Arrival at Mirfield | Comboni Missionaries

Arrival at Mirfield

In those days the train journeys were very long. My memory was that the train journey from Glasgow to Leeds lasted for 7 hours.

It was the start of a great adventure. I remember it was a very sunny and hot day (aren’t all your favourite days that way?).

Some of the parents came down to drop us off. We were in one compartment of the train and they were in the one next door.

Even Better

I remember arriving at the bus stop called ‘Robin’ presumably called after Robin Hood who was supposed to have had some connection with the area.

The place was even better than Fr. Tavano had described. It was in quite a few acres of ground. There was a woods – or a Copse as they called it. There was three different football pitches. There was a Grotto to our Lady on the lawn with Primula all around.

There was Fr. Cerea’s garden where he grew all sorts of flowers and vegetables.

There was a Recreation room where you could play Table Tennis, Snooker, Billiards, Chess or Draughts.

And to cap it all it was where the Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne went to school.

Holiday Camp

This really was different from Greenock. This really was like a holiday camp. It was going to be fantastic. We were now living in a really great place and we were going to become priests and go to Africa to teach the natives about God at the end of it.

Little did we realise that the holiday camp would turn out more like a prison camp.

After our parents had departed on the first day I asked one of the 2nd year boys if we could have a look around outside and perhaps go down to the local town.

We couldn’t.

We were not allowed to leave the grounds. There was a wall about four feet high surrounding The College.

It might as well have been 40 feet.

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Foundations of abuse at Comboni Missionaries seminary in Mirfield

Comboni Missionaries

During the 1960s and 70s, and possibly into the 1980s, priests and brothers of the Comboni Missionary Order (formerly Verona fathers) sexually abused children as young as 11 years of age at their seminary in Mirfield, Yorkshire, United Kingdom.

A group of ex seminarians, The Mirfield 12, have successfully prosecuted a civil case against the Comboni Missionaries: a legal case remains outstanding. More ex seminarians abused by Comboni Missionaries have now come forward to pursue both legal and civil actions.

A culture of abuse existed at the Comboni Missionaries seminary in Mirfield. All of the abused have struggled to come to terms with the experience and to understand how it came about. Our concern was not only about the individuals who perpetrated the abuse but also the organisations which allowed this to happen, and is to this day in denial that any abuse took place.

A 2013 report from CEOP ‘The Foundations of Abuse:
A thematic assessment of the risk of child sexual abuse by adults in institutions’
provides some telling analysis of the way institutions operate to produce such fertile ground for child sexual abuse to take place. The key findings are below.

Key Findings

1) Children in institutional settings are not only at risk from adults who are inclined to abuse them sexually; but also from adults who either fail to notice abuse or, if they do, fail to report it.

2) Where institutions put their own interests ahead of those of the children who engage with them, abusive behaviours are likely to become normalised, potentially leading to sexual abuse.

3) The culture within an institution has a strong influence on the degree to which abuse might occur within it. Poor leadership, closed structures, ineffective policies and procedures together with the discouragement of reporting, facilitates a malign climate which colludes with those inclined to sexually abuse children.

4) Where institutions are held in high regard and respected by the communities they serve, positional grooming can be perpetuated, whereby offenders conduct social or environmental grooming and mask their actions by virtue of their formal positions within an organisation.

5) Potential risks from those with a sexual interest in children who pursue work in institutions can be mitigated by vigilant and effective leadership and management.

6) Intense loyalty and conformity of workers to the mission, norms and values of an institution can inhibit them from reporting concerns.

7) The historic nature of many cases currently exercising media attention, together with developments in safeguarding, might give a false perception that this type of offending can no longer occur. Offenders continue to exploit systemic vulnerabilities where they exist.

The full report can be accessed here

http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/publications/49-ceop-institutions-thematic-assessment/file

Father Romano Nardo

It was not until the arrival of a rather unusual Italian Priest at our West Yorkshire Seminary did I begin to feel a certain closeness.  Father Romano Nardo was unusual, not only as a Priest, but also as a person. This eccentric young man made an instant impression on me despite his odd appearance; he wore thick glasses, big glasses, actually, very big, thick glasses.

Romano was the first Priest of the Comboni order to offer an explanation for my unbearable homesickness. Pain, he told me was a route to God.  By accepting our pain, learning to live with suffering, we move ever closer to God.  As a rational adult I’m capable of offering counter arguments.  But in vulnerable adolescence the notion that pleasure is sinful and pain and suffering is spiritually uplifting resonated with me and I embraced his theological reasoning.