On an Ebay discussion forum, of all places, are to be found a series of uniformly adverse recollections by former residents of the Abbotsford Convent, and some other Catholic institutions. One woman’s story, pieced together by me from multiple posts, with a little editing, is:
‘It was indeed the Convent of the Good Shepherd, the Sacred Heart Class was where we kids worked our butts off to feed the nuns and the orphans (the orphans I don’t mind helping to feed …… ) and St Euphrasia was for schooling. So there were four sections in all. When my father placed me in the convent (I wasn’t in trouble by the way, at least not pregnant…), my father got rid of me as a plaything and the convent was as good as anywhere else.
We girls got up early, went to mass, came back, attended the refectory where we all had breakfast (such as it was) then we went to work. I was only a kid back then and didn’t know better, I just accepted their slavery as normal! Hubbys Bub [another poster on the disucssion board] the stories we could tell, your friend and I except my heart already feels as if it is breaking in two. As for my anger it’s getting like a great big ball. I don’t dare say too much else, as right now im not coping well at all.
This I want to say: breakfast was luke-warm porridge with a slice of STALE bread. Lunch on the other hand was soup, with the morning’s left over porridge added for volume! Please, I just need someone else to back me up as I know it sounds unbelievable!
We worked so hard. I usually worked in the ironing room, but did some time in the mangle room, which is a huge round press that one fed sheets and such into! Anyone who knows me will tell you I loathe ironing, hence most of my clothing is drip dry!
We had a huge bath and toilet area. We had a bath once a fortnight from memory and even so the water we used had been used several times before we got in Y…..UCKO! The crows, usually called auxiliaries, would drag us down there and beat the bejes-s out of us if some nun had a complaint against any of us. Never mind if it was true or not. Biff! Bash! And cop that! Until we grew older and now and then fought back.
There was also a method of complaint called standing on the slab. We would walk off work and stand in the middle of the room and that’s where we stayed until bedtime. We could eat the muck they gave us for breakfast, then the nun in charge of our workplace would ask us if we were prepared to work. I was too stubborn to comply and so went without many a meal. Some of the girls would try and smuggle us something, but it was usually at extreme risk to themselves, and many a child went down the toilet just for feeling pity for a fellow sufferer.
I make absolutely no apologies whatsoever for despising those cows called nuns if they were the gaurdian of our souls then god help us. I looked at my granddaughter and thought I wasn’t much older or bigger than that when I first went there! HANG your heads in shame, you women who were portrayed as the gaurdians of our bodies and souls. SHAME SHAME on you! The only time I have ever stepped inside a Catholic church since was to attend a funeral. I wandered around for some time after that eventually I realised I had a spiritual need so looked deeply into the Bible, and now I know what’s actually in the Bible, I despise them even more. Not only because they were nuns, but primarily because they were WOMEN!
Totally unforgiveable bvehaviour, however I can forgive (not easily ) but because the Bible directs us to! I DEFINITELY CANNOT FORGET THOUGH. I have deliberately wiped a lot of menories away, in order to survive and a survivor is exactly what I am and can take a little comfort in that.’