Fourteen survivors came together to respond to the recently-closed investigation into the shuttered St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Burlington.
“I speak only for myself and I stand for my brother who never had the ability to overcome the trauma he suffered,” said one of the survivors.
An emotional day for the last generation of St. Joseph’s former children as both men and women recalled the egregious abuse committed by nuns and priests who operated the facility.
Today, more than three decades later, the building is an apartment complex. But for many children growing up in the 1950’s, it was a house of horrors.
“We were given numbers along with a pillow, sheet, and blanket. my number was 25,” said another survivor.
In response to Monday’s investigation announcement, St. Joseph’s survivors said they appreciate the work Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan and members of the Task For but admitted feeling disappointed that no evidence was found supporting their murder allegations.
“Every Sunday I was passed from one pedophile, a nun, to another pedophile, a priest,” said a survivor.
Another explained being dragged by the hair, forced to commit sexual acts, and beaten.
“I was segregated from the others. I spent hours kneeling and facing a wall…they tried to break me.”
In March, The St. Joseph’s Orphanage Restorative Inquiry contacted more than 30 residents and more than half attend virtual group discussions each week.
“Our purpose is, to the best of our abilities, facilitate the requests of the former children of St. Joseph’s Orphanage,” said Consultant Marc Wennberg.
These requests include funds to healing therapies, the release of all records, and face-to-face acknowledgement from the institutions in charge of orphanage at the time.
“Because we want the truth to be known, we also want you to know that the sister’s of providence in no way cooperated in the investigation process,” said survivor Walter Coltey.
Detailed in the report, Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan tried to secure their records from sister’s of providence, but they did not wish to speak or provide any information.
“That is why were are here today, to make sure our voices, the voices of St. Joseph’s Orphanage, are heard.”
In January, the group will meet with representatives from the Department of Children and Families to have an open dialogue.
While the investigation is close, Wennberg reminds the state and community of our collective responsibility: “Listening is an essential part of our core obligation as a community.”
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