it very well what he did to me in that infirmary. Some very familiar names on this bog. I went on to Sunningdale , Adrossan and then Elstree before leaving in 1976. Had a great career in mental health nursing but am now retired but am alive and kicking. Good luck to all who have taken the initiative with regard to abuse.

  19. I always wonder what Mirfield is like now. I did a search and found this photo. All Mirfield Old Boys are sure to recognise the window, if nothing else,from this room.
    I hope the link to the photo works. I always liked that window, and am glad it has been preserved.


  20. I can understand people on this site who say they were never abused, or knew anything about any abuse taking place. I never heard a whisper of anybody else being abused and thought i was just the unfortunate one, That was until i discovered this site. I firmly believed that it was just me that Pinkman was abusing, and never told anybody for a very long time. Even then i still would never have done anything about it on my own. It was by accident that i came across this site. A friend who i had confided in about my “secret” rang me one night last year and said have you seen the local paper,(Dewsbury/Mirfield Reporter)? He said is that the school in Mirfield you had told me about.? There it was front page and full page about Police investigating allegations of sexual abuse at The Verona Fathers Seminary (Comboni Missionaries). I could not believe it and subsequently found the blog. It came as a great shock to me, and through uniting with 9 other great people scattered around the globe, engaged Lawyers to get the truth out into the open. I am a proud member of the Mirfield 12, and will be forever grateful to Mark for getting the ball rolling all those years ago.

  21. Tuesday 2nd December 2014 1pm, another “Treatment” begins.! I am now 60 years of age, and it is almost 50 years since the sexual abuse i suffered at the hands of the Comboni Missionaries formerly know as the Verona Fathers took place.I have been seeing professional people for over 40 years with limited success. I became an alcoholic by the age of 24. I am 15 years sober now though.I also turned to drugs and was addicted for 20 years, I am also now clean. I don’t know weather i would have become an alcoholic if the abuse hadn’t happened It certainly didn’t help.What i have lived with though is the awful black depression and anxiety that has held me back in everything My anger worries me very much, and has got me into all sorts of scrapes over the years.
    So tomorrow 2nd December at 1pm, i will meet up with a Psychologist and dismantle my life again, and see if this time i can get some peace of mind.
    I have tried to commit suicide several times over the years, but will not any more, i have two beautiful grandchildren and three grown up children and it is not fair on them. Thanks for coming into my life Combonis, i really would have rather stayed at home in 1965 and i am sure things would have worked out much better.

  22. CSA Inquiry begins. A personal view, by Frank McGinnis.

    I welcome the news that Judge Goddard’s Inquiry is finally able to commence. I should stress that my welcome is not a triumph of my optimism over realism. The British Establishment is funding the investigation into, what will primarily be, it’s own behavior. (He who pays the Piper calls the Tune). That other institutions will be scrutinised is of particular interest to ourselves who at various times attended the Verona Fathers seminary at Mirfield. I especially welcome the following:

    The Inquiry wants to hear from anyone who was sexually abused as a child in an institutional setting.
    The Inquiry will actively encourage victims & survivors to come forward to testify at public hearings. (anonymously if required)
    The Inquiry wants to hear from anyone who reported abuse that was then not properly acted upon.
    Institutions whose actions are called into question will be required to disclose relevant information & provide witnesses.
    The Inquiry will investigate the role/advice of insurance companies in the handling of reports of their clients abuse. (I suggest that the Catholic Church Insurance Association have much to consider in this area).

    It may be that this Inquiry will succeed in convincing our priests, politicians, entertainers and law enforcement agencies that sexually abusing children is wrong. That they should need such enlightenment shall no doubt remain a mystery to the rest of society.

    • Just noticed your request Peter, sorry for delay. Inquiry has new website: csa-inquiry. All contact details etc. Frank

  23. Hi there, I sent an email to the blog outlining briefly my experience and that of my brother, on 1 March, 2015 but had no response. Just checking if this site is still operating.

      • Hi
        Not sure why I feel compelled to get in touch as i am not seeking any retribution. Just came across this site. But I thought what happened to me and my brother needs saying. I attended Roe Head in mid 70s I had just turned 12. My older brother attended too. He was the main reason I went.

        My brother left and after I returned from the Easter holidays I had real bad case of homesickness. It was then that I had to go to the Father’s room at night as he tried to convince me to stay. At the time I didn’t know what was happening. He made me stand naked and used to feel my leg, working his way up to my privates and fondling them as I was told to close my eyes. There was other bits happened.
        This happened a number of times before I left.

        My brother however, had it a lot worse than me. He was there 3 years and had sustained abuse during that time from the same priest which went much further! I didn’t know about his experience and he didn’t know about mine until 5 years ago, a year before he died of cancer. The experience in Mirfield had a more profound effect on him who was plagued with a guilt complex all his life. As I get older I am beginning to question my long held view that it had no effect on me.

        As I said I am not looking for any revenge or retribution but seeing this site I thought I better put it out there. I know my brother was aggrieved at what happened to him and it changed him forever. He would have gained a lot of comfort from this site and sharing with you all.

  24. Pingback: Sad News. Liam Gribben – ex Mirfiled lad died in Florida | Comboni Missionaries

  25. Pingback: Liam Gribben RIP | Comboni Missionaries

  26. I`ve sent an Email to this Blog today 9/9/2018

    My name is Everard James ( Big Ev ) If anyone remembers me ..1977 – 1980

    Contact me

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