Ms Waters said, ‘I just couldn’t stick it any longer, I couldn’t cope any longer’ so she went directly to Sr Viola15 who was the Provincial and the person to whom Sr Serena was ultimately accountable. She raised the contents of the letter she had written to Sr Callida with Sr Viola. Sr Viola came to Group Home B a month later and interviewed all the staff who, this time, were prepared to confide in her. Her findings resulted in the dismissal of Sr Callida.
In the mid-1980s, the six Sisters of Mercy convents in the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore came together under the overall control and direction of the Provincial Superior of the Diocese, who was Sr Viola. This Sister thereby assumed ultimate responsibility for the Sisters’ undertakings in Cappoquin.
Sr Viola was aware of Sr Callida’s drinking before her appointment in the mid-1980s. She had been approached by a member of the public in the early 1980s, who expressed concern about what was happening in Cappoquin. She suggested that the complaint should be communicated to the Superior in Cappoquin, but she herself did not follow it up.
Sr Viola said that this process of building up trust involved calling over to the group home and having tea with Sr Callida on a few occasions during the year, as well as attending in-service days with her.
The emphasis, however, was all on Sr Callida and, by her own admission, Sr Viola did not talk to the staff or to the children during these visits. She did not identify the chronic problems that were causing such difficulties for the children and the staff there: I certainly would have felt that the place looked okay. The children looked okay. To me, I wouldn’t have had any immediate concerns at the time.
Sr Viola appointed Sr Serena as Superior to the convent in Cappoquin, and gave her instructions to keep an eye on Sr Callida and report back on her behaviour. At the same time, Sr Callida’s previous confidante, Sr Melita, was transferred from Cappoquin and appointed as Superior in another school. This was regarded by Sr Callida as a great loss, both to her personally and to the group home, and she and a number of the children rang Sr Viola to express their dismay at Sr Melita’s departure.
Sr Viola gave evidence that she had briefed Sr Serena on Sr Callida’s alcohol problem when she appointed her to Cappoquin, and had asked her to monitor the situation for her. Her evidence in this regard was vague, however: I would be very surprised if I didn’t. Because it was the thing that we had seriously tried to build. Liliana19 and myself had seen that as a concern and it was like please observe, please support, please build the relationship and keep in touch with us.
Sr Serena found the move to Cappoquin difficult. When asked by Sr Viola to go there as local leader, ‘very, very, very reluctantly I said yes’.
As her relationship with Sr Callida developed, she became more compromised: As I got to know Sr Callida a bit better it began to interfere with my job as local leader. Because I felt within myself a great discomfort that I was not doing what I should have done. I felt sometimes as time went on, that I was living a lie and that made me extremely unhappy within myself. That is one of the huge difficulties, looking back on my time in Cappoquin, that is one of my great sorrows, that is why I asked the Community, especially on one occasion, when Cappoquin was closing down; I asked for their forgiveness, I felt I let them down. In fact, I felt I let everyone down, including Sr Callida and Viola.
Sr Serena was remorseful for letting down her Community and Sr Viola and Sr Callida. She was asked whether she felt she had let the children down, ‘I suppose I didn’t – I wouldn’t have seen it like that’.
Throughout the first three years of her time in Cappoquin, Sr Serena was in almost daily contact with her immediate Superior, Sr Viola, who taught in the same school: That’s another place where I reneged my responsibility because I was torn between loyalty to Viola and the Congregation and loyalty to Callida. So because I was carrying so much self-blame and shame and guilt and all sorts of things around my role – or myself, I tended to shy away from talking about things like that to Viola. So that’s why I said a minute ago that I failed Viola as well.
The result of this conflict of loyalties was that, when Ms Waters, the House Mother of Group Home B, came to her with serious complaints about Sr Callida in the late 1980s, she did not tell Sr Viola but tried to deal with the matter herself. She failed dismally, and Ms Waters went over her head to Sr Viola, who came and interviewed staff and removed Sr Callida from her position as Resident Manager.
She said that, although she was seriously compromised in the carrying out of her duties in Cappoquin, none of the other 10 Sisters who were resident there ever said anything to her or to Sr Viola: They probably noticed that I was spending more time down there than I should have. I tried – I think I would say I tried not to neglect my duties above. I loved them dearly and I spent a lot of time with them and I tried to do my work there as well as I could.
Sr Callida’s removal as Resident Manager did not end the problems caused by her time in charge there. She bitterly resented her removal and defended her record in Group Home A vehemently. She continued living in the convent for two years after her removal, and interfered with the committee that had been put in place by Sr Viola to run the homes pending the appointment of a new Resident Manager. This interference continued intermittently until she eventually left the Congregation in the mid-1990s.
Sr Clarice was a retired teacher in the primary school who had a ‘fair’ degree of contact with the children in the group homes. She recalled that, in the early 1990s, Sr Viola asked her to help out the staff in the group homes and to ‘be there to help them’. She was already aware that the staff were having difficulties with Sr Callida at the time and, although she says she did not know the specifics, ‘I think they were getting contradictory messages about the children who were in the home and they were stressed’.