In 1996 the television documentary Dear Daughter brought the subject of abuse in residential institutions to the attention of the public, and in 2002 the film The Magdalene Sisters highlighted the treatment of women in the Magdalen laundries. Since then these subjects have rarely left the public mind. The nuns who worked in these institutions have been, for the most part, silent on these and other matters.
This collective memoir presents the other side, the hidden life behind the convent walls. It is written from the perspective of a former nun who has unique insight into religious life and covers the period 1930 to 2008. In For God's Sake ten nuns recount their life stories. They come from all social strata and from different convents and congregations. They tell tales of a very repressive regime, of a strict social class system, of stifled emotions and of the harsh life in the Magdalen laundries and industrial schools. For many nuns the dreams of their young lives have been shattered by events beyond their control. Each story covers some aspects of convent life and the individual responses to it, and they offer some understanding of why nobody noticed the abuse, or if they did, why they turned a blind eye.
These stories are important because they reveal a way of life that has long since passed, where every aspect of women's lives was governed by a male-dominated hierarchical Church that promised salvation, and even sainthood, to those who were faithful to its precepts. The nuns took vows and owed blind obedience to their superior who alone knew God's will, and in telling their stories finally become aware of many of the damaging effects the convent system had on their personalities.
1. Teresa – ‘I never heard anyone complaining’
2. Nora – ‘Never do that to anyone again’
3. Annie – ‘People started questioning things’
4. Birdie – ‘We weren’t prepared for life’
5. Mary – ‘Most of the nuns were not trained for the work’
6. Margaret – ‘I don’t know whether I had a vocation’
7. Barbara – ‘A most unnatural way of life’
8. Clare – ‘We’re paddling and we’re drowning’
9. Lily – ‘Were there things happening and I didn’t see them?’
10. Becky – ‘The way of life was actually killing me’
Dr Camillus Metcalfe spent forty years as a nun attached to a convent in the Midlands where she worked as a teacher of German and English. She studied psychoanalysis and Consultancy to Organisations at the Tavistock Centre in London and lectured for ten years on the MA in Drama Therapy at NUI Maynooth. She worked as a consultant to staff in residential childcare in the HSE and taught the Counselling Skills Certificate Course in NUI Maynooth. Currently she lives near Carrick on Shannon and works part-time as a therapist, supervisor and organisational consultant.