Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I spent the Seventh Grade in an all-boy, Catholic orphanage outside of Cleveland, operated by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Augustine. Because it interrupted the rhythm of my life at an impressionable age I probably have more specific memories of those nine or ten months than any other comparable time period. Would you like to hear them all? I thought not. However, in view of the priestly scandals now so frequently exposed, I do need pause to consider the event of our daily shower.

Besides the Church, Dining Hall and other service buildings, Parmadale, the orphanage, consisted primarily of about twenty residential "cottages" - actually large brick buildings housing about thirty schoolboys each - plus a team of nuns, the number of which I cannot remember. Nor can I recall any of their names, faces or other personal characteristics. They were nuns wearing habits and headgear showing only pinched, pale faces and were none much distinguishable from the others.

And so the showers. Sometime in the evening. Before dinner? After dinner? Maybe just before bedtime. I can't remember. But I do remember the shower. As decent Catholic boys, we dressed and undressed with discretion, and we went into the shower room wearing skimpy, white cotton shorts. I think the shower room accommodated eight or ten at a time and a Sister of Charity sat at the entrance to monitor our bathing practices and deportment, often reminding a careless bather to reach inside his shorts and wash himself properly.

Basically, that is all I remember about the shower. But in retrospect it seems that Church officials may have realized that young boys were in safer hands with the nuns than with male caretakers, and are not as obtuse to the facts of life as they generally seem.

it's private
powered by