COUNT THE HEADLIGHTS ON THE HIGHWAY

Came across this in the Daily News. A reader, also a HNS grad speaks out.

I was a student at Holy Name in Windsor Terrace in the 1960s. One brother, my sixth-grade teacher, took kids to the bath houses in Coney Island. I know because he would announce it. One student died in a pool accident under his watch. I never had any incident with this particular brother; however, over the years, there were rumors as we got older. I was brought into empty classrooms early in the morning and asked sexual questions and had to explain how I felt about them. Other brothers beat us often and quite harshly. They thought nothing of stepping on your torso, punching you and kicking you relentlessly. To this day, I have hate for the white collars those brothers wore. 

Vincent Corigliano, Staten Island

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23 Responses to COUNT THE HEADLIGHTS ON THE HIGHWAY

  1. bob terry says:

    I attended Holy Name School from 1956 to 1964, and had a wonderful experience. I found most of the Xaverian Brothers to be wonderful guys and good educators. Brother Romanus was my favorite, and Brother Edmund changed my life for the better from an educational point of view. Brother Guardentus (Jim Blair) became a life long friend; 16 years ago, he flew from Florida to Connecticut to stand next to me at my mother’s funeral. Everything good that has ever happened in my life has been a result of prayer, and I first learned to pray in Sister Joseph Christie’s second grade class, and to her, I am eternally grateful. I made lifelong friends @ Holy Name School. People like the Kents, Kevin Fogarty and John Vesey were all positive influences. Father Joe Pfeiffer and Monsignor Downing were terrific. I was blessed to be @ Holy Name.

    • Steve says:

      Good stuff Bobby.

      I was hit a few times with the paddle; being a disruption in the classroom was my crime.

      Did a teacher or priest ever touch me in a sexual way, never.

  2. Maureen Rice (Flanagan) says:

    hmmm…what is behind the title?/ 🙂

  3. Maureen Rice (Flanagan) says:

    One of the Nolans wrote a good piece on the day the boy drowned…I think I read it on the Holy Name site

  4. Al says:

    I generally agree with Bob’s testimonial regarding HNS because, on the whole, I enjoyed my experience there—except the shocking scenes of excessive physical abuse I witnessed. And although this thread began with an article about sexual abuse, I find it interesting that Bob can comment on the many virtues of HNS without offering his opinion of whether he thinks the very common (at least during that decade) instances of physical abuse (not minor physical discipline) were proper. I cannot believe what I witnessed was exclusive to just my graduating class, and I think that if one is taking a full measure of an institution, it should include an assessment of the negatives, if any.

    I graduated in the class of ’66, so Bob and I attended at essentially the same time. And while, at the time, I did not know that the corporal punishment (technically permitted [and strictly defined] under the NYS Penal Law by parents, teachers, train operators, etc., if necessary, to maintain order) was often legally excessive and crossed the line into unlawful physical abuse, I knew instinctively that they were not right because they induced fear in me and affected me emotionally. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. Although, in my experience there, the majority of corporal punishment (ranging from slaps on the face and pinches on the neck by the nuns to similar discipline by the brothers) was within limits, there was a substantial amount that was not.

    To be sure, this phenomenon was not exclusive to HNS and was rather common (during that era) especially in the eastern Roman Catholic strongholds of Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, et al. There was at least one famous movie made on this very topic. And, there is no question that most of the hard-working and busy working-class parents who sent their children to such schools were at least aware of the culture of physical discipline that existed in those hallowed halls; in my opinion, many of those parents sent their children there BECAUSE of the prevalence of such discipline. But I doubt any of them were aware of the many excessive instances of physical abuse that occurred there. I have very strong, and negative, feelings toward HNS for those instances of excessive physical abuse.

    The worst I ever witnessed there were committed by Brother Gaudentius (Jim Blair) in the seventh grade. There were several outrageous incidents during that one year which, if known about, would have landed him behind bars. Unquestionably. In one incident, Gaudentius furiously took off his crucifix, watch, eyeglasses and religious habit in preparation for his unholy beating of Paul L–g, a tall boy, who was face-slapped and repeatedly pummeled with punches to the chest, arms and back, as Paul kept continually stepping backward while trying to defend himself from the fusillade of full-throated blows coming his way. When Paul, whose face was by now beet red on both cheeks, and crying, had had enough, he attempted to defend himself with a slap at Gaudentius. That set Gaudentius off with an even more fervid fury and Gaudentius slammed Paul into the wall with a tremendous force, whereupon he fell on the floor and assumed the fetal position, with Gaudentius getting in a few fierce kicks for good measure, before turning away.

    Who can justify this? We have a duty to expose it and denounce it.

    Vin Corigliano was in my graduating class and I remember him well. I recall the student who drowned; I think his name may have been Schneider.

    • bob terry says:

      Using physical force or even negative comments has no place in education, absolutely no place. I would not tolerate it as a parent or an educator. I know it went on when I was in grammar school @ Holy Name, and elsewhere. It should not have. I guess I was lucky not to be on the other end of it. Thank God that hitting kids in school is no longer tolerated. My prayers go out to anyone who was physically, mentally or sexually abused as a child.

      • Steve says:

        Bob,

        Good call…

        We call it a “positive push” opposed to a “negative shove.”

      • bob terry says:

        Let’s ease up on Brother Gaudentius (Jim Blair). He currently resides in a care facility in Florida suffering from dementia caused by Parkinson’s disease. He’s married to a fine gal and has 3 grown children. I’ve known him 56 years. He is a good friend. Please keep him and his family in your prayers; thanks.

      • Al says:

        Bob, I can understand and respect your perspective on this issue, as it is viewed through the personal lens of a long friendship with at least one (perhaps a few) of these brothers and priests over the years. You did something few of us (maybe no one) were able to do—develop and maintain a friendship with these childhood authority figures, at least one of whom was an abuser, as an adult over many years. To me personally, I feel as though I’ve hit the jackpot in being able to actually speak with someone who knew the man (as an adult, through life) who I consider to be one of the worst abusers I’ve met in my life, someone whose deeds I’ve recounted many times to many people over these many long years. Someone I have pointed to as an exemplar of the worst type of educator one can imagine; someone entrusted with the profound responsibility of custodial care for our most precious freight who, because of his wrestling with his personal demons and tormented psyche, callously abused his authority.

        Posters on this forum, and elsewhere, have commented on their negative experiences with different brothers at that school and their belief that there existed more abuse than we know about. How was this possible, we ask. The answer to that could be the subject of a year long seminar exploring the many dimensions of this issue: sociological, cultural, anthropological, religious, historical, etc. But the direct and most relevant is: Enabling. A term used by psychologists and psychiatrists, enabling refers to those who, through commission or omission, allow or “enable” the abusers to have free rein. The enablers here were the administrators and coworkers of the brothers who, without question, KNEW of this behavior but looked the other way. (That, in itself, is a whole other subject of discussion.)

        Therefore, it wasn’t just the abusers themselves who are responsible for this.

        Here we are—a half-century later—resurrecting dormant memories after each of us has led nearly a full life. Is this curious or troubling? Both. Is it different for each of us depending on what we witnessed or experienced? Yes. Is it significant? Very.

        As we have all horrifyingly witnessed over the last 20 years or so, in the media, the Catholic Church has had a lot to answer for regarding seemingly countless sexual abuse claims and settlements. It utterly astounds me how, even after all these years and time after time, the Catholic Church has denied allegations, defended abusers, criticized and ridiculed victims, viciously litigated with a bunker mentality and yields little ground in admitting their complicity. One of my closest friends for many years, a former colleague, a devoutly religious Catholic who lives his faith in the manner of a saint, a member of the renowned and some say elitist Opus Dei, has such a closed mind on this issue it is staggering to witness. Whenever I’ve tried to delicately bring up the matter over the years, even in a Catholic mindset of forgiveness, compassion and reconciliation, he adamantly refuses to openly discuss the matter, categorically denying what the world knows.

        This is the problem.

  5. John Bies says:

    Bob, I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment. I was/am the type individual who needed strict discipline to keep me in line. Once I left Holy Name my troubles began.Brothers Romanus Wenceslaus and Gerard were very good teachers and no nonsense. Each of them wacked me a few times but I deserved every one of them.They gave me a good education coupled with teaching me my faith that I am truly grateful.

  6. Maureen Rice (Flanagan) says:

    The nuns were also very free with their hands..not all, of course..but some..I was once taking a short cut up the boys’ staircase and came across Brother Gaudentius…he was furious that I would dare to be on the “wrong” side of the building, and he demanded to know what I was doing on the boys side..when I said it was closer, he called me a lazy good-for-nothing and passed me on the stairs..then all of a sudden, he whacked me in the back so hard it spun me around and I fell down about 5 or 6 stairs…he just sneered at me sprawled on the floor and said ” I guess next time you will take the long way around”

  7. TonyF16thst says:

    I knew first hand about “THE BOY” who drownded because I lived next door to him. There were 52 kids in a class and we had 2 classes of each grade 6th,7th and 8th and 312 kids know exactly how these scumbags beat and humiliated and I have no doubt in my mind sexually abused.

    These guys were young and thought they could do no wrong all in the name of the Lord.

    When I approched brother vincent at Sea HS in Staten Island I thought he was going to Shit his pants. I asked him why he was going by another name? He should thank God my wife and daughter were there because they save him from getting his ass kicked.

  8. bob terry says:

    Al, I truly appreciate your comments & I certainly do not want anyone to think that I condone any abusive behavior by educators toward children. I absolutely condemn it. It pains me to know it existed. I do a lot of work in the area of education, and I consider children to be a gift from God, and a good education is the best gift we can give them. I have a fourteen year old son. When Nicholas was born, I said to my wife that we have three obligations: 1.) To keep him healthy to the best of our abilities, 2.) Get him the best education that we can give him, and 3.) Keep him happy for as long as we can because we already have enough neurotic adults in the world & most of that neurosis stems from a bad childhood. We are lucky. Nicholas is healthy, happy and will be attending Regis High School this fall. We are moving from Los Angeles to New York City so that he can attend Regis; I left the cold winters & humid summers 44 years ago. Parenting is my number one job and I would not tolerate anyone, who would cause my son or any other child harm. We can’t go back in time. Life does not give us do overs. We need to make sure our children are safe from abusive people. Al, all the best to you and your family, and ditto to all the fine people from Holy Name Parish, some of the finest people I’ve ever known.

  9. Al says:

    Bob, forgive me if I somehow implied that you condoned such behavior. I just found it curious that with so many folks citing stories of stern discipline and abuse at HNS (not just these past few days but also over the years on this forum) your comments were uniformly effusive—-which you obviously have a right to do—-without even a passing nod to the subject. I don’t recall ever speaking with you on this website, and I’ve been absent from it for a long time, but I now know that you’re a stand up guy who has such deep love and appreciation for his alma mater as well as his faith—and its shepherds. Believe me, it comes through.

    This is a subject that I feel strongly about, for different reasons. It so happens that I attended Bishop Ford HS, nearby, and found a disturbing situation there also. Very little hitting, but several instances of sexual, or attempted sexual abuse. There were a few credible stories that I heard of, at the time, and once, it occurred to me. Between my junior and senior years, during my summer vacation, I attended an optional two-week orientation for students who were exploring the possibility of entering the Franciscan Brotherhood (BFHS classes were taught by Franciscan brothers and lay faculty) after high school by entering the Juniorate. I and a few other students from BFHS spent that week on the beautiful campus of a novitiate/seminary on Long Island; once there we met perhaps 25 other students from the region and were accommodated in the commodious dormitory. We all spent the time during that retreat in various workshops, discussion groups, attended talks and lectures, and had some recreational downtime. During that time, the religion teacher from my school, Brother Antonio, who brought the students from our school to the campus, came on to me, while on a walk around the extensive grounds; it was a walk he initiated. He asked me suggestive questions, leading questions, and made a couple of inappropriate remarks that caused me to blush, which he remarked on. Feeling uncomfortable, I quickly walked back to the main buildings, and avoided contact with him from then on. I knew in my gut what was happening, and I didn’t even like thinking about it.

    I mention this story because of its relevance and also to show that this probably happened in every religious school, not just Catholic; in fact, we now know, through the media, it was also prevalent in many secular, private schools.

    On a different note. Welcome back to the Big Apple; once you’ve lived here, every other place seems second rate. You’ll be glad to be back. Although we moved out of NYC in 2000, we try to visit now and then. Congratulations to your son on his admission to Regis, it’s a world class school! And, from a fellow late-in-life father to another, congratulations on having the courage, and iron stomach, for the most important job in the world—fatherhood! I spent too many years as a bachelor workaholic and when I had my first child at age 47 I felt born again; fatherhood is a role I cherish and thank God for every day.

    I’m sure we walked past each other many times in those wood-paneled hallways back in HNS. And there’s a good chance you stood in line with me at Bonelli’s ice cream shop. Or maybe you’re the kid whole stole my brand new Spaldeen in the schoolyard that day; I’m still looking for him!

    With every good wish, and God Bless you and your family.

    Al

    • Steve says:

      Al,

      Good stuff…

    • bob terry says:

      There’s nothing like Bonelli’s; it was great. By the way, I love California & will greatly miss it. I consider it my home. I lived in Los Angeles for a total of 24 years (3 times) & San Francisco for 20 (2 times). They are very different cities, but I like them both. New York is great & I’m looking forward to living there again. We are very proud of Nicholas’ getting into Regis. I told him in the 2nd grade that he would go there. I certainly encouraged & guided him, but he made it happen. He vindicated his old man. My older brother attended Ford; what a shame to see it closed. I went to Cathedral and then St. Francis College. I have been very active with both schools over the years. Most of the religious people (priests, brothers & sisters) I known over the years have been fine people. Unfortunately, some religious people are not, and they ruined lives. It is a painful thing to know and acknowledge. It doesn’t affect my faith because I own it; no institution owns it. You know it’s funny; over the years, I have been oblivious to many things, some right under my nose. I think this is because of my focus. Someone once asked me if the place was on fire, would I notice. Also, I studied with Marshall McLuhan back in the 60s & he trained me to block out 95 to 99% of everything I hear, see and read because it’s useless and prevents you from getting to the 1 to 5% that’s important. It makes my world very small. I also am a big believer in the power of positive thinking, and try to steer clear of negativity. Lastly, I try to project a self that people, who might want to hurt me, steer clear of. So now, you know more about me than most. Perhaps, sometime we will meet. In the meantime, take care of yourself and your family.

  10. Al says:

    Tune in, turn on, drop out and get in touch with the metaphysical world and your inner being! Mcluhan’s phrase, adopted by Tim Leary, was all over the 1960’s; when I was in Boulder in the late 80’s, the phrase was everywhere—shop signs,T-shirts, etc. I still see it up here in the Hudson Valley, near the Omega Institute and across the river around Woodstock. It sounds like you have a fine life philosophy, Bob; I think that’s what TM was all about. I’ve often tried to de-stress over the years—retreats, solitary trips in the Adirondack wilderness, etc. Sounds good, maybe we can all get together to raise a toast to HNS and old times sake. Godspeed.

    • Steve says:

      Al,

      Try mindfulness; it’s done wonder for me. I am 6 weeks into the practice…

      Might have saved my life.

      • Al says:

        Hey Steve, so nice to speak with you again, brother. Your website’s siren call drew me in from the hinterlands.

        A recent life episode—turbulent, unexpected and disturbing to deal with—laid me low and has kept me busy defending myself, for fairness and justice. It involves my mom’s modest estate, an apparently unscrupulous estate lawyer, and my deceptive, scheming, manipulative sister from hell. Yeah, I think you can figure out what it’s all about. Unseemly, horrible, and emotionally piercing. It’s just another one of life’s fires to put out along the way. I’ll get through it, I’ve dealt with worse.

        You, and your website, are a welcome way station.

        Mindfulness is a good thing. Go for it. All the different holistic, philosophical and even religious ways to truth I’ve read about seem to intersect at this point: there is only the present moment, and we must live in it. Yesterday is just a memory, tomorrow just a promise. A couple of pertinent Ram Dass quotes come to mind: “Be here now.”, “Now is now. Are you going to be here or not?” Referring to mindfulness, Thomas Acquinas wrote ““The soul is like an uninhabited world that comes to life only when God lays His head against us.” Whether you’re a follower of Eastern Philosophy, Roman Catholicism, or something else, it always seems to come back to mindfulness—and letting The Life Force of the Universe and/or God’s Grace enter you and heal you. I’m often reminding myself to take a step back and let all the drama play out around me without becoming entangled in it. Not so easy.

        As Mike Tyson said, “We’re all just passing through.”

        Stay well, brother.

      • Steve says:

        Great stuff…

        Always good hearing from you. Appreciate your contribution.

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