From Convent to Pentecost

Chapter 15

Houses of Mercy and Charity

I’ve never been in a House of Mercy and Charity, however I have met many women who were sent there as girls. Some were incorrigible while others were orphans or some little waifs unwanted by their parents. Therefore, they were picked up by the Law and placed in one of these Houses as a place of refuge.

I write this chapter from the testimonies of those who lived in these homes. I feel America needs to be warned so that our little girls can be spared.

We have scores of such institutions in America. The incorrigible are sent there by our courts without investigation of the Law. Many of the girls lived on the starvation diet such as one hard-boiled egg a day. They worked sixteen hours a day. Some of the children were too small to reach the ironing board, so they stood on a box and ironed clothes.

I talked to one of the first Police Matrons in Maine. I also talked with a case worker from New York. They related identical stories of taking little girls to those institutions. Upon their return each month, these little girls cried and begged to be taken out. They told of being brutally mistreated and how they worked as slaves. They told how they were restricted as prisoners and were half starved. To add to their suffering, the priests were seen there all hours of the day and night.

One father in northern New Brunswick, Canada, was persuaded to take his little girl to such a House convent since the mother had died and he had no one to care for the little child while he worked. She entered the convent at the age of eight and lived there four years.

Mr. Rudullo was allowed to come and visit little Betty each month. He was well pleased with the care his daughter received. One day after Betty reached her twelfth birthday, the Mother Superior met Mr. Rudullo at the receiving desk and told him he couldn’t see his little girl that day. She was ill and couldn’t have any visitors.

He went away feeling very badly. And it seemed the following month took so long to pass. Visitor’s day finally rolled around and Mr. Rudullo again stood before the Mother Superior asking to see little Betty. She again told him that Betty was a very sick little girl and he couldn’t see her. Mr. Rudullo became suspicious.

He left the convent and in a few hours returned with a wheelchair. With determination in his voice he said, “Mother, if Betty is too ill to walk put her in this wheelchair and roll her out, but I must see her today.”

The Mother Superior realized she was caught in a trap. She took the wheelchair and was gone a very long time.

She emerged wheeling little Betty, who had heavy blankets wrapped around her as though some strange malady has fastened itself on the girl and she had been having chills.

Without a word, he tore the blankets away from Betty to substantiate his suspicions. Sure enough, just as a friend had intimated to him, little Betty, twelve years of age, was pregnant!

Needless to say, he was so furious and hurt that he immediately removed his child from the House convent. He was able to do this as much as she was not under the jurisdiction of the law. He took her to a maternity home to give birth to her illegitimate baby that was fathered by a priest.

While we were in Toronto, a beautiful and charming woman dressed in a chic, red, velvet dress, stood close to the altar. When the service was over, she asked to speak with me. Such sorrow and disappointment coupled with fear and frustration hid beneath her talkative eyes. She had soft, brown, flowing hair, and winsome smile. This was her story.

Her husband was killed in Pearl Harbor at the beginning of World War II. They had two lovely children, a boy and girl. They lived in New York, and later moved to Toronto. The Father Confessor of this particular Church was a handsome man with a great personality. He was a brilliant fellow and had climbed the ladder of success in the church-world. Indeed, he was Father Confessor in several local convents in addition to his large church.

During the course of time, having gone to confession and taken holy communion very often, she found herself deeply in love with him. He, too, allowed his heart to reach out and he confessed how that he loved her dearly. He influenced her to place her children in a boarding school so that he could be free to come to her home as often as he liked. They lived as man and wife. She paid for the home and living expenses out of her deceased husband’s insurance until most of it was gone. Not the church-world, her friends, nor her children knew anything about the double life she was living.

Soon they talked about marriage and he mentioned leaving the priesthood. His only fear was that her children would not be reconciled to accepting him as their Daddy and her husband when they had previously only known him as both priest and Father Confessor. However, she was tired of living common-law. She was tired of being a concubine and having to sacrifice her children while she lived with a priest. So they decided to give themselves a few days to think it over seriously and count the cost.

This former case-worker from New York stood there with tears coursing down her cheeks. She said, “This Friday, Father Valencia is letting me know if he is taking off his holy habit and forsaking the priesthood to marry me, or if he will remain priest and forsake me.”

She then stated, “If he and I marry, we will be here to your service Friday night.”

Friday night came, and I sat on the platform searching the crowd for this lady and her companion, but they never came.

Several weeks later we were in Napanee, Ontario, Canada. The phone rang and a strange voice said, “My relative, who was the lady who talked to you of marrying the priest while you were in Toronto, has taken the dreadful disease of leukemia and is very low. Please pray for her.”

My heart ached to hear such news. Here was a lovely woman who had suffered the loss of her husband at Pearl Harbor. She had allowed her heart to love a man that used her at his own convenience, separating her from her two children. He had spent her insurance money and then had decided to remain a priest. She was dying of leukemia, a broken heart, a guilty conscience and a lost soul. But who cared?

She then believed the stories she heard from those little girls that she took to the House Convent when she was a case-worker. She understood why priests were always there and not just for confession time. She, too, had sold her birthright for a mess of theological pottage. She loved and gave her very soul to a man that was bound by the orders of the “Church” to continue in the priesthood, although he was guilty of adultery. Yet he would be excommunicated if he married according to the laws of Gods holy Bible.

Many girls get into trouble. Babies are nestled close to their hearts, conceived out of lust and passion, void of love, hope and the expectation derived from marriage as God has planned. Some are very young while others are older and have committed the same offenses before.

Seldom does a girl, regardless of her sinful nature, ever give birth to a little one but that the mother instinct comes to the front. Then she’ll change her mind about wanting to see the tiny one and won’t even want to hold it. Then, as if by spontaneous combustion, she bursts out saying, “I’ve changed my mind! I do want my baby! I do want to take it home with me!”

In the cloistered Convent, it was at that point when the Mother Superior informed the girl, “You’ve already signed away the baby. It’s not even yours. Besides that, think of the baby’s future. It will be better off adopted so it can have a daddy and a mother.”

Yes, the Mother Superiors in the Houses as well as in their maternity homes made the girls sign away their babies before they were born.

While conducting a revival in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Church was packed to capacity. Many attended, especially the Spanish speaking people. One night after service, some of the brethren brought a Spanish man the front to speak to me. He exclaimed through tears, “Sister Charlotte, I can believe your Testimony. Every word of it.”

He then proceeded to tell his life’s story.

My, mother and father were killed in an automobile accident. Inasmuch as I was only fourteen years old, I was adopted by the sisters in … Hospital in Denver, Colorado, as an errand boy.

All through High School I continued to live at the Hospital and worked for the sisters. My job might be to wash windows or to carry out the garbage. Every once in a while, along with the trash. I was given a box similar to a shoebox to take to the furnace and burn. I would have never become suspicious had not the Mother Superior continually insisted that I never open the box, but to be sure and burn it.

Curiosity got the best of me one day, and I opened the forbidden box. I almost fainted. Cold perspiration broke out upon me as I stood there looking into that box. Was I dreaming? Was it a ghoulish nightmare that I would soon awake from? Right before my very eyes, holding with my own two hands, to be put with the rest of the trash into the furnace fire, was a tiny, newborn baby. It, of course, was dead.

It was terrible! I felt horrible. The thought tore at my heart, ‘Have I been burning babies all this time?’ I had no alternative but to leave without even saying good-bye. I could not and I would not burn any more tiny, little bodies. I dared not tell the Mother Superior I had disobeyed her orders, and peaked into the forbidden box.

This stranger wept as he told me the above story. He then stated, “Do not quote my name. I fear for my life.”

Just whom did those babies belong to and why were they burned? He felt they belonged to the Open Order Sisters of that Hospital, and of that particular Diocese. The normal, healthy babies were no doubt transported to the orphanages and adopted out. But what about the blue baby, or the one that lives but an hour or is born dead? They wouldn’t dare publish the birth of a baby born to a Nun or a Sister. Perhaps the Mother Superior felt the little body should be cremated in the Hospital furnace fire instead of being buried in the cold ground.