St. Joseph Providence Orphan Asylum and Hospital

“The building was constructed between 1879 and 1883 under the oversight of Father John S. Michaud.[2] The interior of the building in its original construction consisted of a large kitchen in the back right, large recreation rooms on last two or three bays of either end, and a laundry room in a rear extension, as well as many rooms for sleeping for the children. The building had kerosene lighting, and there were originally four wooden utility buildings in the back with uses listed as a carriage house, two sheds, and an icehouse.[4]
Between 1906 and 1912 electric lighting was installed into the main building.

Between 1942 and 1960 a major change occurred in the form of a large southerly addition. This new building was used as a school with a stage and a hall.
By the late 1960s, the Sisters of Charity Providence Organization was running operations at this property.

The Catholic church retained control over this property until 2010 when Burlington College, a small private liberal arts college, purchased it for $6,075,100.00 as reported by the city assessor’s office.[20] According to the Burlington Free Press, the building was sold to help pay for settlements of a number of sexual abuse lawsuits against the Roman Catholic diocese in Vermont.[21]” -http://www.uvm.edu/~hp206/2012/leckie/webfinal/stjorphan.html

There have been multiple allegations of all types of abuse from those who were children here. Mental, emotional, physical and sexual abuse, as well as people stating a nun murdered a child. Local authorities investigated the murder allegations and took statements regarding the abuse. There wasn’t enough evidence regarding the murder and the statute of limitations had run out for the abuse. The Chief of Police in Burlington believed the abuse happened, given the number of complainants and the similar stories. If these walls could talk, they would sob a river of tears.

From VT Digger:

“Former residents of Burlington’s shuttered St. Joseph’s Orphanage are voicing frustration with Vermont’s Roman Catholic Diocese as they push the state’s largest religious denomination to pay for counseling after their mistreatment decades ago.

“The diocese has done as little as possible to help with our healing goals,” said Michael Ryan, who lived at the orphanage as a child. “They need to provide restitution for their sins of the past.”

A group of 18 former residents gathered Thursday at a reunion that’s part of a restorative justice process, which the orphanage’s former owners at the diocese and operators at the Montreal-based Sisters of Providence have yet to join.

“The church demands atonement from its faithful,” former resident Katelin Hoffman said, “but hypocritically, it is avoiding atonement for its own sins.”

The St. Joseph’s Orphanage Restorative Inquiry came in response to last year’s conclusion of a government investigation of past problems at the facility, which housed more than 13,000 children from 1854 to 1974.

“It’s clear that abuse did occur at St. Joseph’s Orphanage and that many children suffered,” Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan said upon releasing a 286-page report sparked by a 2018 BuzzFeed News story with the headline: “We Saw Nuns Kill Children.”

The attorney general’s office, teaming with local and state police and prosecutors, confirmed BuzzFeed’s claims of “unrelenting physical and psychological abuse of captive children” previously reported in a series of well-publicized lawsuits in the 1990s. It could not, however, find evidence of murder.

Although the state cannot press criminal charges because the accusations are too old, it’s supporting the restorative inquiry — an initiative of the city of Burlington’s Community Justice Center — to collect and share stories to promote “accountability, amends-making, learning and change.”

A group of survivors calling itself “Voices of St. Joseph’s Orphanage” championed this year’s successful effort in the state Legislature to repeal Vermont’s former statute of limitations for civil lawsuits related to childhood physical abuse.

Former residents say they were slapped and shut in closets. But under the old law, they had to file civil actions within three years upon realization it caused personal harm, leaving many without further means of recourse.

More than 100 survivors, for example, waived their rights to file lawsuits when the Vermont diocese paid them $5,000 each in the 1990s, while another 28 took orphanage overseers to court. At least one settled for a “significant” undisclosed sum of money, but others dropped their cases when a judge ruled they could not receive church letters documenting their abuse or band together in a consolidated trial.

Former Vermont altar boys who filed their own series of clergy misconduct lawsuits starting in the 2000s have found more legal success. The diocese has paid some $35 million in settlements for more than 50 accusers over the past quarter-century. To help fund that sum, the state’s largest religious denomination sold its 32-acre Burlington headquarters on Lake Champlain that included the orphanage building.

Survivors on Thursday questioned the diocese’s current claims that it lacked enough money to fund their requests for restitution.

“My challenge to [Vermont Catholic Bishop Christopher Coyne] is to make public the amount of money the diocese has spent on lawyers since 1990 in the effort to avoid taking responsibility for abuse,” Hoffman said. “The diocese needs to do the moral and responsible thing and take responsibility for its actions, rather than pay millions to lawyers in order to avoid helping us.”

“We would never ask the Catholics of Vermont to stop attending Mass,” fellow survivor Maura Labelle said. “However, we hope that they will not put money in the collection baskets until these issues are truly resolved.”

The diocese, asked for comment, offered a statement noting Coyne and other church representatives have met with former residents “one-on-one as they have requested and will continue to do so. Each meeting is unique, each person’s story is unique, and the help we offer each former resident is specific to them. If the person feels they would be helped through counseling, we would work with them as needed.”

The diocese’s statement offered an online link for former residents to request medical records but did not address any other of the expressed concerns.

The Sisters of Providence — who have not cooperated with authorities or survivors — issued their most recent statement on the subject in December when they expressed “great sorrow” while downplaying their role.

“Primary responsibility for the operations and functioning of the orphanage fell to the priests and bishop of the Vermont Catholic Diocese,” the sisters said in the statement. “Various state of Vermont and municipal regulators also had responsibility for ensuring the well-being of the children.””-https://vtdigger.org/2021/09/16/orphanage-abuse-survivors-push-vermonts-catholic-church-to-pay-reparations/



I have two personal stories to share.

When the Roman Catholic Diocese moved into the building in the 1980’s, two people with whom I became friends a couple of decades later worked here. I taught linedancing back then and they suggested I use the gym to teach. Plus, I got to store my DJ equipment there. Win-win!

Story 2: A bit of background first. I was the back-up DJ and linedance instructor at the Cobbweb on the Friday linedance nights. The Cobbweb was a dancehall in Georgia, VT. It’s been torn down and condos have replaced it. Anyway, after I worked at the Cobbweb, I planned to drive to Cape Cod for a linedance weekend event. So, I decided to stop at St. Joseph’s to drop off my equipment. The entrance was around back with one light over the door and a pole light over the parking lot, which was some distance away.
I had a Medeco key. Have you ever used one of those things? Sometimes, they can be finicky! The friend who gave me the key had warned me that that particular lock was ornery sometimes. And sure enough, on that cold December night around 11 pm, the lock’s green light would not yield. I had left my driver’s side door open and the engine running for the heat. As I was trying the key for the umpteenth time, I thought I saw movement at the edge of the building to my right out of the corner of my eye. It looked like a man dressed in black. I shrugged it off as my mind playing tricks on me. I’d worked that day and evening and was about to drive 5.5 hours on top of that. I was sure I was wrong! As I continued to futz with the key, I thought I saw movement again from the same place. And sure enough, IT WAS A MAN DRESSED ALL IN BLACK! AND HE WAS WALKING TOWARDS ME! I was scared! I was 5’2”, dead-center behind this incredibly HUGE building, which was empty that time of night. No one would hear me scream. YES, those thoughts were running through my mind! He was about halfway to me at this point, when the lock worked! That’s when he suddenly stated “Burlington Police!”. I then recognized his uniform. I felt relief and for the first time in my life, I yelled at a cop. I told him: “you scared me!”. I actually thought I was going to cry tears of relief! He apologized for scaring me, especially after he saw the key and heard my explanation as to why I was there. He stayed briefly as I unloaded my equipment into the building. Once my equipment was in the storage closet, and I checked there was no one unexpected outside, I got in my car and drove away.

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