Cait FinneganHi!

My name is Cait Finnegan and I’m a survivor of sexual abuse by a Sister of Mercy.  #Churchtoo

I grew up in Woodside/Sunnyside Queens, NYC and attended Queen of Angels elementary school where we were taught by the Sisters of Mercy.  Later I attended Mater Christi Diocesan High School in Astoria where the girls were taught by the Sisters of Mercy and the boys were taught by the Christian Brothers.

Me and My Da

My Da and me after playing ball on vacation here in the Poconos.  She started in when I returned to school.  I was 15.

It was in Mater Christi that I was first groomed and then abused for a few years by Sister Mary Juanita Barto.  The abuse took place in classrooms and parlors in Mater Christi H.S. (now known as St. John’s Prep), on school buses to away games, on retreat in Graymore in Garrison NY,  in my family home in Queens, in our vacation home in Sussex, NJ, and, after she was transferred from Mater Christi, in her new convent in Holy Trinity H.S. in Hicksville,   L.I., as well as  in her sister’s family home in Glen Cove,  L.I. where she took me to meet her family.

She was a woman who manipulated every occasion to get what she wanted, and call it holy, using the Sacred Scripture from St. John saying “God is Love” to justify her acts.   It took me until I was in my 40’s to finally understand that God truly IS Love, and that SHE was the deceiver who quoted Scripture and turned it into something evil, destroying its meaning for me, and causing me to fear God for years.

This abuse has trapped me for years in many ways, mentally, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and even with the stress-related physical disabilities I now have.   Not until my elderly mother was almost 80 years old did I have the strength to tell her about the abuse.  My father was long dead, and I was always afraid if he knew about what this Sister did he would have killed her with his own hands.  I saved her life–while my own was suffering more and more as the years progressed.

Finally, no longer able to contain the rage and pain within I told my family: my mother, brother, husband and daughter.  Since then I’ve been trying to heal.  That is ongoing and it is work.

I have not lost my Faith, but I am no longer a Roman Catholic.  My husband and I left the Roman Catholic Church and now belong to a small Independent Old Catholic, Celtic Rite Church where I am spiritually nourished and can live my Faith.

Since my marriage in 1980 my husband and I have been involved in Church reform, particularly trying to help women who’ve been abused by priests (Good Tidings Ministry).   In 1997 I was ordained a priest in the Celtic Christian Church, and have continued to do my best, along with others,  to help others who’ve been hurt by sexual misconduct in the Church.

Although I have other blogs, I’ve began this one called “Abuse By Nuns” because I need to “think in ink” and if it helps anyone else who has been abused by nuns to face those ugly realities and deal with them, then I am grateful to be able to encourage that.

Just as with all survivors, there is so much that has been affected and continues to be by what is carried within.  This blog is just a means to get a bit of it out.

I currently live in the Poconos, PA.


10 Responses to “About”

  1. Dear Cait, My name is Mary Reeder. i was born in Chicago and then moved to upper Saddle River New Jersey. My parents sent my sister two brothers and myself to a private Catholic school in the same city. After 3 years my parents took us out of the school because of severe physical abuse which i suffered and severe emotional abuse my sister suffered. Yes at the hands of nuns.
    I am very proud of you for your bravery and open heart to others. Continue the good fight sister, you are never alone.

  2. Hi Cait,
    Thank you for this site and your caring. I was searching the internet and came across your work here. I am in my early 50’s and still having a hard time dealing with what was done to me by a nun when I was in 5th grade. Hard to beleive something so long ago can still be so earth shatering. It has rocked my life and shaked the very core by which I had lived for years. Daily pain, anger, sadness, mistrust is common for me. After all these years thinking I could deal and cope with this, I realize now that I just was not strong enough. Recently I have sought help and I am in therapy. One thing I have learned, it will not be an easy process to recover, if recovery is even possible. I know my life will never be the same, and as my therapist told me, that little boy in me died in 5th grade. No matter what I try to get back, that part of me is dead and will never come back. I could go on for hours, but I will stop there as this is still so very hard to discuss.
    Thank you again for this site.

  3. What year did you attend Mater Christi? I am a 1966 graduate of Mater Christi . I can’ t place Sister Juanita Barto What was her name prior to going back to her given name?

  4. I was pulled out of Catholic school in 4th grade, 1963. We lived in Upper Saddle River New Jersey and school was ten minutes from our house,I’m not at all sure which school it was. My parents didn’t realize I was being physically abused daily. Not sexually but physically. I would come home beaten almost every day and they were told I was clumsy. I have no idea the names of the nuns involved and with my parents dying in 2000 and 2001 it died with them. My sister and I destroyed any information about our schooling, report cards ,pictures etc.
    I have nothing good to say about the experience in any way. I wish I
    could give you information to help you.
    I am sorry for the pain I know you are going through and hope you find peace.

    • Mary, thank you for writing this. And I am really sorry it was so horrendous for you at such an early age when memories of school should have been filling up with fun and laughter as well as challenges.

      For my part, I have used the pain to grow strong, and I thank God and my family for that. I expose this side of my life experience here only because I’ve discovered through my own long journey (I will be 63 soon) that knowing I was not the only one to experience this disrespect and abuse helped relieve the internal shame a youth feels, then carries through life. I had a wonderful young nun teaching me in first grade. I think we were probably her first class after she made her vows. I loved her as we all did, and she was kind to us all. I took some great memories from her, and one very important spiritual thought. She used to say (about herself as a sister) “If I can help one person in my life as a Sister of Mercy, then my life will have been a success.” I have never forgotten that, and remember staring at her when she said it to our class, then repeated it in various ways throughout the year, usually during our catechism class. I took that with me for life. If only one person going through these memories and the pain of the wounds can be helped knowing s/he is not alone, then it is worth my putting my stuff out there. That brings me great peace, Mary. Helping others, when possible, is what helps many victims become survivors, then to go on to thrive, imo. Who knows the pain better than those who’ve been through it?

      Thank you, Mary. Be well!

  5. Dear Cait,
    I am reeling a bit to know you are on the other end of this conversation.
    Catholic School is so far removed from where I am now, it feels like another life.
    My name is Mary Reeder, Ruffolo is my maiden name and the name I had as a child.
    At the same time that I was being tortured by the nuns, I was being violently and sexually abused at home by a very mentally deranged older brother (this went on until I met my husband in 1972).
    During my 3rd and 4th grade my mother tried to pull me out of the shell she could see I was hiding in during any public situations. By myself I was fine, I learned how to read people and hide. In her wisdom she took me to art classes on the New Jersey , New York border, to a teacher by the name of Robert Cline. He changed my life, it was my first truly open relationship with an adult where I was safe and respected.
    I should mentions that separate from my Catholic upbringing was a deep Spiritual side and a faith that Jesus Christ was always by my side.
    In 1972 I became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I met my fiance later that year. He became a sort of shield for me. We went to college together before he left to serve a two year mission in Kentucky and Tennessee. Once he was gone my brother became aggressive once again, I faced many abusers but became stronger and better able to protect myself with each offense. When my fiance came home we set a date and were married in 1975. My family had disowned me for changing religions but to honest I didn’t care. My family were all mafia from Chicago, except for my Irish Grandmother (God rest her soul).
    They were a vicious lot.
    My husband and his family welcomed me without question or even knowledge of my years of abuse. They mainly knew about my talent and faith.
    I had received awards for my art over the years but put it and all the opportunities that went with it aside and became a wife and mother.
    I have never looked back. Emotional abuse continued by my brother until the year my mother died. Now all contact is over and I am going on my 18th year as an art mentor. I help youth through art. I have understanding and an avenue to help. Sometimes it’s all about art mostly not.
    I have been in therapy for years and am in a great place. My family are my dearest friends and everyone around me follows the one rule, no abuse allowed. So my art classes are places of refuge and peace.
    Many of my students have gone on to do great things in their careers as have I. Helping heal hearts through art.
    Thank you for letting me share a tiny bit of my story with you.
    God Bless you always, Mary Reeder

    • Thank YOU, Mary! “Helping heal hearts through art.” What a gift!
      I am a musician by the Grace of God, and a bit of training, and it is music that has allowed me to deal, then heal. God speaks to us through many voices, in many images.


  6. Getting up for some water and checking my email. You are a musician 🙂
    I feel a kindred spirit and send love and happiness to you. I know we have walked the same road and felt the call to serve . It is a miracle that God can pull s from pain to service, next to our families it is the greatest gift.
    I hope we can continue this conversation. I am inspired by you and am so grateful that at the end of pain is joy.
    🙂 Mary

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